Why the @huffpostbiz Top 100 Social #HR Experts on Twitter Should Be a Wake-Up Call to #SHRM

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Congrats to the 100 individuals who made the Huffington Post Top 100 Most Social HR Experts on Twitter this week.  Lots of worthy individuals on the list, including 14-15 people I had never heard of before, so it provides the opportunity for new connections.

However, if I am the Society for Human Resource Management, I'd be very worried about this list.  


I went through the LinkedIn profiles of all 100 individuals and found:
  • Only 21 individuals had listed they had earned PHR or SPHR certification (none listed GPHR).  This number could be higher, but some either chose not to list it, or they may have let certification lapse.
  • Less than 60 had a formal business education (i.e., a BBA or post-graduate degree in a business-related field).  Some only listed their college, but did not list their educational background.  Others did not have education as part of their LinkedIn profile. 
  • Of that 60 or so, less than 25 concentrated in human resources as part of their undergraduate or graduate education.
So, why should this bother SHRM?
  1. Is pursuit of certification perceived as valuable?  If a significant portion of those who are perceived as being knowledgeable on the field of HR (or at least a major subset of the field) do not possess certification from SHRM, will some choose not to pursue it as well, as they do not see it as necessary to succeed in the industry?
  2. Barriers to entry in the field of HR continue to be low.  Again, many of the individuals on this list have demonstrated through on-the-job experience and success that they deserve to be lauded.  But, it should concern SHRM that many apparently do not need a HR education to be successful in HR.
  3. The need to embrace social and its impact on membership.  SHRM has done a wonderful job over the past couple of years of working with many on this list.  Over 50 on the list served on the social media team at the 2013 SHRM Annual Conference in Chicago.  However, with many on the list having little to no affiliation with SHRM, will some HR professionals wonder why they should join SHRM when others are possibly providing valuable information for free?


Great question and analysis. What do you recommend SHRM do to add value or attract people to the certification? Or is it necessary for today's social savvy, knowledgeable HR "pros?"

by Megan B. on July 3, 2013 at 8:19 AM. #

I think it validates everything I believe to be true about HR.

Also, just between you and me and everyone who reads your blog, I was totally embarrassed by the reaction I read to this list. Your post is awesome but the reaction to this list — both pride for being included and disdain for the list itself — shows a deep insecurity in our profession.

Well, it shows a deep insecurity among those who are paying attention. That's probably less than 1%. But still. Jesus.

by Unknown on July 3, 2013 at 9:11 AM. #

I think there is an opportunity for self-reflection here, particularly for those HR professionals who hire other HR professionals. Does certification and/ or organizational membership provide clear and convincing evidence of differentiation...or do they fall more in the realm of 3rd tie-breaker (e.g. record against common-opponents). It may be that HR pro's do not have frequent opportunity to hire other HR pro's, and so this exercise can only be anecdotal, but I thought I'd ask to see if there was (is) an answer.

by David on July 3, 2013 at 9:41 AM. #

@Megan - I'm pro-certification being SPHR, even though it does nothing for me professionally as a professor. I took (and passed) both the PHR and SPHR exam so I could not only get a sense of the content, but provide good advice to students who are interested in pursuing certification. I think David is on to something with respect to how it is being used by HR professionals.

@Laurie - Everyone wants validation. However, my favorite part is that it was published at 8:43 p.m. on Saturday, June 30. No one paid attention to it for nearly 3 days

by Matthew Stollak on July 3, 2013 at 9:50 AM. #

You had time to look at all 100 ;-)???

by Derek G on July 3, 2013 at 12:28 PM. #

@Derek...it was in the interest of science.

by Matthew Stollak on July 3, 2013 at 12:36 PM. #

Matt, I like this analysis of the Top 100 list, and although I agree with your analysis I think that modern associations such as SHRM should showcase their value to members beyond the educational opportunities. I think the true value of SHRM is the networking/advocacy and lobbying it does on behalf of the HR profession, something that our Canadian associations are clearly lacking. There has always been a relatively low barrier of entry to the HR profession, but I suspect we have a high drop off rate as well, so those that stick around over time develop a real passion for the profession and some of us take that passion online and become "noisy". I think the real challenge for an organization like SHRM is to take that noise and help promote it and nurture those viewpoints and provide a platform for sharing in a professional and courteous manner. They are getting there and I applaud their efforts, now they just need to become a bit more focused. As for the response to the list, we all have our opinions on list makers, but I agree that I saw a lot of naysaying and frankly putting down other's accomplishments, and it doesn't have to be like that.

by Geoff Webb on July 4, 2013 at 9:41 AM. #

Leave your comment