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Study reveals value employers and HR place on professional certification

A global survey of more than 1,500 HR professionals shows that HR employees place a high premium on professional HR certification because it reflects the practical and professional experience of the certificant, shows a commitment to lifelong learning, and helps with career advancement. Interestingly, certification was found to be more valued in the U.S. by the individual (62 percent) and in other countries it was more valued by the employer (82 percent).

According to study authors, most professionals and employers believe that the demand for professional certification in the HR field will grow in the next three to five years. Therefore, the objective of the research, conducted by the HR Certification Institute and B2B International (a London organization), was to understand the awareness, perceptions, and value of HR and other professional certifications, certificates, and degree programs by organizations of varying sizes within the United States and outside of the United States.

“Staying abreast of the opinions and values of HR professionals and business leaders around the world is a key objective for the HR Certification Institute,” said Mary Power, CAE, executive director. “In this survey, we focused on value—to the professional, to organizations and to business. As we all know, in a weak economy the candidate pool is, unfortunately, much bigger. Employees and employers must find critical differentiators to help sort among job candidates, so we wanted to see where the value of professional certification fell in the spectrum of differentiators.”

Key findings of the survey include:

  • Professional certification is a highly valued credential. While employers are more willing to pay for certificate programs and professional certification, professional certification is considered better value for the money spent.
  • Reputation of the awarding body, as well as experience-based exams, recertification and continued education are the key factors that make certification valuable.
  • Increases in employee engagement, employment satisfaction and productivity are the top ways of measuring the value of professional HR certification, as are reductions in staff churn, training, and recruitment costs.

Employers identify level of commitment as key advantage. Employers see increasing and updating employees’ knowledge and demonstrating their commitment as the key advantages of professional HR certification. From an employer’s perspective, having employees gain professional HR certification brings numerous advantages to the organization, and 97 percent of respondents believe that it is important for people in HR to be professionally certified.

In addition, the survey found that:

  • More than half (56 percent) of respondents who are in charge of an HR department believe that having professionally certified employees has a positive impact on the profitability of their organization.
  • Ninety six percent of employers feel that an HR certified candidate applying for a job would have an advantage over a non-HR certified candidate.
  • Sixty nine percent of employers state that an HR certified person being considered as an independent consultant for an HR department would have a “very significant” advantage over a non-certified individual.

Employers also felt that professional HR certification increases employees’ confidence in their ability to do their jobs and increases an organization’s reputation and demonstrates that it takes HR seriously.

Certification offers many personal and professional benefits for employees. From an employee perspective, professional certification offers value for numerous personal and professional reasons, according to Alexandre Bouché, global business development director for the HR Certification Institute. “Of the four types of credentials that an HR professional might hold—an undergraduate degree, a graduate degree, a certificate, or a professional certification—the professional certification was felt to be by far the most beneficial,” Bouché said. “The research revealed the advantages of this type of credential because it offers the most value for its cost and return on investment, it is highly flexible and customizable, it is the most practically and professionally oriented of the choices and it is the most experience based. Choosing to work toward a professional certification also provides the best networking opportunities according to respondents.”

According to survey results, certification is preferred over other credentials (certificate, undergraduate degree, graduate degree) in nine out of 10 dimensions studied:

  1. Experience based;
  2. Value for the money;
  3. Practically and professionally oriented;
  4. Providing commitment to lifelong learning;
  5. Flexible and customizable;
  6. Providing both global and local learning;
  7. Providing networking opportunities;
  8. Providing positive return on investment; and
  9. Helping career advancement at a low cost.

Recertification. In terms of recertification, which requires certified HR professionals to complete educational and work-related activities every three years to prove that their knowledge base is up to date, 90 percent of both employers and employees felt that recertification is positive. According to respondents, recertification:

  • Keeps knowledge current,
  • Allows for ongoing education,
  • Keeps certification relevant and valid
  • Keeps skills sharp, and
  • Allows flexibility in achieving necessary credits.

Source: The survey was conducted by the HR Certification Institute ( www.hrci.org) and B2B International ( www.b2binternational.com), and was released on June 27, 2010 at the 2010 Society for Human Resources Management Annual Conference & Exposition, held June 27-30 in San Diego, CA; www.shrm.org.