The world of business is more competitive than ever before, which means companies have to find new ways to stay agile and relevant. Organisations are quickly learning that the thing that separates the best of the best from the rest is the people they employ. HR is at the heart of this transformation, and the industry is rising to the challenge. The Australian HR Institute has introduced a certification framework aimed at establishing professional standards and giving HR a seat at the table.
HR professionals can pursue one of two pathways to certification: the APC, which is a four-unit study program; and the Senior Leaders Pathway, where highly experienced HR practitioners can submit a case study and undertake an interview with the National Certification Council.
Here, the first cohort of certified HR practitioners talks about their experience and what certification means to them – and the profession.
Cerasela Muller (CPHR), APC Pathway
HR Manager, Canberra Southern Press Club
“I started working in HR in 1993 so, after more than 20 years’ of experience, the AHRI program allowed me to have all that experience recognised.
“I applied everything that I have learnt in the other four units of the AHRI Practising Certification Program to the capstone unit, a practical project with my current employer. I chose to focus on customer-centric organisational design, a fairly new concept in the hospitality industry, which coincided with my work responsibilities and is a strategy and objective for me in the company. It was challenging because it took a lot of time and effort. I had to persuade people from other departments and motivate them to come to meetings and be involved in this project. The journey has been interesting – difficult – but the satisfaction at the end is huge. I can’t compare it to anything else I’ve done.”
Holly Campbell (CPHR), APC Pathway
Team Leader – Recruitment, Deakin University
“I’ve been working in HR for over 10 years and didn’t have an HR qualification. I had two children and decided it was time to give my career a bit of a kick and position myself for promotion. This course enabled me to do one unit at a time and was in workshops rather than online. It was the most gentle way back into study, but also a pathway to a masters degree if I wanted to go on and do that.
“My experience of the course was fantastic. I found it gave me that extra depth. Having an HR professional leading it, and being exposed to how HR is applied in different workplaces and industries, was really invaluable. It has broadened my horizons beyond my workplace and showed me more clearly how HR can contribute to the success of a business. It has also given me an increased credibility at work, right from the beginning. The capstone project I chose was to replace our online induction model – and work was fully supportive all the way. HR is in the business of optimising the most important asset of any business and now I feel even more qualified and prepared to do that.”
Catherine Morris (CPHR), APC Pathway
Acting Deputy HR Manager, Australian National University, Canberra
“It was a real privilege to be one of the first cohort to have completed the AHRI Practising Certification Program. I have been working in HR since 1998, with 11 years in recruitment, before moving into the tertiary sector. I was motivated to do the program after the subject came up among my colleagues – and the desire for a challenge. At first, I was daunted about going back into study and wondered how I was going to juggle work, study and life!
“Learning how to produce written assignments was a real challenge to begin with. However, my results got better over time and I was achieving high distinctions at the end. It made me reflect on my work and taught me the theory behind the everyday things we do, which I particularly enjoyed. It also gave me greater confidence, a deeper understanding of strategic direction and how I can exert influence. Also, importantly, how HR can add value. The more people who do the program, the more it offers credibility for our profession. I thoroughly recommend it.”
Mike Dawson-Smith (FCPHR), Senior Leaders Pathway
AHRI Victoria State President
“Often, as busy HR practitioners we start and finish projects with little analysis about what went well and what we could do better next time. The capstone unit, a case study project for senior HR practitioners, is an opportunity to analyse, in some depth, critical HR organisational development projects so that we can improve our skills.
“In my project, I learnt how a seemingly simple task (performance appraisal) can become complex in a not-for-profit organisation that, culturally, was not ready for the giving and receiving of performance feedback. It involved engaging with staff to ‘sell’ the benefits of the program, to reach a common understanding of the organisational values and how they can be applied in their day-to-day jobs. The great thing about the APC is that it actually tests whether HR practitioners have the requisite skills and knowledge, and the National Certification Committee provides a consistent evaluation of applications across all states and territories.”
Ian Hedges (FCPHR), Senior Leaders Pathway
General Manager – People, Hanson, Australia
“Certification is an important step for the profession and will set the standard moving forward. It will provide confidence that a Certified Practitioner can and has applied their knowledge and skill successfully in the workplace. For myself, it was showing leadership by piloting the senior leaders pathway. The exercise provided more benefit than I initially expected. As a profession, we constantly reflect on progress of a project we are working on; however, we rarely follow the discipline of a full project review. The application process, in both documenting the project and participating in an interview, provided a structured critique of the project and provided valuable insights for use in the subsequent roll-out of this project in another area of our business.”
If you would like to learn more about HR certification and raising the bar, click here.