The ground has shifted in human resources, and more is being expected – and demanded – from practitioners than ever before. How can HR professionals achieve success?
Two of Queensland’s most senior human resources professionals make a case for the benefits of HR certification.
Caroline McGuire (FCPHR)
People and Performance Manager, BMT WBM; AHRI State President, Queensland
Caroline McGuire is among the first illustrious group of senior human resources leaders to become certified practitioners under AHRI’s certification program. For McGuire, it has been a natural evolution towards becoming the kind of human resources professional she always wanted to model when she entered the profession.
“My background is very broad. I have worked in various management roles, many of which had responsibility for HR, but several years ago, I made a conscious decision that I wanted to move exclusively into the human resources space.”
Her reasons for doing so were based on observation of how fundamental people were to the success of business and yet how little attention was being paid to getting the people strategy right.
“Many of the enablers – or risks – for business were around people. I saw people as the key element that would make the business successful and that human resources had a big role to play in maximising efficiency and engagement. For me, HR was and is integral to the business.”
McGuire’s vision for human resources led her to forge a close relationship with the professional association. She is an AHRI Fellow and the state president in Queensland.
“I’m very keen to support the profession and show that I am the best HR professional I can be at all times. And also support others in being the best that they can be. It’s my personal choice to gain as much experience as I can in the people space.”
But how best to convince others about the benefits of HR certification?
“For HR professionals, it’s about understanding what is important for them and deciding what works in getting them where they want to be. For anyone who wants to set themselves apart and give them an edge over other professionals, then they need to understand what certification can offer them,” says McGuire.
“In the past, there have been a lot of people who have come into the human resources function without qualifications and without an understanding of the scope of HR. For that reason, I see one of the major benefits of HR certification as proving to the business that there are clear standards of what to expect from human resources in terms of knowledge, expertise, behaviour and professionalism, and that they are consistent.”
What do the benefits of HR certification look like in an individual? McGuire thinks it is someone who has a balanced and pragmatic view. Not someone who just understands the human resources theory, but how it makes a commercial difference to their organisation.
“We are on a path towards establishing certified and qualified HR professionals as an important part of the business. Other peak bodies such as CPA had the same challenges as AHRI at the beginning when it introduced certification, and now CPA is just accepted as the norm for accounting professionals. In order to reach best practice, we must create the same drivers for human resources.”
Chief Human Resources Officer, Queensland Department of Health
HR is going through a seismic shift and the profession, more than ever, has to build from firm foundations, says Michael Nelson. Nelson believes that “good HR is HR that understands business.” To do that, he says, “people need to be suitably qualified and capable of providing support and leadership to achieve the business objectives.” Transactional human resources is becoming a redundant part of the profession, believes Nelson.
“There is a reluctance to come out and say that. But we are now morphing into something that adds value to our organisations rather than simply providing an administration function.”
Winning friends and influence
Unless human resources embraces change, Nelson says it will cease to have relevance. He’s not talking from a theoretical perspective, either.
“We need to show the benefits of HR certification, but unfortunately human resources is not good at marketing itself to the business.”
Typically, HR isn’t good at knowing how to influence and make their case. But being a valuable business partner is where Nelson believes human resources can make a real difference.
In his previous role as general manager of people services at the Department of Human Services, and as part of the AHRI pilot scheme in 2015, his aim was to help support people in human resources to develop their professional capability so they could offer services and advise on routine and complex matters within the department.
Nelson is in the process of applying to be a Fellow of AHRI and says that certification and capability is part of a regular and ongoing conversation he always has with colleagues.
“It’s about increasing the status and value of HR. Through certification, we will gain a similar standing to our finance colleagues, so that not everyone thinks that they can do human resources. It’s a flawed assumption.”
Certification isn’t something that HR professionals should be passive about, he says. “We can improve our qualifications, but we also need to understand the changing needs of business. Take technology such as gamification. We need to embrace these concepts and be constantly looking for better ways of doing things.
“A lot of organisations find themselves sitting in old buildings, with old processes and procedures. What we really need is to pull our heads out of the sand occasionally and see what’s going on and engage with it.”
To learn more about HR certification and which pathway is right for you, click here.