The Prestige of HR

A fellow Twitter user, @hroncall, is stirring up a debate today. The basic question postulated is this:

Does a SHRM certification make HR less prestigious?

He believes that in order to get a SPHR certification, candidates must complete a process like that of a pilot or an eagle scout, requiring not only a test, but also a demonstration of accumulated knowledge, skills, and abilities.

The tweet heard round the world

The tweet heard round the world

With more than 10 people (at the time of this post) firing back at the original poster, it\’s clearly a hot debate.  What do you think?  I may have been less inclined to respond six months ago, but now that I have my PHR certification, I think this topic deserves to be discussed!  The certification process is pretty difficult, but that isn’t good enough for some people that think just anyone can get a certification.

15 thoughts on “The Prestige of HR

  1. adowling

    Isn\’t the SPHR a demonstration of accumulated knowledge, skills and abilities? You have to have tenure in the field before you can take it and you have to maintain strict recertification guidelines in order to keep it. Yeah, I may have never negotiated a labor contract but by achieving the SPHR status and maintaining it, I would be better qualified to handle that duty.

  2. Ben Eubanks

    I agree, April. Kris Dunn (the HR Capitalist) put up this nugget of wisdom: How can one be an SPHR and never negotiate a labor contract? How about by helping a company remain union free? Hello!

    Awesome response.

  3. Kerry

    Honestly, I don’t get why we’re still having this debate over certification. I’ve been listening to this since the Clinton administration, and it doesn’t seem to progress.

    If you think certification is useless, don’t get certified, and don’t factor it into your HR hires. If you think it’s useful, pass the test and hire people who have passed as well. There’s room for everyone. We don’t all have to agree on this.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, my number one beef about HR is the navel gazing. I don’t want to talk about tests. I want to talk about how to help companies succeed (especially now). We do a real disservice to people who are new to HR by encouraging them to focus on “the profession” instead of “the work.”

    HR people spend a crazy amount of time talking about the innards of HR. How about we shut up and go help run our companies?

  4. Chuck Gillespie (twitter: crgillespie)

    I would go as far as saying that the SPHR certification is too much based on labor union rules and regulations. There are less than 10% of the companies in America today that even have a labor union.

    When I took the SPHR, I would say that more than 20% of the questions had a “union” labor slant. I felt it was too reflective of policies and procedures that are issues typically found outside the scope of the regular HR policies. It, in my opinion, was not reflective enough about the “business” side of HR.

    I do not remember a lot of questions on performance metrics, business processes, outsourcing, contingent workforce, and HR Technology.

    Today, in order to properly negotiate a labor contract you need more than an SPHR, you had better pass the bar exam, because that contract is going to be based more on judicial interpretation and less on workplace functionality.

  5. Ben Eubanks

    Thank you for your valuable input, Kerry and Chuck. Y’all have been in the field longer than I even knew it existed, and it’s interesting to hear the different viewpoints.

  6. humanresourcespufnstuf

    I agree with Kerry, if you want to be certified, get certified, if not, don’t. There is no evidence there are any performance differences between certified and non-certified professionals, there are great and less than great in both groups.

  7. Ben Eubanks

    Agreed, puf. However, to those outside the HR arena, seeing a certification implies credibility. Many of the people that I speak with that have taken the exam do it to get more respect at work, earn more money, etc. While other HR professionals might not really care either way, it commands some measure of respect to the world.

  8. adowling

    @Ben, that’s why I got my certification. After looking at HR job postings, back when they were plentiful, I saw many that were requiring or strongly preferred a PHR or SPHR. It was an attempt to set myself apart from other candidates in addition to learning more about the areas of HR that I didnt work on a daily basis.

  9. Kerry

    I got certified when I was an independent HR consultant, nine years ago. Some people think that if you have letters after your name, you’re smart. It was just one of a number of things I did to try and differentiate myself in what was then a crowded marketplace of independent HR professionals.

    When I’m hiring an HR person, I don’t necessarily see certification as an indication of proficiency per se. I do see it as a sign that this person is doing everything possible to make him/herself marketable to a wide range of employers. In my experience, people who do that tend to be better at managing their internal marketability as well (i.e. inside the company for which they work), and that’s a plus for me.

    But really, I have never understood the strong emotions around this issue. It’s like arguing about which is the best flavor of ice cream.

  10. Ben Eubanks

    @April That’s one of the reasons I went for mine. I knew it would be beneficial when I started looking for work in the HR field.

    @Kerry So would you say that a cert is more useful for determining a person’s work ethic or conscientiousness than their suitability for an HR position? I think that’s an interesting point to explore in a future post!

    Oh, and we all know that chocolate chip cookie dough is the best. :-)

  11. humanresourcespufnstuf

    Ben, point well taken, however in my opinion it may be a good tool for folks earlier on in their career.

    I may just be a certi-phobe (I’m claiming that term right now!), but I can tell you when I was in the Army, I never wore any of my badges, medals ect. and when in the field often did not wear any rank ensignia (a bit of a no-no, but overlooked because of results), people knew I was a leader and followed my based on my actions, not anything else.

    To take that to the next level, I have a boat load of recruiting certifications. I have never put any on my resume, mentioned them in an interview, or included them in an online profile. I let my results speak for themselves, which for me (please never construe anything I say as being suitable for anyone else) has worked well.

  12. Pingback: More About HR Certification Exams « UpstartHR

  13. Kerry

    I’m not sure it tells me about their work ethic, but it tells me whether they are good managers of their own careers. Those letters don’t make you smarter, but they do make you more marketable (not to everyone, but to some).

    It also indicates an acceptance of the fact that different things appeal to different people. I don’t personally find that SPHRs are necessarily smarter than other folks, but I recognize that some people do think that. That’s why I took the test. I realize that other people have different values than me in terms of what constitutes a great candidate for an HR leadership role, and I’ve incorporated that realization into my career management strategy. It’s a pragmatic approach, and pragmatism is something I look for in candidates.

  14. Pingback: How do you measure your success? « PseudoHR

  15. Pingback: 3 Ways Entry Level HR Professionals Can Be More Relevant « UpstartHR

Comments are closed.