My SPHR–It’s Not You, It’s Me

This year I let my SPHR certification drop.

If you have your certification then you understand why that may be viewed as a “What the hell?” type of statement. For those of you that may not know, Human Resource professionals can choose to earn professional credentials through earning a certification. This certification serves as a way to demonstrate to employers and others that an individual has achieved a certain proficiency in HR related subject areas. Put simply,it shows the world that you know what you’re talking about, HR-wise.

While there are many types of professional certifications, there are three main ones (this applies mainly to HR professionals in the United States and those who are members of SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management). They are:

  • Professional in Human Resources (PHR)
  • Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR)
  • Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR)
The Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) is the organization responsible for the testing and awarding of the above certifications. To earn a particular one you have to apply.The application process is used to determine which certification is appropriate, based on a variety of factors (experience, whether one’s role is more tactical or strategic in nature, amongst other things).

Once you’ve successfully applied for the appropriate certification then you have to take an exam. Like many test-centered subjects, the exam induces a lot of emotions. Anxiety, fear, relief, anger, confusion–I experienced all these and more during the run-up to exam day. One of my first blog posts was about this. Fortunately for me I passed it the first time around, so once it was done I was DONE.

Actually, I wasn’t. Part of the requirements of certification is that it expires after a few years, so you have to recertify. For example, you can re-take the test (you have to pass, of course). You could earn credits; sixty, to be exact. This can be accomplished in a few ways. Webinars, training sessions, conferences–as long as they have the HRCI seal of approval they can be used to keep your hard earned certification up-to-date.
So why, after all of my work and effort, would I allow my certification to drop? I did it for a few reasons:
  • I hated scrambling for appropriate credits. Not all webinars, training sessions, et al., count the same when it comes to credits. For example, you can only earn a maximum of 20 (of the 60 needed) if you make a formal HR related presentation or lead a workshop. HRCI determines what is and how much credit these items may be worth. As a consequence of the credit system I’ve observed how it impacts people’s decision making. When going to conferences I’ve seen HR professionals choose a particular session not for the subject matter but because it gives them the greater number of recertification credits. I’ve seen HR practitioners, vendors, and service providers express frustration over the fact that content they  submit to HRCI only merits a certain number or type of credit (or none at all). Attempting to get the needed recertification credits, for me, was more stressful than taking the test.
  • I have a blog that shows my development as a business professional. I was a relatively new HR practitioner when I applied for and took the SPHR test. Earning my certification was my way of proving to myself that I had a solid body of knowledge. Since that time I’ve continued to grow and develop as a practitioner. I’ve done this through my work efforts. Just as important, I’ve done it through this blog and my other social media related efforts. Whereas the exam is only a snapshot in time, and recertifying a easily gamed transactional service, blogging is my ongoing effort to demonstrate that I know what I’m talking about. The work that I put into this keeps me up to date or ahead of the curve regarding business and social trends. 
  • I want to obtain my GPHR. If I ever do decide to become certified again, I’m going for the Global. In my opinion, I don’t think any serious HR professional should bother with the PHR. It’s better to wait until you get the experience necessary to test for the SPHR. Leapfrog over the PHR and save yourself the money. For me, the GPHR represents what I aspire to. It’s the notion that part of a leader’s critical skill set is the ability to work across borders, cultures, and geography.
  • No one cares. That’s not quite accurate. Fellow HR practitioners appreciate the work I put into getting it. It’s a badge of honor. But outside of that I don’t believe it’s helped or hindered me professionally. I’ve actually had to educate more than a few leaders as to what my SPHR meant, literally and figuratively. 
Proving to yourself and others that you’re a capable and competent business leader is important. I just no longer believe that earning and keeping my SPHR certification is.
What are your thoughts–what value (if any) do you believe a certification gives the recipient?

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