Or Bar Cohen
Aug 22nd, 2018

SHRM Certification Isn't The Best Approach for Today's HR Industry

The Human Resources community has recently been buzzing over a staple in many areas of the industry: Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) certifications. The conversation has existed for some time. However, recent comments from SHRM CEO and President Johnny C. Taylor Jr. have kicked the discussion up a notch. Taylor recently was quoted saying, "Require certification...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!"

Since Taylor's comments, the industry has debated the topic extensively. Google searches tend to generate more articles in support of SHRM certification than those opposed. However, Taylor’s words have inspired others, and myself, to offer an opposition to the head of SHRM calling for required SHRM certification in the industry.

Today, SHRM and other certifications represent a certain level of professional assessment and validation in HR. However, the industry has and will continue to evolve while certification training courses lag severely behind. With all due respect to Taylor and my people professional counterparts, I posit that SHRM certification is in the past, and that collaborative learning is the present and future.

Certifications Are Old World

For some time, our profession has undergone a shift in how it operates on all levels. Roles are expanding while the demands of the position increase. While certification demonstrates that you are capable of the job, does it mean you have the required information needed to thrive under the current demands of the role? As recent years have shown us, that may not be the case.

While certifications from SHRM and other reputable sources gives employers the knowledge that you are adept at understanding the position, it does nothing to confirm that you are skilled when actually performing the tasks at hand. Instead, why not gather that information hands-on while on the job? Much like a college internship, a professional will only learn so much while gathering those certification hours. The real wisdom they gather will come hands-on, in the field.

Today's teams embrace a network of teams approach, which has made on the job learning that much more accessible. Cross-departmental learning has bridged gaps between units, allowing professionals to learn from one another. Often, on the job learning is explicitly geared to how the company prefers to operate rather than generic certification learning would offer. This is an added bonus that can negate the allure of certification training. Instead, it champions team members who demonstrate their knowledge and worth to the company in actual application. This is immensely beneficial as the industry continually updates its tech, practices and procedures.

While certification provides value and validity to a person’s credentials, it fails to represent the shift in the industry. Even if a certification course is updated frequently, the changes surrounding industry standards are nearly impossible to keep up with - much less put out updated versions with each development. Instead, by learning from team members on the job, you can demonstrate your worth while learning the specifics of your role with a specific team.

Sharing Expands the HR Industry

Today’s best teams thrive when sharing is a central focus of the organization. Whether you’re sharing insights from a SHRM course, onsite training or any other method, the key is to share. Sharing wisdom and information benefits the entire team. While proponents for SHRM certification may argue that the current model is sufficient enough for sharing information, I would point them towards Developers and open source.

While open source has been debated like SHRM certification over the years, it has a large base of supporters. Many credit open source for changing the industry for Developers and tech development. Since its emergence in the late 1990s, open source has evolved to become a commercially justifiable, team building concept which has turned the industry on its head. What started out as a collaborative effort amongst Devs has evolved over the years. Matt Ingenthron, Senior Director of Engineering at Couchbase, recently told Forbes "Now that open source has matured, the way we collaborate has changed, too. There is a rich set of open source projects, open source commons, and even new communities coming together with new organizing principles. It has accelerated innovation and collaboration far beyond what we had before."

The real impact of professional organizations are felt in its community and network effects. The more knowledge and practices freely shared between professionals, the more impact and growth the industry gains.

That said, SHRM certification and training still provide needed wisdom for people professionals looking to begin or enhance their careers. However, the current industry is not suited for SHRM training. Today, agile, often evolving companies demand something that is more open, shareable and adaptive to what’s trending in the market and the workplace. Certification training just can’t keep up at this point. Instead, looking inward for a solution is proving to be the next generation solution. Like open source, we’ll need time to find out which methods prove to be most effective. However, when a team is learning and working together, you don’t need much more to certify their efficacy.