Dave “theHRCzar” Ryan: If I could change one thing about HR…

DaveTheHRCzarRyan.jpgThe “HR Czar” – aks Dave Ryan, director of HR at Mel-O-Cream Donuts in Springfield, IL – weighs in with today’s latest instalment in our ongoing “If I could change one thing about HR…” guest blog post series. You can read more of what Dave has to say on HR matters at the HR Official and at the Illinois State Council of S.H.R.M. (IL SHRM) blogs. You can also follow Dave on Twitter.

Dave “theHRCzar” Ryan: If I could change one thing about HR…

The premise of the post here is this, the ONE thing I would change about HR. I am not sure if this subject is first and foremost, but the matter I wish to open up for debate is worthy of discussion. As I move into the autumn of my career in Human Resources I can’t help but notice the way the field continues to grow. So why aren’t HR certifications reflecting this diversity within HR?

The folks that I have met via social media, the people I meet at SHRM events, and the people who call all on me are all HR people now. We have grown and continue to cover more and more specializations now. These are areas which I consider to be core HR functions:

  • Benefits & Compensation
  • Recruiting & Staffing
  • Organizational Development (OD) & HRD
  • Health & Safety/Risk Management
  • Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) /Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
  • Labor Relations
  • Generalists

It is really hard to question that any of these specializations are part of HR. However, as it is right now in the U.S. there is only one organization certifying HR pros. That would be SHRM.

SHRM offers the following designations: GPHR, SPHR, PHR, SPHR-CA and PHR-CA. I took the SPHR test in 2007 and was intrigued with the range of knowledge needed to pass the test, but I was also disturbed by some of the questions on the test. In my opinion, the SPHR exam proves that you have a wide range of concepts used in a number of areas. There are, however, no HR certifications that demonstrate to the world that you have mastery over the bulleted list above. There are folks working in the field who are highly skilled and knowledgeable about the areas in which they practice, but will openly admit that they are lacking in expertise in divergent areas of HR.

I realize that APA certifies payroll folks, and ASSE certifies safety pros, but they are standalone single purpose groups, and are somewhat outside the HR realm. The point I am making is that these core knowledge areas should be demonstrated as knowledge as it is used in the HR context. How does this look or sound: PHR- B&C of PHR-R&S, or PHR-OD.

Michael has pointed me to another post in this series, from Karen Wise. In this post Karen makes reference to the CIPD certification, a U.K. based organization. This too seems like a one size fits all certification, not all that different than the SHRM designations.

While the SPHR exam is fairly comprehensive there are some things in the test which made me shake my head in disbelief. When I took the test there were actually questions about computing percentages, at a basic level. To me questions like this could be replaced by something more pertinent to business. For example, those of us in this space are routinely barraged with stories pointing out how few HR folks actually understand business today. Perhaps this could be another secondary certification, General Business Knowledge (GBK) demonstrating to the world that you understand EBITDA or Debenture Bonds.

For those who have mastery in some of the segmented areas of HR, I am sure they would enjoy the opportunity to prove to the world that they know their business, and sport some sort of letters behind their name. Perhaps this could be done like the California certifications which are a fairly recent incarnation.

My one little change to HR won’t solve any worldly problems, but it might allow us to demonstrate to one another – if not the whole world – we have a level of competency in our little piece of the world.

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5 Responses to Dave “theHRCzar” Ryan: If I could change one thing about HR…

  1. Jay Kuhns 28 February 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    Good post Dave. The one-size-fits-all of the SPHR brings to light just how vast the knowledge base requirements are for HR. I love your idea of additional specializations (SPHR – Healthcare, Manufacturing, Financial Services, etc..). Well done.

  2. Bryan Jackson 28 February 2011 at 1:32 pm #


    There are certain benefits to having a more generalized certification, but maybe a better way would be to include a secondary certification or an “area of focus”.

    In my business we have electricians and then we have E/I technicians. There is a huge difference between an electrician that is pulling wire and bending conduit vs. an E/I Tech that is programming PLC’s. I can see the same situations in HR. There is a big difference between a Benefits Coordinator and an HRIS Specialist.

    Great job and thanks for the insight.


  3. John Jorgensen 28 February 2011 at 4:44 pm #

    Dave, good post, well thought out. That being said I must disagree to a point. There are already designations out there for many of the catagories listed (i.e. CEEBS). I think HRCI should stay with the general designations in that it has always been a “generalist” organization rather than specialization organizations such as APA, World at Work, etc. Branching out might dilute their effectiveness.

    Just one man’s opinion.

  4. Dave Ryan 28 February 2011 at 5:13 pm #

    Jay thanks for your input & support it is always appreciated!

    Bryan perhaps your idea is dead on a certification with a more narrow specialization i.e. SHPR/Recruit or PHR/Benefits. Just an idea.

    John my old buddy thanks for your comments; mine too is one man’s opinion!

  5. Steve Browne 28 February 2011 at 8:31 pm #

    Dave – I like you prodding the machine on this one. I agree with John that there are specialty groups outside of SHRM, but I would like to see the bodies of HRCI and SHRM look at common ground to offer specialties where needed.

    As a fellow SPHR, I find I learned more to take the test vs. using what I do everyday in the “real world.” Funny how the test doesn’t have the – “If a team member does this to another team member and . . .” questions.

    I think that our governing bodies of membership and knowledge should evolve always. Remember, we’re no longer called “Personnel” . . .

    Great post my friend !!

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