I’m doing a short, two question survey to help me prepare for a presentation I’m doing in February. If you take 2 minutes to respond I’ll send you a copy of the slides and a video discussing the topic.
What’s on your leadership reading list?
No thanks, I read a book on leadership already. What else do you recommend?
Someone dropped that comment in a conversation recently, and I wanted to take some time today to dispel this notion about leadership books, courses, content, etc. The concept?
Once you’ve learned about leadership, you don’t need to know any more.
If it sounds silly to you to see it spelled out like that, I’d have to agree. Learning about this stuff isn’t a one-time thing. It’s like the great Zig always said: People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily.
Different Readers and Different Leaders
Last year I put together a book club to help some local HR leaders by exposing them to good resources and adding in a networking opportunity. One of the neat things I learned was that even if ten of us read the same book, everyone walks away with different ideas that speak to them and their own situations.
In a similar vein, every leadership book is different, because they are all authored by leaders with different experiences, backgrounds, and beliefs. A book on my leadership reading list this month was authored by a former police officer who is now the CEO of a health organization. The insights and ideas I get from his writing are different from those that I get from John Maxwell, Napoleon Hill, and other authors.
Those two perspectives (both the reader and the leader) offer an exciting opportunity: virtually unlimited options for learning and growing as leaders!
As you know, my daily work is filled with data crunching, report publishing, and other nerdy stuff. But occasionally I get the opportunity to leave my virtual cubicle and interact with the world. Here’s your chance to listen in.
On Wednesday, February 5th at 1:00 EST, I’ll be co-hosting a Brandon Hall Group research spotlight where we talk about some of our recent assessments research and what you need to know. Here’s the marketing blurb:
What’s the big deal about assessments anyway? Assessments have been around for decades now, so why all the attention to the assessments industry these days? Organizations large and small are using a wide variety of assessment types – skill, behavioral, personality, cognitive and more – throughout the hiring process and the employee lifecycle to help make better talent decisions, guide managers in developing their teams, and help individuals further their own career goals. It’s not enough to get an assessment score or profile. Managers and individuals need to know how to take action on that information. It’s a balance of science driven assessments, and the art of integrating the results with your talent processes.
Why you should attend
Working as the HR Director for a small company, I don’t know that I would have spent much time looking at information on assessments. After all, you just use those for hiring, right?
- Hiring assessments (I started using these for key positions, and it was a great tool for helping our selection process)
- Talent assessments (Who are your high potential employees that would make good leaders?)
- Individual assessments (What is my team good at? How can I help them to play to their strengths and downplay weaknesses?)
Plus, you get the opportunity to listen to my friend and colleague, Mollie Lombardi, as she shares other insights into the world of assessments. I’m excited and hope you can join us!
I like giving advice based on experience, not opinion. When people previously asked me how to study for the SPHR exam, I’ve had to give them my opinion based on what I understood. To be honest, my response was pretty accurate, but it’s now nice to actually confirm that with my own completion of the SPHR certification. In case you missed it, I talked last week about my success in passing the SPHR exam, so I can now speak from experience in how to properly study. Today we’ll go over some of the best practices for SPHR study preparation as well as the launch of the new SPHR Study Course.
Studying for the SPHR
I have collected some of the comments from people say about preparing for the exam. Some of them passed and some of them didn’t, but even a quick skim will show you some common themes:
This weekend I took the Certification exam…..and didn’t pass. That was a bummer because I’ve been studying for so many months. I really appreciated your weekly emails and enjoyed your perspective that kept me engaged.
This exam reminded me EXACTLY of the SAT and GMAT – soooo abstract. I started the exam and by about question 15 was wondering if I was even taking the right test. Then I started to see a few things that looked familiar. I’ve attended school for many years and was expecting to be tested on text from the study manuals, similar to the practice tests you had provided, but that’s not what it looked like to me.
Instead this appeared to be….obscure sentences that I was really puzzled to figure out what the question was. I provided feedback at the end and indicated that I was really disappointed in the development of this exam. I didn’t think it tested my knowledge of the materials that I had studied. Sometimes I could eliminate two of the answers and then the two remaining answers were worded in such a way that I just guessed which one was right. How disappointing! I will not retake the exam because no amount of additional studying will prepare me to be successful for this type of examination. If I had not stumbled across your website, I would probably still be trying to figure out who administers the exam, who has the official study materials, etc.
So while this was an expensive overall endeavor, it brought me into the 21st century! I did feel like this whole experience really updated by HR knowledge. My undergraduate is in HR Management and my masters is in HR Development (Adult Education), but those were completed in the ’90s. I haven’t worked specifically in HR since 2000, but my HR background has come in handy in every job I’ve had. I’m currently a trainer and really hope to circle back to HR in the near future although many current job postings are specifically looking for the PHR/SPHR certification. It’s deflating to know that I’m eliminated from consideration because I don’t have the certification…..and 6 years of HR higher education takes a back seat :-)
Enough of my moaning and groaning. So, thanks for your advice, and I wish you continued success in your future endeavors. If I had my own business I’d trying to recruit you!
I took the PHR exam in 2010 and failed. I attended a university specifically to study for this exam; I had outlines and studied extensively and I agree with Mary, most of the test questions were so unfamiliar and panicked when I realized this was not covered in class and could not recall the information being on the outlines and notes I had. I had shown up to the test site confident as I had spent hours and hours studying and was very disappointed that I didn’t succeed. I have been avoiding taking this test but will be signing up to take it again in December 2012. I hope to get a better test this time.
3 of us took the 2010 PHR today June 29, 2010 and June 28. Both the lady with 20 years HR experience and I said after the test –70 percent of the test was NOT even covered in the SHRM guides that cost $800 dollars. I passed she failed. She also did Ann B’s book and HRCI. I did SHRM and HRCI. But almost nothing from those sources was on the test. I am not even happy about passing because it was just due to guess work not all the MONTHS of serious study I put in and she even put in more figuring out how to study for the SPHR exam. The questions are vague and the answers are nothing you read in your books, or nothing like your practice exams. Experience dosn’t count because she had 20 years experience. The only way I passed was to put my HR knowledge aside and think like a business owner. At question 60 I wanted to go ask if they had loaded the right test.
I was so mad, I didn’t pass and I had never studied so hard and felt to prepare, and I didn’t pass ( I went for SPHR)
The rest of the group took it today. Very nervous because none of the group passed they said that the test was nothing like the practice test on the learning system.
Preparing for the SPHR
Can you tell me how to prepare for the SPHR exam?
Up until now you just had to pick out a study tool and try to guess how the SPHR content was different from the PHR content. In reality most of us don’t read deeply into the content and make connections with real world examples, so this is difficult to do. Up until today, there was no specific SPHR study tool on the market. I have launched my own SPHR Study Guide to meet that need. I’m excited about helping the next generation of SPHR test takers with the exam.
How long does it take to prepare for the SPHR?
It can take anywhere from several weeks to several months. It’s very dependent on your study habits, testing ability, experience level (depth), education level, and breadth of exposure to HR. For instance, a recruiter will have a harder time preparing than a generalist, because their work is not focused on a wide variety of HR practices.
Cramming for the SPHR exam
Can you tell me how to cram for the PHR or SPHR exam?
I’d highly suggest that you not attempt to cram for the SPHR. There are just too many pieces of the body of knowledge that you aren’t exposed to every day (for example: visas, talent management planning, budgeting, managing risk, developing employee branding campaigns, etc.) I’d recommend taking time to do this over several weeks, and preferably several months. If you are stuck and have to “cram,” there’s one thing that will help you (assuming you have a basic HR knowledge foundation): take as many practice tests as you can get your hands on.
Public Service Announcement: Again, I will recommend that if you’re trying to figure out how to study for the SPHR exam, you should not cram.
Being “test smart” will go a long way toward helping you prepare, but if you don’t know the basic HR information than all the practice questions in the world won’t help you. This is not to teach you to memorize questions and answers, but more to seek out the “best” or “most likely” or “most efficient” answers by honing your judgment.
How to study for the SPHR exam: Sample SPHR study session
How should I study for the SPHR?
One of the things I started doing in the final weeks of preparation was to take a practice exam and copy the question/answers for anything that didn’t look familiar to me and paste it into a notepad. Then after the practice test I would Google each term to get a better understanding of the concepts I was weak in.
I’d also try to find an article or description of the idea in practice, when it would be used, and when it wouldn’t. That’s the key–knowing the term is only half the battle. Knowing how, when, and where to use it is the critical portion the SPHR tests on. Here’s a sample set of information after one of my practice runs. I’d research each term after the practice test or put it on my calendar to research during my next block of study time.
- Sample post test research, pre and post testing methods
- action teams vs task force vs others
- Product leadership, other strategies
- nominal technique vs delphi vs others
- union deauthorization/decert timelines
- balanced scorecard elements, uses, pros/cons
- scatter, histogram, gantt, pareto, other chart types and purposes
- leadership models
- quality initiatives
- company growth stages and HR needs
- individual vs task vs organizational assessments
- bloom’s taxonomy, uses
- compensable factors
- instructional design models
SPHR study course
As I mentioned above, I am launching a new SPHR study course. This is a bonus module added to the standard SPHR/PHR Self Study Course that has helped dozens of students pass the exam over the past few years. I highly encourage you to check it out if you are planning to take the SPHR this year. The price is for the basic model and will be increasing as I add additional case studies, questions, and video discussions. More info here.
Other comments from SPHR candidates
I didn’t want to put all of these up front, because it is a pretty long summary. However, I think the comments are worthwhile and wanted to include them so you could review as you decide how to study for the SPHR exam in your own unique way. This is not something to take lightly!
I used this book alone to study for the December 2007 SPHR exam. This book was no help! The practice test and CD were nothing like the actual test. The actual test was more subjective, asking questions like ‘What is the BEST way to handle this situation?’. I don’t know how you would study for that. That leaves too much room for personal opinion, barring any legalities. I was extremely disappointed when I did not pass the exam after studying this book alot. I would not recommend using this book to study by. Many subjects in the book were not even on the test, such as many court cases it told you to remember. This was not a good way to figure out how to study for the SPHR exam.
3 of us took the 2010 PHR today June 29, 2010 and June 28. Both the lady with 20 years HR experience and I said after the test –70 percent of the test was NOT even covered in the SHRM guides that cost $800 dollars. I passed she failed. She also did Ann B’s book and HRCI. I did SHRM and HRCI. But almost nothing from those sources was on the test. I am not even happy about passing because it was just due to guess work not all the MONTHS of serious study I put in and she even put in more. The questions are vague and the answers are nothing you read in your books, or nothing like your practice exams. Experience dosn’t count because she had 20 years experience. The only way I passed was to put my HR knowledge aside and think like a business owner. At question 60 I wanted to go ask if they had loaded the right test.
Workforce.com Article about a test taker
Tashana Sims-Hudspeth, HR manager at Pearson Education Inc. in Columbus, Ohio, certainly hoped so. She had tried unsuccessfully to pass twice using other study materials, so she finally bought the pricier SHRM Learning System figuring it was her best chance for success. But she took the test in January 2010 and failed again.
“I had flashcards, I studied at lunch after work, on my breaks,” says Sims-Hudspeth, who also enrolled in an online study course and joined a weekly study group. “I had my 11-year-old son flashing me questions while he watched TV. I drove my family crazy.”
She still is a strong supporter of HR certification and plans to take the test a fourth time next spring. But she feels frustrated by the process. “I only saw a few questions that were remotely similar to the SHRM system,” she says. “I thought, ‘What is this?’ It was nothing like what I had been studying. What’s the purpose of buying the SHRM learning materials if they don’t match up to the test?
In preparation for the SPHR exam, 3 co-workers and myself held study groups using the SHRM LS for 6 months prior to testing. The closer it got to the test date, the more nervous I got. I ended up purchasing this book about a month before the test and I am so glad that I did! This helps explain the HR processes through case study and the practice questions in this book are much closer to the actual test than SHRM LS. However, I still found myself feeling unprepared for the test. The actual test questions are nothing like anything we practiced in the SHRM LS (for 6 months nonetheless) and I felt sure that I had failed.
How to study for the SPHR? My studies were long and varied. I used multiple study resources (mainly HRCP) and covered thousands of practice questions, read hundreds of pages, and spent more than 100 hours over the course of four months preparing for the SPHR test. I am not sure how to study for the SPHR exam other than how I did it.
I took and failed the PHR on Saturday, Jan 31, 2009 and feel the SHRM Prep Course DID NOT reflect the exam at all. In my opinion, SHRM misrepresents the course and how to study for the SPHR exam. The test questions from the study course did not come close to the exam questions. I am very disappointed in SHRM and how they present the material. I spent money, time and energy preparing for the exam and feel blind sided with the test. After about 15 min into the exam, I got up and asked the administrator to check and make sure I was given the correct test. As the test questions were not at all what SHRM had in the Modules or study guides.
I took and failed the exam today. I spent an abudnance of time and money on the SHRM course and it was a complete waste of both. The actual test questions were nothing like the practice questions. SHRM Learning System is a misrepresentation of proper preparation for the exam. I wouldn’t recommend it.
The exam had very difficult & complicated questions . Some concepts are not covered in the syllabus – checked upon return from the exam …
Took the PHR exam today 6/1/09 after teacher had encouraged me to take SPHR exam due to my excelling in the class and exams in the SHRM Prep Course. Quickly within the first bit of the exam, it was clear to me the question format was not simliar in any regard to the question format presented during the class.
Regarding subject matter, I would estimate only 60% was covered in the prep material/class. The remaining 40% was material not covered during the prep course or in the SHRM material.
Regarding question format, I often recognized the concept/application in the question, but when reviewing answer choices, I often felt I could only eliminate one or two max and words were used that are not commonly used to assist in choosing the correct answer.
My only expectation is to be tested solely on the knowledge set and for the certification test not to use question format to thwart a successful pass. I do beleive a true partnership should exist with Prep classes and question formats should be similar. How else could I answer 1,240 multiple choice questions over 60 some odd practice exams and consistely score in the 80% range. I dont get it and strongly feel a misrepresentation exists.
I took the PHR this past Saturday and failed. Like the gentleman Tim posted, I too took a 14 week SHRM preparatory class at my own expense and felt totally blind sided by the test. Unfortunately, most of my experience in HR is related to recruitment, selection process and test administration. In effort to expand my knowledge and further myself professionally I wanted to obtain my PHR Certification. I’m just sadden to realize that the SHRM option available. As the another person posted, it would have been helpful to know that application was vital for passing the exam.
Ditto to what Tracy says. The SHRM Learning System is a misrepresentation—nothing like the test, and all topics were NOT covered.
Failed the PHR exam for a second time on Saturday. I have been studying on average 4-6 hours a day for three months and took the college prep course that used SHRM. I even tested out on the SHRM assessment tests in the 80-90 percent range. WTH! I really, really studied and I even knew what to expect. I agree with some of the posts that a couple of the questions on the PHR exam appeared more appropriate on the SHRM exam. I just purchased the Anne Bogardus prep book on amazon.com, and will combine resources. I hope to take the test a third time in the Spring.
Two of my fellow HR bloggers have shared their insights on how to study for the SPHR exam as well:
Have you taken the SPHR exam? What was your impression? Did you pass? If not, what questions do you have about how to study for the SPHR exam?
This post brought to you by National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation . The content and opinions expressed below are that of upstartHR.
So far we’ve seen data on career mobility, the power of commitment, and competitive compensation offered by the restaurant industry. Today we’re going to look at another intangible, but incredibly powerful, aspect of the employment relationship–pride.
A few facts:
- 92% of restaurant managers, 94% of business operations professionals, 92% of chefs and cooks, 80% of bartenders, 85% of hosts and hostesses and 75% of waitstaff, crew and dishwashers are proud to work in the restaurant industry,
- In a survey of teenagers (under 18) in the restaurant industry, 78% are proud to work in the industry, 89% are enrolled in school and 41% work fewer than 20 hours per week.
- More than 90% of restaurant employees ages 35-64 are proud to work in the industry and roughly 40% work at least 59 hours per week.
I can’t attest to the statistical significance, but the more time someone spends in the industry, the more pride they have in the kind of work they do. That aligns to more than just this specific type of career choice, but it’s something worth remembering. And those at the beginning of the “funnel” career-wise are just getting warmed up–that provides an opportunity to really engage them and leverage that pride.
I think some of us can easily fall into the stereotype at times that someone working in the restaurant industry is taking a “lesser” job. That’s certainly not true, especially based on what we see in the data here. This is a vibrant field with opportunities for long-term advancement and growth, and the employees are proud to be doing the work.
Check out the infographic below titled “A Career in Restaurants and Proud of It” from the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.
What is your favorite statistic from the infographic?
Early every year, the President of the United States makes an address to the nation. The purpose of the annual “State of the Union” address is to give an account of the year’s events and discuss the priorities of the coming months. If communicated properly, this is an opportunity to reach a larger audience, share major goals, and get buy-in from the constituency.
So why don’t we give it a shot?
I think every HR pro needs to have their own State of the Union address within their own company, department, or team (depending on the level of responsibility). This is strategic HR communication at its best, and it could become a valuable tool to allow leaders to peer into the inner workings of the HR strategy while allowing HR leaders to share key results areas as well. In fact, even compliance can be strategic, if communicated properly.
Here’s a quote from one study I found:
“Only 20 percent of [the largest publicly traded] companies discuss HR in their reports to shareholders. About one-quarter provides only limited references to the workforce, and some don’t mention their employees at all.”
Can you imagine how our stakeholders would react if we spent 30-50% of our budget on a resource and then never followed up about how it was being utilized? In effect, this is what’s happening with regard to our human capital investments.
How big is your “union?”
As I stated above, depending on where you are in your organization’s hierarchy, you might only be addressing your HR teammates. Or maybe you have the ability to snag an audience with your senior leadership team, and you’re willing to put together a short presentation for that group.
Whatever the case, the size and target audience will be different for everyone, but the tips below will still help you in defining what to discuss.
What to say
Okay, so I’ve sold you on the idea of delivering your own “state of HR” address, but what do you actually say? Here are a few ideas to consider based on the results of Brandon Hall Group’s Business Focus 2014: Leaders’ Top Priorities report:
- Talent retention—Discuss retention initiatives and any cost savings associated with reduced turnover
- Learning and development—Give examples of new human capital capabilities brought about by learning and development investments
- Performance management—Talk about increased performance or reduced turnover expenses associated with improved employee performance
- Leadership strategy—Provide insights into the role the leadership strategy has played in supporting business growth
- Sales strategy and planning—Offer data to demonstrate how HR supported the needs of the sales staff and leadership
These certainly aren’t the only topics you can cover, but this is a good starting point based on what organizational leaders need to hear.
The bottom line
This is your chance to get in front of a key audience (whether it’s the rest of your team or another influential group) and share your message about how HR’s priorities align with those of the business.
What are you waiting for?
- Which stakeholders would benefit most from hearing this address from you or your HR leaders?
- What are the key issues your leaders are facing that you can include in your address?
AKA how to pass the SPHR exam and keep your sanity
If the title doesn’t give it away, I don’t know what will. Recently I took, and passed, the SPHR exam. Today I’m going to talk about the actual testing process and offer some guidance for those taking the exam in the next few weeks. Soon, I plan to write about the actual study process and offer some resources to support those of you who might be interested in pursuing the SPHR at some point. Update: Here’s the link: how to study for the SPHR exam
How hard is the SPHR exam?
Pretty darn hard. :-) More on that below.
How hard is it to pass the SPHR?
Several people I coached for this winter test window had taken it one or more times unsuccessfully in the past. It has a 56% pass rate (based on mid-2014 figures). If you want to visualize that, imagine that you and nine other people walk into the room to test at the same time. At the end of the test period, four or five of the people in that group will walk out with a “fail” printout. That said, most of you already realize how hard the SPHR exam is.
The critical thing for me, Captain Short Attention Span, is focusing on the questions and what they are actually asking. I’m a fast reader, so I am really bad about reading the question, finding an answer, and moving on without reading the others. I had to make myself slow down and read each answer, strike out one or two, and then make a decision. I also marked about 30 questions for review to go back and double check at the end. I ended up changing about 25% of those answers after having a fresh look.
That’s one thing that I definitely recommend. Marking for review just means you plug in a guess and come back later to re-read the question. I’m amazed how many times I have a brain “log jam” when I’m reading it the first time, but puzzling through another question afterward actually shakes loose the concept or idea I’m need to answer the previous question.
Another useful feature: strikeout. Striking out obviously wrong answers helps to narrow your focus and get your attention on the real possibilities. There are often two, but sometimes as many as three, good/possible answers. It’s all about picking the best one.
How to answer SPHR questions
I have to inject some humor here. My friend and I met last weekend to do some last minute studying, and we kept seeing a pattern in the practice questions. Virtually every time you were presented with an action or an opportunity to survey, analyze, or plan, the answer was always to NOT act. So I put this little graphic on The Four A’s of SPHR Exam Prep together to remind you of that. :-)
Seriously, though, there is a strategy to answering questions on the exam. This is critical if you are trying to figure out how to pass the SPHR exam. Here are five keys I used:
- This is strategic in nature, meaning that it’s about how HR ties in, and drives, business activities and measures. Write that on your scratch paper when you sit down and every time you read a question glance at that little phrase.
- Know how HR activities tie into the business objectives, and look for opportunities to highlight that in an answer everywhere possible
- “Strategy,” “company objectives,” and “business needs” are usually the answers when they are options.
- Despite my joking about the graphic, it is important to measure, assess, analyze, etc. before actually taking action.
- Imagine that you’re not in HR, but that you’re the CEO, especially when the question is focusing on marketing, operations, or another aspect of the business. Answering from that mindset will help to ensure that you’re giving the broad, strategic perspective the test warrants.
How to pass the SPHR exam the first time
As I said, I wrote a full-blown article follow up just about how to study, because there are so many tools, methods, tips, and other ideas that I just can’t capture here. However, just to give you an idea:
- I used a 2014 HRCP study guide, read every book cover to cover, read every flashcard, and took the comprehensive practice questions
- I used a 2007 SHRM Learning System just for the practice questions, never cracked a book
- I used my 2007 Anne Bogardus book to do practice questions and did a simple chapter summary review in the last week
- I used various other online resources (all free) to practice my questions and do research on concepts I didn’t know (I’ll discuss my process for this in the second post in this series)
- I studied over 115 hours from September to January
- I took over 2,000 practice questions to get ready–this is always my number one tip for how to pass the SPHR exam, especially in the final days of studying
One concept that I have relied on for quite some time is specificity. I use it to train for races that I run, and it applies pretty much everywhere else in life as well in terms of preparation. The goal is to make training as much like the actual event as possible.
In running, that means I should run the pace, distance, course, etc. just like I would on race day.
In testing, I need to take practice exams that force my mind and body into the same mode I’ll need when taking the actual test: quiet environment, long periods of focus, no Googling answers, no cell phone, etc.
Remember, this is just the first half of the series on how to pass the SPHR exam. Here is part two on how to study for the SPHR. It’s going to be pretty awesome. Also, I’m almost finished developing a specific SPHR study module based on everything I have learned (and taught) over these past few months.
Anyone else taking the SPHR this window? What are your thoughts? Any questions?