The New SHRM Certifications

I have to admit that I was skeptical.

When the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) announced it would launch its own certifications that would rival the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certifications, I wondered what SHRM was thinking. For years, the PHR and SPHR have been recognized as the “gold standard” of HR Generalist certifications.  Now it appeared SHRM was withdrawing its support of these certifications, in favor of its own – an interesting decision, I thought.

SHRM is currently offering two, competency-based certifications – SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) and SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) – both designed for HR Generalists. Much more information can be found here. The SHRM-CP is geared to a professional with entry to mid-level HR experience and the SHRM-SCP toward those with advanced HR experience. Both of these certifications have educational and experience requirements in order to be qualified – click here.

Then I discovered that SHRM would offer holders of the PHR and SPHR the opportunity to achieve SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP by taking a tutorial and completing the online registration for the SHRM Certification site. Those who have taken the PHR and SPHR know how tough those tests are and to be able to achieve a new certification WITHOUT having to take the test is a blessing! The criteria for the SHRM certification is relatively simple for PHR/SPHR holders, here is what is needed:

  • Have the PHR or SPHR designation in good standing
  • Be a member of SHRM

If you meet these two criteria, you can apply to get the SHRM certification that aligns to your current PHR or SPHR (SHRM-CP for PHR and SHRM-SCP for SPHR). The application process is easy – here are the steps.

  1. Visit (this takes you to and click “Apply Now.”
  2. Create your account including indicating your current certification status. This takes about 5 minutes to complete.
  3. A confirmation email will be sent to you following the completion of your account (the subject of the one I received was “Profile Setup Confirmation”). This confirmation email includes disclaimers and requires you to review the Code of Ethics, etc. This took less than 5 minutes to complete.
  4. After completion of the above email, another email link will be sent to you within a few days with the subject “Online Tutorial Pathway.” The link takes you to an interactive online tutorial explaining the certification, in depth, and requires you to complete both a competency assessment and a brief analysis of 3 cases followed by 3 questions each. The tutorial took me 45 minutes.
  5. Almost immediately after completing the tutorial, I received an email indicating that I had completed the required steps. It included a timeframe for when the certification request would be processed.
  6. Later that same day, I received the email stating that I was now certified SHMR-SCP. Voila!

The whole process took less than one hour and required no payment. The recertification requirements include completing 60 Professional Development Credits (PDCs) within the next 3 years and payment of $100. More about the recertification requirements can be found here. If you currently do not have the PHR or SPHR, you would follow the same process to apply to take the exam.

Visit for more details.


Is HR Certification Right for You?

Arguably, achieving professional certification in your area of expertise shows commitment to your profession and to continuous learning. With so many certification options out there, it can be hard to choose the right one for you. Which one will advance your career? Which one has the best visibility? Which one is worth the effort to get it? The HR profession is no exception when it comes to having volumes of certification opportunities. But which one is more valuable – PHR, CCP, CPLP, CEBS, ABCXYZ? HR certifications can drown you in a sea of letters. Finding the right certification(s) for you is an important first step on your professional development path.

I often get asked,  “Which certifications are right for me?” And my answer comes in typical HR fashion – “it depends.” There are so many to choose from with new certifications coming out from time to time. It can be a tough decision, but once you have identified your needs and career path, selecting the right HR certification(s) can be easy. Here are some questions to research when deciding on a certification. Like any investment, a certification requires digging in deep so you know all there is to know about it before you invest your time and money.

Is the certification relevant in the workplace? One of the best indicators of how relevant a certification is in the workplace is how many professionals hold it. Some organizations, like the Human Resources Certification Institute (, have over 130,000 professionals holding their certifications. It usually takes 3 to 5 years for a certification to be “tested” in the marketplace and for it to become relevant. The “testing” period includes early adopters becoming certified and employers finding the KSAOs (knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics) learned by the certification holders to be relevant and valuable in the workplace.

Is the certification specialized or general enough? There are both generalist (PHR and SPHR) and specialist (CPLP, CCP, CEBS, CIR) HR certifications. I have found value in holding both. If your goal is work in a specialist role, it can be valuable to pursue a specialist certification. But be warned, some specialist certifications take months of studying and taking several tests before they are achieved, which requires stamina (and money!). The generalist certifications are good if you are seeking a well-rounded knowledge base. The specialist certifications require more focused KSAOs.

What are the requirements to attain and retain the certification? Some certifications require relevant work experience or education, or both, or neither. Some certifications require specific or general continuing education (CEUs). Before working toward a certification, it is important to really know the intricacies of what is needed to attain and retain the certification. Having sat for several certifications tests, I can honestly say that I will do pretty much whatever I need to do in order to maintain those that I have. CEUs can come from many sources, including online education, on the job functions, conference attendance and serving in professional leadership roles. Take the time to understand what you need to attain and retain the certification(s) you choose.

How will the certification advance my career? If you work in HR, is it valuable to take the time to become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP)? The answer is – “it depends”. Everyone’s personal career goals may be different. You should know what certification will help you meet those goals. Take the time to research certifications and look at those who hold them, both online and within your professional networking groups. I spent a lot of time researching on LinkedIn and Twitter before I decided to pursue mine.

Should I get formal education or pursue certification? I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked this. The short answer is “both.” I decided that my education would be general (BA in Business, MBA and pursuing an MA in HR Management) with specialist certifications (SPHR, GPHR and CCP). This plan is working for me. Nothing replaces formal education, especially when it comes to meeting job requirements. Certifications show a commitment to continuous learning by their CEU requirements. Consider both education and certifications, although some professionals do one or the other. What works best for you?

Certifications should enhance and grow your KSAOs. I have learned (and continue to learn!) so much about HR and myself through the attainment and retention of my certifications. While certification is not for everyone, it can be the differentiator when the final candidate is selected for a position.

Here is a short list of some good HR certifications with their organization websites. There are other valuable HR certifications. The Society for Human Resource Management ( is launching a new competency-based certification in 2015. As I learn more about it, I will share with you.

American Institute for Recruiting and Sourcing (formerly) (

Certified Internet Recruiter (CIR)

American Society of Healthcare Human Resources Administration (

Certified in Healthcare Human Resources (CHHR)

American Society for Training and Development (formerly) (

Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP)

Human Resources Certification Institute (

Professional in Human Resources (PHR)     Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)

International Coach Federation (

Professional Certified Coach (PCC)

International Federation of Employee Benefit Plans (

Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS)

World at Work (

Certified Compensation Professional (CCP)


What HR certifications do you suggest? What are your certification stories?

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The Letters


What do your letters mean to you? Did you get them to get a job? Did you get them to enhance your resume? Or were they achieved for personal satisfaction? Of course, I am talking about your certifications – primarily the PHR, SPHR and GPHR, but any of the other HR certifications are fair game.

On Thursday night, I taught our first PHR/SPHR study group this year. What a huge turnout – about 25 people showed up. The material was from module 1, Strategic Management. What an engaging group we had! I found it interesting that the class was split with about half shooting for the PHR and half for the SPHR. Throughout the class, to break up the monotony of means, modes and medians and income statements, we chatted about the value of certification in the workplace.

“I believe that my letters have helped me,” I told them. There are arguments for and against certification but I believe they hold value for me, professionally and personally. The tests that need to be passed to get these certifications are, in a word, brutal. Four hours of wracking your brain trying to differentiate the miniscule difference between option A and C can literally cause your brain to ooze out your year (well, not literally. Figuratively). Anyone who goes through the self-imposed torture is tops in my book, I told them. And then there is what you learn. For those of us who don’t deal with unions or total rewards, for example, the PHR and SPHR tests force us to learn about them. Who knows – the test could fuel a whole new interest in another area of HR!

My certifications mean a lot to me. I spent time learning the material, connecting it to my day to day work life and then taking a cruel test to prove my knowledge. I proudly show my letters. They remind me about my commitment to my profession, especially after a very tough day. So, what do the letters mean to you?

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The Road to Recertification

I fully support and believe in the value of professional certification. Currently, I hold 3 HR certifications and have found that each has offered me positive, professional development. And my plan is to start pursuing the Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS) certification offered through the International Federation of Employee Benefit Plans ( in the future. The CEBS designation will round out my HR knowledge base. I believe it is always good to have development and educational opportunities in your plan to keep you professionally relevant, marketable and current.

Nothing trumps work experience when it comes to credibility in a profession like HR. However, professional certification like those offered by HRCI ( and other organizations can enhance this experience. An advantage of professional certification from an employer standpoint is the commitment of the certification holder to recertify and continue to update their credentials. This encourages a more educated workforce. Most organizations, like HRCI and the WorldatWork Society, that certify HR professionals have a 3 year recertification window. This requires the credential holder to gain either practical, educational or leadership experience to maintain their certification.

My recertification window for my SPHR and GPHR opens on July 1 this year. I have 3 years to earn 30 hours of international, 15 hours of strategic and 15 hours of general credits. As many of my peers know, the strategic and international credits can be a challenge to get. I have found that getting the recertification credits completed as early as possible relieves my stress of cutting it close. I have known HR professionals who have lost their SPHR certification because they did not get enough strategic credit by the end of their window. For those who have taken these tests know that they probably never want to take them again – from studying to test anxiety the whole process can be exhausting and nerve wracking. I sure as heck will recertify!

In future posts, I will be posting ideas and thoughts to help get recertification credits. So stay tuned!

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I guess I should start out with introducing myself…

My name is John H. Williamson and I am a human resources professional and this blog is dedicated to the advancement of my chosen profession. I have solid and proven experience in total rewards, employee relations, recruiting, employee development and ISO inception and maintenance as well as many other specialties that fall within the Generalist realm. Currently I hold 3 HR certifications – the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) through the Human Resources Institute ( and the Certified Compensation Professional (CCP) through WorldatWork ( I serve and have served in leadership roles for HR organizations and have spoken at HR conferences and meetings.

I love HR and one of my areas of specialization is Compensation and Total Rewards. I have an affinity for numbers and strongly support HR’s progression from transactional cost center to transformational profit center.

I travel frequently, have a little miniature Dachshund named Belle, am learning Spanish and am working on a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) at Webster University. I am sure my new experiences in these areas will factor into future entries.

I hope you find value in this blog and welcome your feedback, ideas and questions. Thank you and welcome aboard HR Boomerang!

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