AHRI’s new HR certification program aims to provide legitimacy and set the HR industry on the right path.
Last month we held our annual strategy planning day. It’s when the board, the elected council of state presidents, and the AHRI management team look at our big picture goals and assess how we are progressing.
Strategy is a military word that is commonly distinguished from tactics. The ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu said that: “strategy without tactics is the slowest path to victory”. To focus the mind, he added that: “tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”.
I can identify with that idea. In November 2014, we decided to pursue the long overdue objective of professional HR certification. We decided then that it was simply not good enough that there is no bar to entry for anyone wanting to set up business as a HR practitioner.
We understood the increasing urgency of HR establishing itself as a fully-fledged, legitimate profession with set standards. We also realised that there were two ways to make that happen.
Making it happen
One way is through government imposing a set of standards and mandating requirements to practise HR, as it’s doing this year with financial planners. Government is doing that because it’s tired of wearing the backwash of scandalous headlines generated by incompetent and shonky outliers of an occupational group that has resisted regulating itself.
The other way is through self-regulation. That route presumes the leadership of an established peak body. In the case of HR in Australia, that body is AHRI. We have seen what has been achieved in the self-regulating certification of accountants, architects, medical practitioners and other established professions.
The certification strategy
So, at our strategy day last year, and again last month, we revisited the certification strategy and confirmed it was still the right direction for the Institute to be heading towards. Indeed, we reaffirmed that it was the only way to go in the interests of professional sustainability.
In fits and starts, the world is still recovering from a global financial crisis that was largely caused by unethical and incompetent people practices. Yet we still see scandalous headlines today about dysfunctional people cultures, here and abroad, at places such as 7-Eleven, Slater and Gordon, and Volkswagen.
The symptoms may show themselves as flaws in governance or financial procedures and practices, but inevitably they boil down to mendacious behaviour of people within the business. In many cases, they result in massive reputational damage, devastating financial decline, and the possible demise of the enterprise.
If ever I doubted the centrality of confirming the strategy, the second part of Sun Tzu’s quote was a sobering reminder. So, having confirmed the soundness of pursuing self-regulation through certification, we confidently turned our minds to tactics and were heartened by the momentum that was already evident.
Engaging the HR community
Consultation with members and communication of the rationale was vital and we have now been engaged on that journey for nearly two years, with 2017 being the year after which new members can achieve certification only through one of the three set certification pathways.
Eligibility to enter the pathways has been firmly established, a National Certification Council (NCC) has been appointed and is operational, and two cohorts of candidates have been inducted this year as Certified HR Practitioners by the NCC, with a third cohort scheduled for the new year. We have a system that works, and we are seeing momentum.
The next part of the strategy is critical. Starting in 2017 we will be going out to businesses and employers of HR practitioners, with a communication program that will inform them of the value of good HR. We will let businesses know where they can find HR practitioners whose skills, knowledge and professional behaviours AHRI can attest to with confidence. Those practitioners will be members who have successfully been through one of our certification pathways and won the imprimatur of the NCC.
This article originally appeared in the October 2016 version of HRM magazine.