Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
We’ve been talking over the past couple of years about how the business world is changing. We’re seeing it all around us. Employees expect different things from their employer. New technologies are being introduced. It only makes sense that because business is changing that HR would change along with it.
If you’re not aware, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), recently made some changes to their HR competency model as well as the SHRM-SCP and SHRM-CP exams. To give us an update, I spoke with Nancy Woolever, SHRM’s vice president of certification operations. I’ve known Nancy for a number of years and am so excited to have her here with us. She’s the author of “Ace Your SHRM Certification Exam: A Guide to Success on the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP Exams”, which just released a second edition.
Nancy, thanks so much for being here. Before we talk about the exam, let’s start with a conversation about competencies. Why do competencies need to be updated? And can you give us a brief overview about how the process of updating competencies happens?
[Woolever] Keeping up with the evolution in any profession is important so that credentialing exams, such as the SHRM-CP and the SHRM-SCP, represent a state-of-the-art definition of what constitutes the profession of human resources. SHRM conducts a comprehensive practice analysis every three to five years to ensure that the testing framework for both certification exams is not only accurate, but timely, and reflects input from HR professionals at all four career levels (from early career through executive level). SHRM also takes great care to involve HR professionals across the globe in its analyses to ensure the exams are truly universal.
The process of updating competencies begins with analyses of HR industry-specific research conducted since the previously completed practice analysis. This is so questions can be crafted to gain feedback from subject matter experts (SMEs) who participate in the current analysis about which content areas and behavioral competencies are important, and to what level an HR professional must be proficient in each to competently make decisions, solve problems, and guide the course of HR at their employer’s organization. Using multiple modalities to collect this data—for example, conducting focus groups first to inform discussions about how the HR profession evolves over time and then conducting a universal validation survey—enrich the content and the comprehensiveness of the practice analysis outcomes. This then translates to the test blueprint – the framework of what will be tested on the SHRM certification exams.
SHRM recently updated their HR competency model. We’ve written about the competency model before. Tell us what changed from the previous version.
[Woolever] For all intents and purposes, just as the profession evolves, so do the competencies required for proficient work in HR. Indeed, the lines between the standalone competency model and the SHRM Body of Applied Skills and Knowledge (BASK) exist in tandem. The model itself has become the SHRM BASK.
The biggest change will come as no surprise to HR professionals, especially in light of the continued emphasis in organizations and in society in response to, for example, social injustices and the continued need to build workplace cultures that include—rather than exclude or alienate—every individual and the unique qualities, skills, knowledge and attributes each brings with them to work. Consequently, diversity and inclusion emerged as a behavior HR professionals must demonstrate rather than something one simply ‘knows about.’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consequently became the ninth behavioral competency that is part of the Leadership competency cluster in the SHRM BASK.
Two other behavioral competencies and two HR functional areas under the Technical Expertise Knowledge Competency also emerged with new names that better align with how HR is practiced:
- Global and Cultural Effectiveness became Global Mindset
- Critical Evaluation became Analytical Aptitude
- HR in a Global Context became Managing a Global Workforce
- HR Strategic Planning became HR Strategy
Some of the content emerged as more important whereas some emerged as less important than in the previous practice analysis. However, the content overall changed very little, except for fleshing out the definitions of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion behavioral competency as borne out by the focus groups and survey research.
I assume that even though the HR competency model has been updated, if I’m currently certified, I’m still certified. But does this mean that the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP exams will change in the future? If so, how?
[Woolever] In terms of content, the SHRM BASK continues to define the test blueprint, meaning the content of the SHRM BASK drives the testing framework. This is no different than in the past so no changes there! What does change slightly are the ranges of items of each of the content areas that are tested on an exam form based on the importance level of content topics and proficiency indicators that define what competent performance ‘looks like’ in practice.
The major change in the exams is the evolution of DE&I from a technical to a behavioral competency and the consequent expansion of DE&I content to be both timely and in alignment with what occurs in practice today.
Speaking of certification, let’s talk recertification. One of the things that I try to do when thinking about my recertification is look for opportunities to challenge myself. For example, I try to earn professional development credits (PDCs) in each category versus just one area. If I want to challenge myself, are there any areas in the new SHRM BASK that I might want to focus on?
[Woolever] Reviewing the types of Professional Development Credits (PDCs) many SHRM-certified HR pros use to recertify, the vast majority earn most of their PDCs through Advance Your Education instructor-led or self-directed programs.
I always like to encourage folks who are learning lots of new things to leverage what they are learning to complete one of many ‘wish list’ projects on every HR professional’s desk! You can apply what you learned in a program to improve a process, policy, or program at your organization. Complete a 40-hour project for 10 PDCs, or an 80-hour project for 20 PDCs, or a 120-hour project for 30 PDCs. You can basically earn Advance Your Organization PDCs for completing things you do every day on the job to make changes at work. Not many people do this; it’s a definite opportunity!
We have also greatly expanded the options under the Advance Your Profession PDC category to include more projects, research, writing and editing options, but also volunteerism opportunities and membership in SHRM.
Volunteering or taking a national volunteer leadership role on the board or a chapter is not only a great way to give back to the profession, but also fills a critical need in the SHRM Chapter and State Council network. Many hands make light work – so why not investigate volunteerism projects as shown in the SHRM Certification Portal under the ‘Add PDCs’ feature. The list includes national, chapter and state council roles, participating on the A-Team (the Advocacy Team) and participating in Capitol Hill Visits, plus opportunities to volunteer for test-development roles too—working on writing and editing the content of future SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP test items. Expand your PDC repertoire by checking out what all you can do under Advance Your Profession (AYP). The other category within AYP is presenting – either a session or a whole program or class.
Last question. For individuals looking for more information about the new SHRM BASK and competency development, what are some resources that they can access?
[Woolever] Use the ecosystem of Preferred Providers – including SHRM, SHRM Chapters, SHRM State Councils and SHRM Academically-Aligned colleges and universities. In addition to the 3500+ recognized preferred providers themselves, any program offered by SHRM, an affiliate or a preferred provider must, by definition, align with one of the competencies in the SHRM BASK.
Many newly minted SHRM-certified HR professionals also use their official results report to assess where to target future professional development. Then, they look through the catalog and offerings by all providers to select professional development programs that align with a specific competency or competencies they have targeted for development. It’s possible to build a development road map by seeking out the information about which competency or competencies programs address through instruction.
I want to thank Nancy for giving us an update along with a list of valuable resources. If you want to learn more about certification, please check out SHRM’s certification webpage. It’s full of tools to help HR professionals stay current with competencies.
Personally, I’m very happy to hear that the SHRM competency model is reviewed and updated on a regular basis. It gives me a roadmap for my own professional development. And staying relevant is important if we want to have an impact in the organization.17