‘I am appalled’ by SHRM/HRCI Brouhaha (Talk-Back)

Two readers cleverly turned the sample question against SHRM. (See “Back at You” below.) Here are the responses:


I am appalled at these two are having such a dispute. They should find common ground for the benefit of Advancing the Profession. Grow Up!


I have been SPHR-certified for several years and the news that I passed the assessment was some of the greatest news ever. It is sad to witness two professional organizations behave in a manner that the solution could be exam question number 1. Such behavior by SHRM does not strengthen our profession. On [the issue of] Walmart is the largest employer; you might add that they are the largest violator of many of the key HR issues.


For all the time, sweat, and money spent to prepare, take, and pass the HRCI PHR exam, I’m in no hurry to give SHRM more $.


Is that a competency question!? Embarrassingly ridiculous! What is SHRM trying to do? Put the profession to shame? And by the way, competency questions have always been present in HRCI exams, and SHRM has been a main preparation material provider. It is a shame that the profession is being caught between two organizations’ differences. Irreconcilable at this point?

I have held my PHR Certification for 22 years, and I am very disappointed to hear of the split between SHRM and HRCI. It was difficult 22 years ago to have the certification be recognized for its importance. It is very satisfying now that the certification holds the prestige that it was always meant to have. I never thought that I would see two professional organizations who have worked together for HR professionals around the world suddenly put our best interests aside for some kind of a dispute. Our careers should mean more to them than any conflict. Please do not forget the importance of being certified as a Human Resource Professional., now thoroughly revved with easier navigation and more complete compensation information, will tell you what’s being paid right in your state–or even metropolitan area–for hundreds of jobs. Try it at no cost and get a complimentary special report. Read More.

That competency question is kind of ridiculous. Will two of the answer options always be so obviously incorrect? If so, it certainly undermines the value of the certification.


  • I agree. Furthermore, the HR profession has enough hurdles. SHRM is supposed to be a partner. A partner should be more dedicated to the profession. Additionally, if SHRM is so business minded, there were many business mistakes in this action plan.
  • I totally agree! This is the easiest HR question ever!
  • I agree—the example certainly does not give me great comfort in this change. More than anything, I am disappointed in the transparent “tit for tat” between the two companies. SHRM has handled this very poorly. But then, I have been questioning the direction of the organization for some time now.
  • [The writer] is absolutely correct: This squabble resulting in two certifications for the same skill set categorically undermines the efficacy of BOTH certifications. HR is supposed to resolve conflict, not create and wholeheartedly participate in it. It is challenging enough for HR professionals to be taken seriously by the critical disciplines of any organization. The SPHR certification has helped significantly for HR to be viewed as a profession. How seriously is that acronym going to be taken with “new” certifications that don’t even distinguish KSA’s as do the PHR, GPHR and CA/SPHR? Do you think for a moment that a “separate but equal” certification for the ABA or a CPA would be taken seriously? This power struggle is totally embarrassing to those of us (I suppose I can only speak for myself) who are (were) proud that our chosen field has made impressive inroads toward being viewed as legitimate.


Great summary, Stephen! I appreciate your even-handed approach based on direct conversations with the principals.

What I still don’t understand, though, is why SHRM didn’t feel obligated to consult its membership about a move that affects us so personally. SHRM says that its new certifications will be technically superior to HRCI’s; but does a marginal technical improvement justify all the disruption and talking down our HRCI credentials? It strikes me as fixing something no one else thought was broken, with those of us in the profession carrying the risk of higher costs, lower employer acceptance and a less credible professional association.


A number of HR professionals are concerned about this divide, and some consider SHRM’s board as a major part of the problem. Of course, as in any conflict, there are different sides to consider.

Completing the survey at will help determine the interest level of the membership, and whether further action should be taken.

Perhaps if all parties would review the “best answer” in the sample “SHRM competencies” question [Improving communication and working to ID the core conflict], we would get much further in resolving this critical issue.


Back at You

Two readers cleverly tossed the sample question back at the two organizations:

Reader #1
I thought the competency question was entirely relevant; it just needs clarification and focus: Two colleagues (SHRM and HRCI) are in conflict. HR should intervene by:

  1. Letting them each take their ball and go home.
  2. Bang their heads together.
  3. Make them shake hands and apologize.
  4. Inform them that failing to work together on creating a common future that supports their mission and membership will divide the HR community without cause, damage their brands, and might cause additional splinter groups to form that will weaken the entire profession, and that instead, they should negotiate a peace treaty and engage in a dialogue that improves outcomes for everyone.


  • Well said!! This has created nothing but confusion and who will know what a SHRM-CP is anyway? We already have the competencies built in by HRCI. Everyone I speak with is very concerned.
  • Well Said
  • Great question and answers. Sounds like SHRM/HRCI have already done #1-#2 but not necessarily in that order. I am back to my original opinion that SHRM wants total control and is in it for the money especially by the way they have handled this poor announcement and execution thus far.


Reader #2

Two professional HR organizations have a conflict. HR professionals should intervene by:

  1. Discontinuing their memberships in both.
  2. Building a new professional HR organization, focused solely on sharing best practices, not on selling certifications.
  3. Making more of an effort to reach out to colleagues, perhaps through LinkedIn and other networks, and share knowledge and experiences.
  4. All of the above.


  • No one is a member of HRCI. We are HRCI certificants, not members. SHRM is a trade association, with membership and lobbying activities and the like. HRCI was formed to manage a certification process based on a Body of Knowledge. SHRM’s job is to share best practices. The crisis would disappear immediately if the SHRM Board were to return to its own competencies and stop promoting its own, branded products. If there were still concerns over how well HRCI is doing its job to identify the best HR practioners, then we can address those as members of the profession, whether we are members of a given trade association or not.

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The same reader in a later post:

The answer to the question “Is the new certification body, a division of SHRM, adequately “firewalled” from the organization?” is a farce.

The National Commission on Certifying Agencies, the entity that accredits HRCI’s certification program, requires that professional certification programs be managed by a “legally or administratively autonomous” entity. Legal autonomy is clearly preferable to administrative autonomy. HRCI is and has been the HR profession’s legally autonomous credentialing entity for decades. The SHRM Board, through its predecessors, was instrumental in creating HRCI for the very purpose of legal autonomy. That the current SHRM Board has disagreed with HRCI on an issue and responded by creating a new, reportedly administratively autonomous entity should be all the proof needed that the SHRM Board’s actions are not legitimate. I do not see how the NCCA can accept any assurance by the current SHRM Board that the SHRM Certifying Commission will be autonomous in any way. A registered trademark belonging to the SHRM Board is embedded in the name of the Commission and in the names of its products.

Hopefully the average HR professional is able to see this fact and will respond to the SHRM Board’s actions appropriately.


I am very disappointed in SHRM. This appears to be a typical play for power. If they weren’t happy with the “competencies” covered in HRCI’s exam, I am sure that there are meetings galore to discuss this. This is childish and silly for grownups—maybe we need to send them to a mediator and then to their separate corners?? How would HR Professionals handle this in the workplace??

I fail to see how a test question, like the example given, with two ‘correct’ answers and two obviously incorrect answers, can provide credibility to a certification. Perhaps the two parties should invite a certified HR person in to apply the correct example answers to the situation.

It appears as if the leadership of SHRM is lacking some key leadership and managerial competencies.

It looks like the certification process has now come full-circle. It started out as a SHRM (then ASPA) function and at times through the mid-80′s the SHRM board of directors played an active role in reviewing the examination and processes. HRCI was created by SHRM or through SHRM at least in part to provide some separation between the two. SHRM didn’t want to create or perpetuate any perception that it controlled the certification process. I guess that thinking is no longer valid, or never was.

HRCI and SHRM are acting like two parents in the middle of a divorce who are arguing over the children. As an HR professional I do not appreciate being treated like a trophy and being devalued overall in the process. HRCI clearly has had its issues. Their “gold standard” has turned into their gold cash cow as evidenced by the rising failure rates for folks taking their exams requiring a new exam and new set of fees. SHRM too has its issues, like surveying thousands of us as to what concerns we had about HRCI’s testing process and what we would like to see change, only to twist those honest responses to serve as SHRM’s justification for taking over lock, stock and barrel. Here’s a novel thought: how about both SHRM and HRCI work to communicate better with each other to identify the core issues in order to better serve the HR professionals that they both profess to value?