by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, September 22, 2010

RESOLVED: The HRCI Certification process for chapters is broken.


The primary reasons HR professionals attend chapter meetings are networking and earning recertification credits toward their PHR or SPHR. People do enjoy talking with another and seeing what is going on in the HR world in their little neck of the woods. Yet, it is the quality of the session/topic being offered that is the primary driver of attendance. If the topic is poor or the speaker is of low quality, the networking is simply not strong enough to devote 2.5 hours of one's time to a SHRM chapter meeting.

The Problem

Finding quality speakers is a difficult process. Chapter volunteers have to go out and find willing speakers (at no or reasonable cost) to provide a compelling hour or more of information to attendees. As anyone who as attended several meetings, the quality of the speaker can be hit-or-miss. Complicating matters is getting a chapter program to be certified by HRCI.

Having been involved with chapter boards and state councils for a number of years, working to get a meeting or conference is a constant challenge. Chapters have to submit a program a minimum 4 weeks to get approval for credit. Even then, it is a battle back-and-forth to finally get the needed approval. Anecdotally, I have heard of several instances where chapters have taken programs and/or speakers that have previously been successfully approved (when offered by another chapter), only to be turned down when submitted for a second time. HRCI even notes that a program should be "re-submitted every calendar year, even if the activity does not change from year to year." Simply, it is a lot of jumping through hoops.

The Solution
1. HRCI should create a national database of pre-approved programs

*There are more then 575 chapters, a significant number of state conferences, and the national conference
*Most chapters have 9 monthly meetings a year (as most take off summer months), with most of these meetings offering certification credit

Doing the simple math (575*9) tells me that is a total of 5,175 sessions approved per year. If we go 3 years back, that is a total of 15,525 different sessions. Let's say that 25% of those are repeats from another chapter or conference,and we add in all the state and national conference speakers, and we are talking over 11,500 sessions that HRCI has approved.

STOP THE MADNESS! Create a database listing all of these sessions by state, topic, speaker, credit amount (i.e., 1.25 hours), and certification level (PHR, SPHR, GPHR, etc.). Make it easier for the chapter volunteer to find the topic and speaker of choice.

2. Shift the burden for becoming a certified program from the chapter to the speaker; expand the Approved Provider program

If #1 above is accomplished, there might be concern that topics might become stale or out-of-date, and the 11,500+ programs would quickly decrease. Surfing the HRCI website, I discovered that HRCI offers an Approved Provider program:

The Approved Provider Program is for organizations that offer multiple HR-related continuing education activities per year. Approved Providers are awarded a three-year contract in which all your qualified HR activities that you submit to us are pre-approved for recertification credit. After three years, you can continue your Approved Provider status when you renew your contract.
Let's expand this program. Any speaker who wishes to speak to a SHRM chapter should have to get approved by HRCI. As speakers get recognized, their topics would be added to the database.

3. Create a public feedback mechanism for speakers and programs.

Before going out and buying a product, I like to read Consumer Reports. If I am traveling, I like to check out TripAdvisor.com to check the quality of hotels before making my reservation. If I am going out to eat, I might check out Yelp or Urbanspoon, before trying out a new restaurant. A similar offering should be available to chapters looking for speakers. Most information sharing about speakers is word-of-mouth. Let's increase the amount of data available.


1. It eases the burden on chapters

As SHRM is fond of reminding us, they are a volunteer driven organization. Yet, more and more volunteers are feeling pressed for time, and chapters are finding it more difficult to find those willing to serve. This would be one way to ease their burden.

2. It makes for more timely presentations

Some chapters have their programs laid out a year in advance, in part, to ease the process of getting programs certified. Yet, what might have seemed fresh a year ago may quickly be out-of-date. With the menu of pre-approved programs, it shortens the time between selection and presentation.

3. It improves the SHRM brand

Let's face it, why would SHRM want a potential customer to attend a program at a local chapter meeting and come away unimpressed with the product? Over the past 10 years, the gap between at-large membership and chapter membership continues to widen. What was once a 60-40 split of at-large/chapter members has grown to 66/34. What better way to get people to join local chapters if they knew that each session that was delivered was recognized as a quality topic worthy of their time.

4. Speakers get the HRCI seal of approval

Getting identified and recognized as a HRCI-approved speaker may increase the number of sessions the speaker might be offered.

So, let's get to it HRCI. Make the change!

NOTE: I recognize the hard work that HRCI does each day. Trying to certified 575 sessions a month, along with state and national conference sessions, is an arduous undertaking.



by Robin Schooling on September 22, 2010 at 9:17 AM. #

Nice job of not only stating the problem but offering some viable and workable solutions (in my opinion)!

As a speaker, it's a bit frustrating when a session is denied HRCI credits - because there's really no roadmap for what is required in order to get it - and to your point, I've had sessions submitted that were approved and later denied. If I knew what the criteria was - and if it were consistent - I'd made sure my sessions were designed to meet/exceed those expectations every time. As it is now, it's a mystery process that makes it hard on both the speaker and the person at the local chapter who is submitting.

by Jennifer McClure on September 22, 2010 at 9:58 AM. #

Great post and great ideas on how to move this process forward. Being new to the board of our local SHRM chapter, I was shocked to learn about the current process. What a nightmare! Here's to hoping that they're listening!

by Crystal Peterson on September 22, 2010 at 2:00 PM. #

This is a fabulous breakdown and plan for HRCI and Speaker selection.
Go ahead and get on that Matt. I will expect results by the end of this quarter.

by Benjamin McCall on September 24, 2010 at 11:02 PM. #

Great idea and suggestions Matt, I am wondering if you have received any feedback from HRCI about the post.

by Steve Boese on September 25, 2010 at 10:08 AM. #

Thanks for the comments. I have yet to hear from HRCI, Steve.

by Matthew Stollak on September 27, 2010 at 4:41 PM. #

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