SHRM CEO says All Employers Should “Require” HR Certification!

Did you see this last week by new SHRM CEO Johnny Taylor?

“Require certification,” Taylor said. “SHRM certification is a validation that the professional doing the job has the competency to do it. Treat HR like a profession. Don’t just prefer—require!”  

So, there will be a reaction from the HR community on this for sure! My guess is it will be mostly negative by those who aren’t certified, and mostly positive by the small percentage, overall, of HR professionals who do have a certification.

Here’s my take – I 100% agree with Johnny!

In fact, I love Johnny even more as the selection of SHRM CEO!

We (HR) want to be put on the same level as our peers in accounting, legal, etc. They are required to complete an examination to reach their CPA or pass the bar exam. Why should HR be any different?

I think it would be awesome to begin seeing HR positions at all levels have “HR Certification Required to Apply to this Position!” on job descriptions and job postings. I think it’s a sign that organizations are saying we want to ensure that our HR professionals meet some basic understanding and competency of the profession, at a minimum.

I think the one pushback would be there is a cost of obtaining the certification. That’s a real barrier and being a professional that embraces and espouses to inclusion, we want to eliminate barriers. Thankfully, SHRM also was prepared for this and announced last week:

“We’ve adapted our recertification process to provide additional flexibility to match your learning needs.

Going forward, SHRM will no longer have a maximum limit on self-paced activities, in the ‘Advance Your Education’ category.”

What this means is an HR professional can go out and take all 60 recertification credits for free through various webcasts or other self-paced free HR learning opportunities.

There still the cost to recertifying ($100 for members, $150 for non-members) and a cost to take the initial exam ($300 or $400, respectively). The reality is we all have investments we need to make to maintain and grow ourselves in our profession. This is a rather small amount for such a great profession.

I’ve been a long time vocal critic of SHRM in many ways but I love this push from Johnny to the profession. Sure it’s a bit self-serving since SHRM is the one selling the SHRM-CP and SCP certification (along with HRCI who sells the PHR, SPHR, and GPHR separately), but I don’t care. It’s the right thing to do.

I’ve been an HR professional who has held a certification since 2001. Gaining that certification took work, study, and practice. It wasn’t easy. After completing the examination and passing it was a big deal. 17 years of pursuing continuing education puts me in a really great position as a professional that I know a great deal about HR in a number of facets.

Does this make me a ‘better’ HR professional than someone who does not have a certification? That’s the big question, right? I believe it does, on average. Sure someone can know more than me, who does not have an HR certification, but normally, I would say that is not the case.

So, kudos, to Johnny, who got beat up recently in social media for shaking President Trump’s hand and taking a pic at an event. I believe requiring HR certifications for HR positions is the right stance to take for SHRM and for the profession.

20 thoughts on “SHRM CEO says All Employers Should “Require” HR Certification!

  1. I was very proud to have obtained my Masters in Human Resource Management at an “advanced age”. Even though I had been an HRM for many years, it upgraded my HR knowledge. Studying for the SPHR (earlier in my career) also added to my knowledge of my profession. Recertification has always forced me to quantify my continual education. That being said, I remain disappointed in SHRM adding their own certification and I did not bother to obtain my “grandfathered” certification from SHRM. I do not feel a certification from any agency is required. However, if I was hiring my replacement I would look for a degreed professional with experience. Any type of certification is just “extra”.

  2. Hi Tim,
    I did a jobcast with a guy who worked for one of the big auto insurance companies. I asked him what he liked about his job. His response; “well, everyone has to have auto insurance to drive. It’s required by law, so this is a great business to be in.” Looks to me like SHRM wants to become the GEICO of HR.

  3. Here’s my take Tim. I 100% disagree. When the same organization both defines the body of knowldege and then operates as the ‘independent’ certifying organization- you have a recipe for disaster. The two sides of the same coin will work in concert to maximize income at the expense of the needs of it’s members, milking the cash cow while ignoring the increasing cost of adapting continuous change until obsolescence is so obvious it can’t be ignored. There is a reason for separation of powers in managing professional education and SHRM has not demonstrated the best approach for some time. For someone devoted to disrupting HR, supporting the control of certification being in SHRM’s hands is an inconsistent pov. Happy to chat. That said, I am a fan of certification as a means to establish basic standards of knowledge…and beyond if possible. We are on the same page as a goal but not as to the channel for getting there.

  4. But if SHRM certs are ‘required’ to get the job, how are we going to keep chanting “hire for attitude, train for skill”?

    • Dan –

      I’m pretty sure Johnny isn’t saying “only” hire for certification. It’s not an and or kind of thing. It’s HR pros should have the attitude, the skill, and the certification – all things being equal.


  5. I don’t think HR certs should be required of any employer unless they choose it to be. And they won’t. Johnny simply gave his opinion. I have certifications because they were important to me personally for my professional and personal development. They don’t make me better than anyone else, and they don’t guarantee that I know everything HR-related or that my performance will be better. But I am proud of not only achieving them, but keeping up recertification. Nothing anyone else says or does can take that away from me or demean it unless I give them the power to demean it……and I don’t.

  6. I got my Master’s degree in HR. I have 16 years of HR experience. I’d say I have enough proof that I have what it takes to do my job.
    Interesting how SHRM is now the one offering to certify you…

  7. It’s not accurate that certification proves job competency. One specialization in HR is recruiting, and if an HR person has done extensive recruiting, I think one can see that education or certification alone does not prove competency. And extremely disappointed that any correlation with the #metoo movement was drawn. It shows a lack of understanding of the daily work lives of many HR professionals and a lack of understanding about people in the movement who have come forward. I was happy when SHRM started to push in the direction of recognizing HR professionals as business professionals and changed their model, but this is way overstating things and excluding HR professionals that are just as great and knowledgeable.

  8. I find it interesting that one of the arguments for certification is to make it harder to enter the profession when there are 100s of blog posts with hints on how to “break into” HR. So, is it too hard to too easy to get into HR? I can see the arguments on both sides, BUT if experience is a requirement to even sit for the exam, how does that improve the quality of candidates for HR jobs?

    Personally, I feel certification is important and I encourage others in the profession to get certified. That said, I’m not sure I agree with how Johnny is getting his message out. And he is only really talking about the SCP — the CP is only mentioned in passing. I have yet to find a personal ROI on why I should upgrade? As someone who is currently at the CP level, what is the incentive for me to upgrade when it costs someone who is not certified at all the same?

    Just like when SHRM rolled out their program, it just feels like a big money grab. Especially on the heels of the pony show that was the meeting with the President.

  9. And please note – me saying I don’t think the certification made me a better professional isn’t because I think I’m all that. It means I don’t think the test is all that.

  10. Well, I’m pleased to see the discourse here is staying polite. Thanks so much for the dismissive sarcasm from everyone.

    Certification has been around how long? And supposedly more than ever are certified? And how much respect does HR have? Yeah – certification isn’t going to change that.

    • Mary,

      I think you’re proving Johnny’s point with this comment. To be a CPA you must pass the CPA exam. To be a lawyer, you must pass the bar. To be an HR pro you don’t need to pass anything. If we (HR) said you must pass an HR certification, maybe that would be a great step in helping shape and change HR for the better. To make it stronger for future generations.


  11. Sorry, Mary and Don — Dan is spot-on!

    Don: If only the rest of us mere mortals could be as smart as you are — no need for certification and ongoing professional development. Congrats to you, but certification helped me immensely and I was a trained labor and employment lawyer like Taylor I believe (who had previously passed several bar exams). I found the SHRM certification very helpful in my career and just as important as my law license was to my legal career. If you don’t believe HR credentialing is as important as Finance credentialing, you should consider another profession. And who certifies for “cache”? What does that have to with anything. I certified because I wanted to be the best HR practitioner I could be.

    Mary, same message to you — who would’ve thunk there are two of you “perfect HR professionals” who certification didn’t “help a lick” (wow)! Good for you.

    Why is it that you would think SHRM’s CEO would suggest someone else’s (HRCI) certification would be the one to take? Pretty obvious. I, personally, have taken both tests and believe the SHRM-SCP to be far better for HR practitioners. To be clear, though, both helped me in my HR practice.

    Finally, and this is the most offensive thing you wrote, I don’t think Taylor said #metoo wouldn’t have happened if all HR people were certified. You have totally and intentionally misstated his argument. It’s not at all a stretch to believe that better equipped and trained (certified) HR professionals could help lessen the number of sexual harassment workplace claims. So, he’s simply saying certification is important to prevent sexual harassment and, when it happens, manage it.

    Frankly, both of you have huge egos and neither of you seem to believe in the importance of HR. Sad.

  12. Tim…there’s not a single profession with a cert where the cert itself guarantees that the person is a “professional” – it only guarantees that they’ve passed a test. Doesn’t matter if it’s by one point or the person scored the maximum allowable points, you’ve now been anointed with “Hey…You’re now a PROFESSIONAL!”

    Same reason why I’ll fight tooth and nail to keep certs out of ATAP.

    This is a money play by Johnny to pull in cert dollars whereas he might want to first identify the real reasons bad things happen under HR’s watch. I’m sure you can write a month of blog posts about this – and NONE of these have anything to do with certifications…

    • Steve,

      I get that a certification, at any level, will not guarantee success, but you can’t argue that it doesn’t raise the bar of the profession. In an industry that has a low barrier to entry, showing a certain level of knowledge isn’t a bad thing. I’m not saying that a certification guarantees success, but it doesn’t hurt in bringing awareness around education and development of the profession as a whole.

      The “money-grab” thing is short-sited thinking. SHRM doesn’t have money issues and this isn’t about making money. I truly believe Johnny is trying to elevate the profession. You either believe in his words or you don’t, I choose to believe him because he’s done nothing to show me I shouldn’t.

      Recruiting, like HR, might be a worse situation. There is absolutely zero-barrier to entry to recruiting and most executives in organizations have no way of knowing if a person can recruit or not. I’m not saying that a certification would solve this, but again, it wouldn’t hurt to let executives know at least this person as a certain level of understanding of the role, now they still have to perform, but maybe, just maybe, something could be put together to help those executives make better decisions.

      We are both fighting for the same thing, Steve. We want the profession to be stronger and more valued across organizations.


  13. I agree with Mary. I was an experienced HR professional before I decided to get certified. It made no difference to my job performance. I now have just about all of them (SHRM-SCP, SPHR, GPHR, CCP, CBP, GRP). I only bothered to get them because I quickly discovered that employers suddenly “preferred” them. As every job seeker knows, preferred really means a soft required. It has become another hurdle that must be jumped to be considered for a job. Like the Masters Degree.

    There is no way to compare the HR certification exam to the CPA exam(s). The CPA exams are much more in depth and expansive. No matter how many HR certifications you have, they still does not hold the cache of a CPA.

    • Don,

      There is a way to compare an HR cert to the CPA, or even the bar exam. If you look at the history of the CPA and Bar exams they weren’t always at the level they are now. We all start someplace.


  14. Nope. Totally disagree. On many levels. Some of the most amazing HR pros I’ve worked with never passed a test designed to make money. And listen…I’m certified. I took the damn test. I’m proud I did. But I in NO way think it has made a lick of difference in my ability to practice HR.

    Oh, and isn’t it interesting that it’s SHRM’s test and not HRCI – a certification that has been around far longer?

    And he claimed that if only those HR people had been certified, #metoo wouldn’t have happened. Sorry – no credibility on this one.

    I know you like the guy, Tim. But keep it real.

    • Mary,

      I’ll give you the #MeToo thing was a bit farfetched. But having HR pros be certified isn’t a bad thing. There’s no negative to it. So, I’m not sure why there’s such a strong reaction to it.


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