Johnny Taylor, President & CEO of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) set some of the HR world on fire with his recent comments that “employers should require HR certification” and that if there were more certified HR professionals, #MeToo wouldn’t have happened. His comments ignited a healthy (at times) debate on whether HR certifications and/or formal education guarantee competency or add value, and would they become watered down and pointless if everyone gets certified. Some were also concerned that pushing certifications is all about revenue for SHRM. HR professionals have their own feelings and opinions about this, and this post is about mine.
The professional certifications and education I have achieved are personal for me. The first certification I achieved was the Professional in Human Resources (PHR®) designation. When I was selected to serve on the International Association of Legal Administrators’ Board of Directors, I decided as a leader to walk the talk by trying for the Certified Legal Manager (CLM®) designation. A few years ago when SHRM introduced its own HR certification, I was grandfathered in for the certified professional designation (SHRM-CP). The journey of learning and preparing for these exams provided me with knowledge and new insights I didn’t have, and were worth it even if I didn’t pass (I’m thankful that I did). I enjoy learning and always earned more than the required credits for recertification every three years. The learning, more than anything, is what adds value to my personal and professional development, and makes a positive difference in my job performance.
As far as formal education, I came from a “working class” family and college was never discussed. After high school, I went to a technical school to learn how to be a secretary and those skills have been a good foundation for me. After I started working full time, thoughts of college entered my mind from time to time, but I couldn’t figure out how to make that a reality when my kids were young and we were scraping by. Several years ago, I researched evening degree programs and thought about it for several months. Then I decided to take the plunge and see if I could make it happen. The process was daunting including obtaining financing (FAFSA is not for the faint of heart), because although I received some tuition reimbursement from my employer, I needed full financing for school. Some people would think I was crazy for “wasting” money at this stage of my career, but even though I’ll be paying student loans long after retirement, it’s worth every penny to me. I graduated in 2011 with a B.S. in Human Resource Management and finally achieved my dream of a college education.
My certifications and education don’t make me instantly competent at everything – experience still counts for a lot. And they aren’t necessarily required for my job. But they are a definite plus because the more I learn, the better I am personally and professionally in everything I do. I’m not better than anyone else, and our personal choices are just that. Personal. If employers choose to make certifications a requirement for certain jobs, that’s their prerogative. If they choose to require a college degree, that’s their prerogative. In my opinion, unless a license or degree is absolutely essential to a position, I wouldn’t require it. Nor would I require certification. But I see both as an advantage and there’s nothing wrong with that. We are all on our own paths and one isn’t necessarily better than the other. There’s room for us all.
Even if certifications were required and everyone who had an interest and could pass an exam achieved one, it doesn’t take anything away from my achievement. It’s not any less valuable to me. Because these were my dreams, my achievements. Nobody can demean them unless I give them that power – and I don’t. Others feel differently and that’s ok. We all feel how we feel. This is my perspective and my opinion. I’m proud of the certifications I have and proud that I fulfilled my dream of a college education. And as my friend Steve Browne refers to in his book, HR On Purpose!, I own it and make no apologies for it.