*Updated with additional info from several anonymous sources

I’m going to preface today’s discussion a bit. I have been a SHRM volunteer leader since 2009. I’ve been a long-time supporter of SHRM. I also have been a supporter of HRCI since 2009 when I became certified. I’ve watched the battle rage between these two organizations over the past two years and have refrained from commenting publicly. This is my opinion (as usual) and doesn’t mean I have stopped supporting either of these valuable organizations. My goal is to make HR better, and I think that each of these groups is trying to do the same in their own respective ways. 

Many of you may know me as the person who talks about HR certification more than anyone else on the Internet. Why do I do it? Because I believe in the value. No, not the value in the certification, but in the value of the commitment to long-term improvement.

SHRM vs HRCI Certification

PHR SPHR SHRM-SCP SHRM-CPI just answered a few questions last week and I wanted to cover the topic here because it’s a theme that I am seeing more and more often.

I am considering certification because I think I would like to move somewhat more toward the HR field.

I am wondering which certification is best (PHR or SHRM) and whether you think it would be beneficial to me in my quest toward a more focused HR career.

Also, this one:

I will be taking the SPHR in June 2016 : please answer my below questions

1. What all material I need to buy
2. i am confused – how could we use SHRM Study Material for SPHR certification – aren’t these two different institutions

For those of you who have been under a rock, SHRM stopped supporting the HRCI credentials (SPHR and PHR) back in 2014. Here’s what I wrote on the topic back then:

HRCI is not planning to discontinue providing PHR, SPHR, and GPHR exams to allow HR professionals to be certified. With SHRM moving away from those exams, it remains to be seen what the overall impact will be on the marketability over time for those of us with one of the “traditional” HR certifications.

My predictions offline at the time were fairly simple. I believed that HRCI was going to win in the short term and SHRM would win in the long term for a few reasons.

  • HRCI has an existing list of more than 100,000 certified HR pros it can market to and try to keep them recertifying.
  • SHRM is trying to turn a cruise ship, and that doesn’t happen overnight. I am still hearing, two years later, SHRM representatives talking about their certification’s value in an attempt to drive interest.
  • My key prediction at the time: SHRM’s influence at the chapter level would eventually turn the tide due to recertification credits and its stranglehold on the requirements for chapter leaders (requiring SHRM-CP/SCP training, for instance).

For those of you that didn’t know, SHRM pays its chapters for any SHRM members and SHRM-CP/SCP certified individuals. Those dollars, more than any marketing that HRCI can put out, will turn the tide in SHRM’s favor over time.

The Ongoing Battle

I think HRCI needs a bigger list to market to and must stop attacking SHRM at every opportunity. They also need to get their recertification people working harder/faster/smarter because from the feedback I’m hearing at different chapters around the country, SHRM is doing a better job at this.

HRCI has recently piloted its aPHR, which is for early career pros as a way to get more of them into the fold (building that list, as I mentioned). This is a close approximation to SHRM’s Assurance of Learning Certificate which has been around for quite a while and is close to being a standard for colleges across the US.

What I think is very strange is that in the past, HRCI didn’t officially “endorse” SHRM as its only learning/prep tool for the exam, but they did a good job of highlighting it on their website. People often thought that SHRM’s Learning System was the official study tool for the PHR and SPHR exams, which is false. Now that the marriage between the two is broken up, HRCI has promoted other study tools, which means my friends at HRCP have been as busy as can be in the fallout (good for them).

It feels like a race to the middle with each of them trying to outdo the other and the rest of us being caught in the middle, unsure of which direction to take. Don’t believe me? I’ve received a version of that question that started this post more than 30 times in the past year. Experience has shown me that if I receive a question a handful of times, there are more than 100 people interested in the same topic. This means there are thousands wondering the same thing.

What Does This Mean for HR Pros?

Last year SHRM used its “pathway” to allow those of us with current certifications to simply click a few buttons and get our SHRM certification. That was partly so SHRM could have some numbers to help it market its certification as the next big thing to HR pros and companies (update: SHRM announced early in December that it had 65,000 pathway participants, with more still completing the process in the final weeks). In a few years those of us with a SHRM cert will have to decide how we will continue. At the same time, we will have to do the same with our HRCI certifications and make the call if we continue or let it lapse.

For those of you making the decision to get certified, consider what I’ve written here. For what it’s worth, here is what I’ve been telling people for the past year:

For now I would continue to pursue the PHR/SPHR. It is recognized as a standard and could even net you more money. SHRM’s certification doesn’t yet hold enough value in the workplace for companies and HR pros to put much stock in it. That may very well change but for now it is unproven and untested. I’ve passed both the PHR and SPHR and the knowledge gained helped me to be better at what I do. I took the SHRM pathway in half an hour and got my SHRM-SCP with about as much effort as you’d put forth pulling the prize from the cereal box.

I received an anonymous comment from someone that is intimately familiar with the HR certification industry and the person had this to say:

One thing you might want to keep in mind regarding these two certifications, is that HRCI certifications are accredited and SHRM’s are not. From what I understand, SHRM is trying to get theirs accredited, but because they also develop the prep materials for the exams, they may not qualify.

Just another piece of the puzzle to consider.

A Few SHRM Positives

One of my friends is a SHRM volunteer leader and explained a few key points to me:

  • The accreditation process isn’t an overnight thing. It can take several years to get the initial stamp of approval. That’s good to know.
  • In addition, he took the SHRM exam since he is an instructor and has to teach classes on exam content. He said that it was much more reflective of the HR role of today than what he recalled the HRCI exam being several years back.
  • He also said that his state, and many others, will continue to offer SHRM and HRCI credits simultaneously for programs. This is good news for those of us holding dual certifications.

I’d love to hear from some of you about how you see this shift affecting you and the rest of the HR community. 

It’s a new year, and many of you SHRM chapters and state councils out there will be looking for content to engage your members this year. I’m yet again volunteering on the board of NASHRM, my local chapter, so this is near and dear to my heart. I’ll be hosting a SHRM Chapter Volunteer Leader Series occasionally as a way to give content ideas (as I am today), offer advice on board leadership, and more. I’m working to republish the free Rock Your Chapter eBook, and these are updates I expect to include in the new version. And now, with no further delay, the content…

Note: I'm hooked on The 100. Great sci fi show, if you're that kind of geek.

Note: I’m hooked on The 100. Great sci fi show, if you’re that kind of geek.

A consistent challenge I have observed for the last six years of working as a volunteer board member is finding good content for our members. The Programs team works hard, but they, like virtually all SHRM volunteers, have full time jobs, families, and other responsibilities. So I wanted to pull together 100 programming ideas to consider in the coming year. One of the great things about SHRM chapters is that you don’t always have to bring in world class speakers (but you can if you have the budget, of course). You can pull in a local subject matter expert to share about things they know and are passionate about, and your members will benefit. Keep that thought in mind as you read through these. If any of them strike you, try to think of people you know that could share on the topic. And these are just starter ideas–take them where you wish!

Also, if you’re a SHRM chapter/council volunteer and have requests for the series (or speaking opportunities), email me.



100 SHRM Chapter Seminar Ideas

  1. No, really, please use the 401k: how to drive engagement in retirement plans
  2. Get outta here: how to prepare your employees to retire
  3. Nuke the paper: how to reduce clutter in your HR processes
  4. You want what?!? The role of influence in HR
  5. Small but mighty: how to run a great (small) HR department
  6. Yours is bigger, but mine is better: how to succeed with a small team
  7. Best practices for establishing efficient, yet lawful, HR processes
  8. Just Hand Over the Handbook and Nobody Gets Hurt: moving from static to active HR
  9. 10 Things I Hate About Your Career Site
  10. 6 tips to “wow” employees with HR communications
  11. How to make succession management a success
  12. Face the Fear: How to Demonstrate Positive HR Practices
  13. 20 small ways to revolutionize your leadership
  14. First, Admit You Have a Problem: How to move to proactive HR
  15. Bite me: how to handle aggressive employee behaviors
  16. Open Up: what level of transparency makes sense for your business?
  17. Way to go, Sherlock–How to investigate the workplace
  18. Branding: What it is and Why you need it
  19. Great HR is Invisible (hat tip to Frank Roche)
  20. Oh no you didn’t–how to mediate employee conflict
  21. Did you see what she’s wearing? How to create a common sense dress guideline
  22. Yours, Mine, Ours: how to integrate after a merger or acquisition
  23. Hello, Sweetheart: how to deal with workplace romance
  24. Why does everyone look like me? How to develop a diverse workforce
  25. 3 key ways to recruit minority candidates
  26. Top 5 laws that apply to recruiting and selection
  27. Avoid the Noid: how to keep bad candidates from getting in the door
  28. Hands off: supervisor training essentials
  29. 4 benefit trends to capitalize on
  30. Oops: 7 ways to ruin your high potentials
  31. In Case of Emergency: how to create crisis plans
  32. The Walking Dead: how to identify and remove disengaged staff
  33. Radio for backup: How to build a team you can depend on
  34. The Lowdown on Leadership Development
  35. 10 things marketing can teach us about smarter HR practices
  36. Say it like you mean it: how to deliver great presentations
  37. A vs B: how to compare and contrast vendor options
  38. How to keep people awake in training (without using coffee)
  39. Email: Corporate Comms or Strategic Engagement Driver?
  40. Whoops! How to handle workplace safety issues
  41. Yo Mama! How to recruit a candidate’s family
  42. Congratulations! Key ways to keep new parents engaged
  43. Sigh. How to make your meetings engaging and powerful
  44. 13 insights you can get from HR metrics
  45. The Next Generation: Moving from metrics to analytics
  46. He Said What? Why you need to train your supervisors
  47. 8 ways to identify high potential employees
  48. 3 methods for cutting HR costs
  49. 12 points to consider in your change management planning
  50. All together now! Developing strong collaboration practices
  51. How to disengage your employees in 5 stupid ways
  52. Flexibility: What it looks like and how it boosts your business
  53. Agility: how an engineering term can help HR
  54. Close the gap: Knitting together employees and leadership
  55. Don’t motivate, inspire (hat tip to Chris Ferdinandi)
  56. Creating a passionate, productive workforce
  57. Show me the money: calculating the value of your talent practices
  58. Back to the Future: HR practices in 2020
  59. What would HR have looked like 300 years ago?
  60. 15 critical HR skills for today’s practitioners
  61. Go Pro: how to become an HR pro in 3 easy steps
  62. 4 (not so easy) ways to make candidates love your brand
  63. You Break It, You Buy It: how to handle careless employees
  64. Ah, ah, achoo! Creating Sick Leave Policies that Work
  65. 4 Employee Perks that Won’t Cost a Dime
  66. Why Voluntary Benefits are the Best Benefits
  67. Get Well Soon! How to drive wellness initiatives
  68. HR as a Conductor of the Organizational Orchestra
  69. School’s Out for Summer! PTO, Vacation, and Employee Leave Best Practices
  70. 3 Reasons You Should Quit Relying on Talent Technology
  71. Once Upon a Time: How storytelling makes your communications better
  72. There’s a Monster In My Closet: dealing with irrational leadership
  73. 4 Things Your Assessment Provider Won’t Tell You
  74. 3 Questions to Ask Your Talent Acquisition Vendor
  75. 6 Ways to Know if An Employee is Lying
  76. Personnel to Human Resources: How to be a strategic business asset
  77. How to manage the email monster and get more done
  78. 3 easy ways to turn managers into leaders
  79. Bert and Ernie: How to leverage friendships for engagement
  80. Cookie Monster: How to drive healthy employee behaviors
  81. Oscar the Grouch: How to manage negative employees
  82. Big Bird: How to demonstrate executive presence
  83. How to reward innovation without breaking the bank
  84. 7 tips for empowering employees
  85. Culture Shock: Preparing expatriates for new assignments
  86. Anylearning: How to encourage employees by offering non-work related training
  87. Intermittent what? How to manage employees on FMLA leave
  88. A Pile of Shift (Workers): Managing a 24-hour workforce
  89. Make my day: How to negotiate like a pro
  90. 5 things HR can learn from finance
  91. How to create a strategic partnership with your CFO
  92. 6 things HR does that drives employees crazy
  93. Anything you can do I can do better: Ensuring gender equality in the workplace
  94. 8 ideas for revolutionizing your HR service, starting today
  95. With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: How to prepare employees for greatness
  96. Say Hello to My Little Friend: Weapons at work, how to handle it, and what’s legal
  97. I’ll Be Back: How to deal with boomerang employees
  98. Life is like a box of chocolates: Predicting employee performance before they’re hired
  99. Frankly My Dear, I… Want to know how to handle profanity at work
  100. ET Phone Home: How to communicate based on employee preferences

I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of these. Which ones would you like to hear? Which ones would bore you to tears? :-) Anything you’d add to the list?



So, if that incredibly illustrative title didn’t explain the purpose of this post, maybe I can make it clearer. :-) I’m working on my next eBook, and I’m hanging with my love of the verb “rock” for its powerful imagery (as in Rock the PHR) with the working title “Rock Your Chapter.” I want it to be a resource not only for those thousands of participants who struggle through yet another wasted chapter meeting, but also a resource for the leaders and volunteers who can make or break a chapter’s success.

Free stuff

I want to give a free advance copy to everyone who helps out with the survey. While I’m on the topic of help… Continue reading

get more shrm membership

How can SHRM chapters and members get more out of membership? Read on for a few ideas. This post is a part of the SHRM Chapter Leadership Guide.

HR Barbie, AKA Tamara in Ohio, asks the following:

I am so glad I found your site.  It is so important for the newly minted HR Professionals, like me.

It was extremely hard for me to transition into HR, and like you, I did not find an HR position until I began attending CSHRM meetings (Cleveland chapter).

My problem with SHRM in general, is that it is directed more towards the management side.  For professionals new to HR like myself, who only implements policy and is not a policy maker, it can be very off putting or in some cases a waste of time to attend.

I really want to join / attend on a more regular basis.  Perhaps in one of your next posts you can write about how we can make chapter SHRMs benefit all levels of HR.

I’ve heard from others like my buddy Tamara here, and I know it isn’t a local problem for her. I don\’t know if these chapters are expecting the national chapter\’s offerings to make up for their lack of value or what, but it seems pretty silly to me.

What can SHRM chapters do? Continue reading

This post has some ideas for why you should think about, and maybe even join, a local SHRM chapter… Enjoy!

Wouldn\’t it be nice if there was something to make this HR thing easier to do? Maybe if there was some sort of way to meet other professionals, share ideas, and trade best practice tips, then we all would feel less like we\’re treading water and more like we\’re making a difference. Wait a minute, there is a way to do that, and it\’s your local SHRM chapter!

Now, before I get into the meat of the post, I’d like to say that not all SHRM chapters are great. Some of them just plain suck. And you know what? This post may or may not be for you. If not, check back later. Or read something inspiring. On the other hand, some chapters really do rock, and this post can help you leverage that for your own career. Continue reading