What can top HR leaders gain from becoming certified?

certified HR practitioner
Tracey Evans

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written on October 11, 2016

Taking the Senior Leaders Pathway to become a certified HR practitioner gave these two experienced HR professionals a valuable opportunity to reflect on their work. Read on to learn more about how the process helped them fall in love with HR all over again.

Dr Helen Sitlington (FCPHR), Managing Director, Workplace Management Network

For Helen Sitlington to become a certified HR practitioner, she needed to find a case study from her past work and reassess it against the AHRI Model of Excellence. It’s a task she found to be an “interesting process of self-reflection.”

“It’s not an easy path, but it’s very thorough,” she says of the requirements to become certified HR practitioner via the Senior Leaders Pathway. “After going through the reflective part – thinking about what demonstrated my capacity for each competency area – I felt confident that I deserved it.”

The project was restructuring a women’s refuge and an outreach program that were operating as two distinct organisations under one umbrella. They sought help on how to improve the relationship.

“There were some contrasting views, so we had to negotiate not just between the two working groups, but also take on the different board members’ perspectives,” says Sitlington. “That’s a challenge. Often people are quite passionate and they’re all professionals, so you can’t just walk in and say we know what we’re doing, do what we say. You have to make a rational case for what you’re proposing and recommending.”

Her team came up with three alternatives for the board. “We worked through that process with them and came up with a composite. The good thing about that is everyone’s needs and interests are taken into account.” Sitlington says there’s plenty of interest in AHRI’s certification process. “As the number of certified HR practitioners grows, and as employers become more appreciative of what to expect and demand of a certified practitioner, people in HR will find there will be fewer job opportunities if they’re not certified.

“It’s the future. We’ve rabbited on for years about getting a seat at the table. You can’t say, ‘Take us seriously, but I can’t be bothered to do what it takes to be certified’. You have to put in some effort.”

Lloyd Filer (FCPHR)Principal consultant and director, Filer Consulting

Lloyd Filer openly admits that he was “surprised” at the experience of taking part in AHRI’s certification process. “It gave me clarity about my role as an HR professional,” he says. The certification process required Filer to submit a case study of a recent project, and he says he found the task of pulling everything together extraordinarily helpful.

“It brought back to me a clear understanding of exactly what my profession is about and the various ways that business can be affected by good HR practices.”

Filer has made the fast-moving consumer goods sector his speciality in a career spanning three decades. Working for companies in the dairy, wine and fruit industries has meant negotiating the occasionally complex relationships between regional businesses and the local communities they serve.

“There are some interesting differences between regionally based businesses and those based in the city,” he says. One example is the economic significance of a major local employer.

“SPC Ardmona was the subject of my certification project, and I needed to be cognisant of the fact that any impact on SPC Ardmona would affect Shepparton where it was based.”

SPC Ardmona’s rocky history in the past decade or so saw it acquired by Coca Cola Amatil in 2005, then hit by a rising Australian dollar and competition from cheap imports. Coca Cola Amatil is spending $100 million upgrading its SPC factory in Shepparton as it consolidates its operations following a $22 million grant awarded by the Victorian government.

During the development of a job classification system at SPC Ardmona, a lack of skills and qualifications were identified, so Filer and his team worked with the National Food Institute in collaboration with the AMWU in order to establish a certificate-based qualification for employees.

“It was a significant change in the way the business operated. Suddenly we had employees interested in excellence, quality and standard operating procedures,” he says. “Competing against cheap imports and a difficult Australian market, we needed to reduce costs and improve our quality, excellence and safety. This project enabled us to do that.”

The program was later recognised with state and federal training industry awards.

Reviewing the program as a case study, Filer says that by “using the AHRI Model of Excellence, I was able to reflect back on my career experiences as a change agent, collaborator, influencer and effective communicator to achieve significant improvement in outcomes for employees and management at SPC Ardmona.

“This lifts the profession one step higher. There’s a difference between being in the profession and being a certified HR practitioner within the profession.”

Read the case study Lloyd Filer submitted as part of his Senior Leaders Pathway certification process by clicking here.

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