Extinction Event: Why HR Is Certifiably Insane

Sure, the Society of Human Resources Management’s annual conference in Orlando was over a couple weeks ago, but in the spirit of late adoption that infused the conference, figured that a stale post was, for the target audience, right on time.  It was my fifth straight SHRM conference, and what really struck me this year wasn’t what had changed with HR, but rather, the fact that nothing has really changed over the last 5 years. Not at SHRM, at least.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  See, right before the conference, SHRM announced that it was breaking up with HRCI and more or less invalidating the PHR, SPHR and GPHR certifications in favor of their own “competency” based curriculum. When you’re a typical HR practitioner, you get freaked out about things like payroll systems and OSHA compliance, so when your entire professional credentialing system gets changed, this tends to qualify as apocalyptic, the meteor headed straight for the dinosaurs who proudly append their signatures with now worthless acronyms like SPHR.

The fact that this was even possible – comments on the merits of SHRM’s move notwithstanding – serves as further proof of HR’s own admission that it’s become something of an archaic relic fighting against the natural forces of time and evolution in a losing struggle for survival.  I went to a briefing for volunteer leaders where the head of member relations for SHRM openly apologized for their “handling of the situation,” but the anger in the room was like something out of a gothic horror story – a lynch mob boiling over.

SHRM went onto explain that they were “surprised” by the reaction to the news, you know, because anyone outside the practitioner chain objectively thinks that this is all fairly passe and prosaic in the first place.  This proves how out of touch this organization has become with a membership that’s not all that hard to keep up with, given the absolute stasis of most of their membership.

HR leaders, the target of the conference and this powerful professional trade association’s lobbying activity, do everything in their power to resist change and embrace the status quo they more or less created – that telling them their continuing professional education, associated costs and time as well as a notoriously difficult testing process that they’d already invested in were worthless was considered a communications ‘ho-hum’ shows SHRM has become irrelevant not only to those outside HR, but also to the membership it purports to represent.

SHRM continually cited the need to follow the best practices established by other professional credentialing bodies like the ISE or the AICPA as precedent for this change, but the thing is, in doing so, they more or less admitted that what they’ve been doing, testing and valuing has been worthless, or at least ineffective enough to burn loads of cash and good will to make a change that, for most members, was superfluous.  HRCI, for all its faults, met their needs – despite its commoditization of credits (my BS presentations have actually been certified for CPEs before) as well as dubious practices like selling “lifetime” certifications for cash.

Just like the Big 4 would never decide to replace the CPA with a credential set up by their cabal, or the ISE would never invalidate its professional certifications in favor of a completely new standard of measurement, such a sweeping move would be an inherent possibility, as it would in any established profession.  But the fact SHRM can’t even figure out what, exactly, HR needs to know these days – much less do – points to the planned obsolescence of an entire function.

And all I have to say is, good riddance.

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