Don't you hate it when two organizations you respect and enjoy are on opposite sides of the fence - and you feel that you have to "take sides"? I suppose this is one of those times.
I do respect SHRM. In particular, I have had wonderful experiences with members of the Iowa SHRM Council Board and the Central Iowa SHRM.
Over the last few years, however, (in my capacity as Director of Certification for the Iowa SHRM State Council) I have worked closely with the HRCI. I have become acquainted with their work and with the seriousness of their efforts. So yes - I am saddened (and considerably surprised) by the national SHRM's move to create its own certification. Here are my reasons:
Call me old fashioned but I like the idea of a "separation of powers" between those who develop and maintain a certification exam and those whose business model includes preparing candidates or providing recertification credits. Here is why:
SHRM has not yet shared with its members a strong enough reason to justify such a major shock to the system. Confused candidates or certified professionals may stop trusting the certification process in general, regardless of who offers it.
Do SHRM's hopes for a "competency based" test convince me? Not yet - at least not until I receive more in-depth information. The word "competency," after all, involves a complex combination of skills, traits, attitudes, and knowledge. Is SHRM really going to test competencies? Or just knowledge of competencies? I guess we'll need to wait and see, but a truly valid and reliable competency based test is extremely hard to build. SHRM might need to incorporate in the testing processes the review of real work products (an analysis of portfolios, perhaps?), and other time consuming (and likely costly) methods.
SHRM is our association - we, the members, should have a say in something as important as the launch of a new professional certification. Instead, SHRM chapters have been operating in the dark, working hard to promote the current certifications to employers and candidates. Frankly, I feel betrayed.
So here is my message to the national SHRM. You play a valuable role to your members and to the HR field. Right now, however, you are sharing a poor example of strategic planning, communication, and cooperation. HR professionals should be able to play nicely in the sandbox.
I wonder if these competencies will appear in the new certification exam?
An important "postscript": I plan to keep my SPHR certification, which I very much value. I'm proud of this certification and grateful for all the doors it opened for me in the HR community.
For the record, I do not plan to seek the new SHRM certification. In fact, the idea of "transferring" a certification (something SHRM has suggested) makes absolutely no sense (perhaps it only makes sense in the minds of marketing colleagues). Do I plan to obtain further HRCI certifications? Absolutely - GPHR is next on my plans, as soon as I take care of tenure requirements at my university.
I guess it comes with the territory. If you teach leadership, conduct research on leadership development, and "breathe" leadership materials, you start seeing beautiful examples of leadership everywhere. So today I thought I'd start a new "theme" for my blog: I will bring in 100 examples of great leadership from various movies or TV shows.
My first choice is "Dead Poet Society" - a brilliant 1989 Peter Weir movie with Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, and Ethan Hawke. If you haven't seen this movie, you should rush to rent it (or better still, purchase it for your library - this one is a keeper!)
Here is a brief synopsis: John Keating (Robin Williams) is a charismatic teacher in an all-boys school. Keating encourages the boys to live fully, enjoy literature and art, make their lives extraordinary. Watch as he tells the boys to "seize the day":
Mr. Keating's methods are unusual - for instance, in order to inspire the boys to use a different perspective, he tells them to step on his table.
Yes, Mr. Keating is an inspiring "once in a lifetime" leader - but he's not the one I pick as my first leadership example. After all, not everyone can be that exciting, original, or simply brilliant. Mr. Keating is one of a kind.
I invite you to meet a different kind of leader. This person does not need extraordinary gifts or charisma. All he or she needs is courage. I'm talking about Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke), a shy young boy who would probably be overlooked by any high-po seeker or recruiter.
Returning to the story: Ultimately, Mr. Keating is "too much" for the school establishment - too strong, too original, too out of the box. The school administration uses him as a scapegoat and fires him.
In this final scene, Todd Anderson leads his classmates in a final goodbye to honor his teacher. Watch as Anderson "grabs" his leadership moment.
In The Practice of Adaptive Leadership, Ronald Heifetz explains that leadership is not who you are - it's what you do. And leadership, Heifetz continues, is not even what you do all the time. It's what you do when you must motivate people too confront change.
Some people (Mr. Keating, perhaps) find leadership natural. They grab it as easily as they breathe. These people lead because people naturally look up to them, follow their steps, ask for inspiration.
That's great - we need these folks. But these are not the only people we need. We also need those of us who are not brilliant, natural leaders. We need us to seize the day, grab the moment. The moment to make lives extraordinary. Not our own, really - but others'.
We have a lot to learn from Todd Anderson.
About the Author
Dr. Cris Wildermuth is an Assistant Professor at Drake University, where she coordinates and teaches at the Master of Science in Leadership Development.