Why I Sat for the SPHR-CA Certification Exam

HRCI_Purple-Red-LogoDuring the month of November and December, I was studying very hard for the SPHR-CA certification and was unable to devote the time I wanted here at HHHR.  In fact, I was surprised when I looked back and saw that I only posted a couple blog posts and released only one podcast!  Instead, I devoted the majority of my free time in the early mornings and after work to studying for the certification exam.

So, why in the world would I, an HR pro living and working in Colorado and Wyoming, decide to take the California SPHR certification?  My company has no employees in California and I don’t see any chance that we ever will. Why “waste” my time??

I have two reasons why I sat for the SPHR-CA certification.

First, I am a strong proponent of certifications, whether it is through HRCI or SHRM.  To quote HRCI, certifications “demonstrate relevance, competence, experience, credibility and dedication to human resources to your employers, clients, staff members and professional peers”.

I want to earn all the certifications I am eligible for.  I’m elegible for the SPHR-CA, so I decided to take it.  I would take the GPHR (Global Professional in Human Resources) if I could but I have no international experience, making me not eligible, unfortunately.  I will also take the necessary steps in January to earn my SHRM-SCP.

Second, the CA certification gives me one more HR specific credential that I can leverage in the job market.  I believe each person is responsible for their careers.  You never know when you will be suddenly out of a job or a job opportunity of a lifetime presents itself.  You are responsible to be ready for these events.

In fact, what initially got me thinking about the California certification was two amazing HR executive opportunities that were presented to me through recruiters in 2013 and 2014.   Interestingly, both opportunities were based in Denver but had the majority of their employees working in California.  I explored both opportunities but, in the end, lacked the necessary California HR knowledge.

I love my current job, but as I’ve said before, I will always seriously consider and explore any great executive HR job opportunity.

So, with my decision made to take the exam, I purchased the study guide from SHRM this past summer and started studying.  I really hunkered down in November and December and sat for the test on the morning of December 15.  The test was just as difficult (maybe even more so since I have no CA HR experience) than the SPHR test.  It consisted of 125 questions and has a time limit of two hours and fifteen minutes.

The exam consists of four areas:

Compensation/Wage & Hour –  comprising 22% of the exam
Employment and Employee Relations – comprising 46% of the exam
Benefits and Leaves of Absence – comprising 20% of the exam
Health, Safety, and Workers Comp – comprising 12% of the exam

I memorized the definitions in the back of the SHRM study guide and I took and retook the quizzes at the back of each study section.  At the first of December, I put the book away and focused just on taking practice tests.  I took the practice test offered by HRCI and I found a great resource at HRCalifornia.  HRCalifornia has a great practice test and a fantastic and informative website.  I took advantage of their 15 day free trial and spent a great deal of time there learning things that were not covered by the  SHRM study guide.

Those of you who have taken an HRCI test, know that feeling of relief when the screen pops up telling you you passed at the end of the 2 1/2 hours!  What a great feeling!  As with the SPHR exam,  the California exam was so difficult, I thought I was surely flunking it as I was going along.  But its important to trust yourself and your preparation and be confident throughout.

So now I proudly hold the SPHR-CA certification.  There are only approximately 500 people in the US who do.  I don’t know if I will ever need it but but now I have it in case I do.  It gives me one more credential and expands my career opportunities should I ever need to look for another job or should a great executive HR job come my way again.

I highly recommend that you take the California certification for those who hold a PHR or an SPHR.

 

Change Champions and the HR Certification Battle

HR leaders, as Change Champions, must practice what we preach and embrace the significant change that is happening before us in the HR certification space.  As HR leaders, we are expected to be the Change Champions in our organizations.

In fact, the top HR thought leaders, Dave Ulrich and Wayne Brockbank spend a significant amount of time discussing the importance of change and HR as Change Champions in their two most recent books, HR From the Outside-In, Six Competencies for the Future of Human Resources and Global HR Competencies, Mastering Competitive Value from the Outside In.

HR as a Change Champion is one of the six competencies they discuss.  Their context is that of HR being a Change Champion in their organization but it can just as easily be applied to the HR certification space.

In their book, HR From the Outside In, Six Competencies for the Future of Human Resources, they discuss how organizations go through dramatic change.  To emphasize their point, they cite the startling statistic that only 70 organizations from the 1955 Fortune 500 list are still in existence independently today.  In other words, 430 big and powerful organizations no longer independently exist.

In the book, they emphasize HR’s role in the change process and state the following:

HR professionals should help their companies face, accept, and be open to the pressures of change rather than hide from them.

 

They also state this:

If an organization cannot change as fast as the pace of change in its environment, the organization will fall behind, decline, and disappear.  Change in an organization should at least match the pace of change in the environment.

HR professionals conceptualize and design organizational agility, flexibility, and responsiveness to external changes.

Our profession is rapidly changing and evolving.  If our certifications don’t keep up with this change, they will become obsolete.   I commend SHRM for recognizing this and introducing a significant change to the HR certification space in response.  They are shaking up the status quo and taking a huge leap forward.

Prior to SHRM’s announced entry into the HR certification space, I never saw HRCI doing anything significant in response to the changes happening in our profession.  I expect they will now.

As I stated here in a previous blog post, our profession will end up better when one certification ends up winning the battle.  The competition will ultimately be good for the profession.

Again, I am not taking sides.  I am very proud of my SPHR and will also go through the steps to earn my SHRM-SCP as soon as it’s available in 2015.  I simply want the best for the HR profession and if this battle that takes us to the next level makes us uncomfortable, so be it.

The Fight to Survive – Competition is Good in the HR Certification Space

It seems that almost every certified HR leader has an opinion about SHRM’s abandoning their support of HRCI’s certifications and rolling out their own.  The vast majority of what I’ve read or heard is critical of SHRM and supportive of HRCI.

Frankly, I think SHRM’s entry into the space is a good thing.  A very good thing.  I am a believer in free market competition and I think having two HR certification competitors battle it out will only make it better for the profession in the end.

Case in point, HRCI has already responded by increasing their marketing.  I see them advertising everywhere in all the prominent HR magazines and websites.  Maybe they advertised this heavily before, but I doubt it.  Monopolies don’t need to advertise and market.

I received a letter from HRCI on August 1 reminding me of the value of their certificates and promised that I will be hearing back from them soon about how they are “shaping the future of HR certification and providing me with new opportunities to connect with other HR professionals within our community.”  I was impressed.  The letter sends the signal that they are clearly working hard to maintain their status as the Certificate of Choice!

I even received a tweet from Rebecca Hastings, the HRCI HR Content Manager, asking me if I had read this article at the HRCI website.  She was responding to my post here where I said I was OK with two certifications.

This is all very good.  They are being very smart by getting out there when they are still the only game in town to aggressively promote and market their products.

Let’s be honest about the value of our certification.  Its really only important to those of us in HR.   The executives in our companies don’t really know anything about HRCI and their certifications.  For example, my boss was very supportive when I told him I earned my SPHR but he didn’t really know or understand what it meant.  I had to give him a print out from their website describing the SPHR certification to help explain it to him and “prove” that it was a significant accomplishment.

The other executives in my organization also don’t really know and understand what it is.  In fact, I get the impression they think it’s “cute” that HR has a certification.  But, in their minds, it doesn’t rise to the level of a CPA (Certified Public Accountant), PE (Professional Engineer), or a PG (Professional Geologist).

With the two organizations fighting for prominence, I’m hoping there is a lot of press outside of the HR media platforms.  If so, our company executives will see this and take notice and realize that there are important professional certifications in the HR profession.  Rather than think the competition is hurting our profession, I think most of our executives will understand and appreciate it.

Here are the four reasons I think it’s a good thing to have competing certifications.

  1. Improved quality.  As the two are competing for prominence, the quality of their products – the certificates – will improve out of necessity.  Maybe HRCI will finally provide a decent website!
  2. Greater visibility.  Both organizations will aggressively advertise and promote their products.  A lot more will be written about both.  This will hopefully leak out into the main stream media and be noticed by the non HR executives in our organizations.
  3. Increased transparency.  Both organizations will need to build or retain the confidence of their stakeholders.  In order to emerge as the prominent certificate provider, both organizations will need to become more transparent in how they conduct their activities to build and retain their brand presence.  SHRM will need to make an extra effort with their transparency in light of how they rolled out their announcement.
  4. Improved credibility.  When this all shakes out in the next several years, one certification will emerge as the winner.  It will have fought the battle, taken on the criticisms, and made the changes and adjustments needed to win.  It will have advanced the certification and profession along far more than it would have had their not been the battle.

I’m going to watch this all with a great deal of interest.  I am not taking sides.  I love my SPHR.  I worked hard for it and am proud to sport those letters whenever I can.  On the other hand, I also love the fact that SHRM is going to shake things up and challenge the status quo.

I will maintain my SPHR and I will go through the process of earning my SHRM–SCP early in 2015.  I will also proudly sport both sets of initials after my name.  I will fully support both because I think both are important and that the upcoming battle between the two organizations will ultimately benefit the HR profession.

I’m OK With Two Certifications – HRCI and the Newly Announced SHRM Certificaiton

As I thought about it over the weekend, I have come to the conclusion that I am fine with holding two HR certifications.  My SPHR will be more of a knowledge based certification and my “SHRM cert” will be competency based.  I see them as complementing each other and elevating  the professional status of the HR profession as a result.

I’m actually looking forward to reviewing and studying SHRM’s competency based materials and completing the requirements to receive their certification as soon as it is made available.

From SHRM’s FAQ

For Certified HR Professionals 

If I’m already certified, what do I have to do? Do I have to take another exam? 

Beginning January 1, 2015, if you are certified and in good standing, you are eligible for SHRM’s new certification — at no cost — by completing the following by December 31, 2015:
• Document that your current certification is in good standing.
• Sign the SHRM Code of Ethics.
• Complete a brief online tutorial on HR competencies.
Once you go through this process, you will receive the new SHRM credential and will begin a three-year recertification cycle.

Confusion With HRCI and the New SHRM Certification

Earlier this week, SHRM announced it was launching its own HR certification program.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has announced it will create a competency-based certification program for human resource professionals. 

The new HR certification is based on the SHRM HR Competency Model, which consists of nine primary competency domains defined with behavioral proficiency standards across four professional levels – entry, middle, senior and executive. The new certification is focused on teaching and testing practical, real-life information that HR professionals need to excel in their careers.

Apparently, Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) found out about SHRM’s new program the same time as everybody else.

The Society for Human Resource Management’s announcement that it is launching its own HR certification program took some in the HR community by surprise, including the president of the HR Certification Institute, the profession’s leading certification organization. 

“We’ve had a relationship with SHRM for 37 years and we would have loved for them to talk with us about this, but they chose not to,” HRCI President Amy Dufrane told Workforce. SHRM created HRCI in 1973 to administer certification exams.

I find it odd that SHRM blindsided HRCI with this announcement considering that they created the institute 37 years ago and even share the same headquarters in Alexandria, VA.  There must be something going on between the two organizations that we don’t know about.  You would think they would work together to create/modify/rework the current HRCI certifications.  Maybe SHRM tried and was rejected by HRCI.

While I proudly hold the SPHR certification, I have always thought that HRCI has too many certifications: PHR, SPHR, PHR-CA, SPHR-CA, GPHR, and the new HRMP & HRBP.  Most professions with certifications have just one. It seems SHRM is attempting to address this issue by creating a single HR professional certification which I support.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming months…