I always read with interest the debate within the HR community about the value of holding certification of professional credentials, specifically those through the Human Resource Certification Institute. Since 2003, I have held my SPHR certification and had the PHR for 3 years before that. Although I am an advocate for having the certification, I also recognize that it is not the end all be all of HR knowledge and there are many smart and accomplished HR pros who do not hold a certification of any kind, hold a certification other than through HRCI, and those who do not feel the value is enough to continue to hold such a thing. Unfortunately, there are also those individuals out there with the initials PHR, SPHR, or GPHR after their name who do not represent the best and brightest of the human resource profession.
Speaking solely for myself, the certification has provided several benefits. First, it forces me to keep current by achieving 60 recertification credits over a three year period of time. Now, there are those who simply ease through and get whatever credits they can, but I like to think of myself as a diligent and conscientious person (most of the time!) and truly try to get something out of the programs or sessions I attend. It seems that the possibilities to gain recertification credits continue to grow each year. This can provide motivation for those not inclined to pursue additional formal education. There have certainly been times during my MBA program that I have been able to benefit from the knowledge gained through the recertification process.
The second benefit I gain is recognition by others for my knowledge. Those outside the HR practice arena are starting to recognize the certification and will look for it. When I first attained my PHR certification, my supervisor at the time asked me what that PHR was and why I did it. It meant nothing to her or the company at the time. When I interviewed for my current position, the expectation was there that I not only have my certification, but that I pursue the SPHR within 2 years of joining the organization. Within six months, I tested and passed and have maintained it ever since. It is nice to see a growing number of HR related job postings placing some emphasis on it.
Finally, there are those who see the indication of professional certification as something that sets apart the willingness of someone to take a chance and do something to advance themselves. I have been in several conversations with other HR professionals who have told me that they are not willing to take the exam because they are afraid that they might fail. Life is about taking risks and as risks go, this is not a particularly dangerous one! I view it as an investment in myself and when I first tested, a challenge to my fledgling HR knowledge.
As someone who holds a certification from HRCI, I am certainly in favor of strengthening the certification and what it takes to receive and maintain it. There are those in every profession who do not hold up to the ideal of their title, certification, or degree. My SPHR certification by itself does not represent who I am or what I know. It does show that I was able to show mastery on a test over a particular set of subjects and that I have maintained knowledge in my chosen field of human resources. It does not show my professionalism, the ability to apply the knowledge I have demonstrated, or that I am an avid roller coaster rider. It’s important, no matter the certification, degree, or qualifications, that we ensure that the person brings the qualities we want to a position, and not simply a fancy set of letters after their name. Certification is important to me for me; it doesn’t need to be an important factor to anyone else.