When we announced in 2014 that AHRI was acting in concert with our international counterparts in taking on the exacting issue of professional certification, we began what I thought was a long countdown towards 1 January 2017. That’s the date after which the only entry to certified HR practice will be through the various pathways of the AHRI Practising Certification Program (APC).
Here we are now in February 2016 with the critical date less than a year away, and with the National Certification Council about to award next month the CP post-nominal to the first cohort of successful APC candidates. The CP stands for Certified Practitioner, and I’m pleased to say that the graduating group will include candidates from employers as varied as Hudson Home Timber & Hardware, NSW Treasury, the XL Group, GrainCorp, Wootton & Kearney Lawyers, YHA Ltd, the Universities of Melbourne, Queensland and Deakin, the Australian National University, and the ATO.
With another APC cohort right behind them, it has been very pleasing to see the speed with which the pathway to certification has been taken up, and the quality of candidates putting themselves forward as early adopters of the new HR practising standard.
As we move into 2016, I am reminded that we are coming off a tumultuous year in which the profession was questioned from within and without as the complexity of doing business in a global and increasingly competitive market became noticeably more risky, and business models everywhere had to accustom themselves to the reality of disruption.
Against that backdrop, international CEO and board adviser Ram Charan called openly last year for the splitting of the HR department as we have known it into two distinct strands, and the Harvard Business Review ran a mid-year cover, illustrated with a bomb, that declared it was time to blow up HR and build something new.
And closer to home, our own Australian Financial Review ran a story at the end of the year about Robert Bolton, a KPMG lead partner and global head of HR, who proclaimed that measuring employee engagement by staff surveys is a HR “racket.” He also asserted that “more robust” diagnostic measures point to the conclusion that “engagement doesn’t drive performance”, but that the reverse is true.
That story reminded us that HR is at a crossroads, that it’s battling for relevance and that until the chief HR officer stops “chasing fads and fashions” and brings “as much evidence to the conversation as the chief financial officer,” HR will not make headway in redressing the disengagement malaise.
In accordance with Bolton’s avowals, there will certainly be an expectation that AHRI certified practitioners can define terms such as “engagement” and “performance” with an appropriate degree of precision. In addition, they will need to be experienced in supporting their HR business cases with evidence-based data analytics so that they bring bottom-line value and improved productivity to the leadership and management of their organisation’s people.
However, without denying Bolton’s proposition that performance may well drive engagement in some cases, I would say that employee engagement invariably drives outperformance, and it’s outperformance that has the potential to give enterprises a competitive edge over rivals. Outperformers look to anticipate change and demonstrate innovative ways of sustaining and growing the business.
One of the assumptions behind AHRI’s certification model is that true HR business partners lead by example, and by contributing to the creation of cultures that prize employee outperformance through engagement.
This article is an edited version. The full article was first published in the February 2016 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘Counting Down’. AHRI members receive HRMonthly 11 times per year as part of their membership. Find out more about AHRI membership here.
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