But What Does the Future Hold for HR Advancement?
But for all the anticipation, business loves certainty. It remains to be seen when, or if, hopeful human resources professionals will significantly embrace the expense and time of a new professional certification.
Experts and workers say experience developed without certifications still holds significant value with recruiters but suggest professionals gain it more intentionally than before. Some suggest aspiring human resources employees invite themselves to high-level meetings to listen in. “You're trying to get a more holistic sense of your employer,” says Reiken, who nearly evangelizes about HR careers because, she says, there aren't enough qualified HR professionals in the workforce to match the industry’s needs.
Many human resources positions still don't require certifications to apply. However, aspiring human resources professionals like 23-year-old Linda Lopez say they worry the field is too unstable to make an informed choice about a certification. Lopez, who’s planned on a career in human resources for as long as she can remember, recently earned a certificate to work as a lab assistant instead. Practical experience, to her, outweighs the time and expense of earning a certification. It’s groundwork and—considering how she’s seen other human resources professionals struggle during the pandemic—she says it’s insurance against potential burnout. “How,” she asks, “can I be a human resources manager without experience in my field?”
Lopez realizes companies need her more than she needs them, but despite tempting opportunities to specialize, she doesn’t yet trust entering a career in which she might still be studying duties that, for example, could be automated.
“I don’t want to participate in [human resources’] growing pains. [They] seem so desperate. Who knows what that means? I just want to get the right [professional certification] for me, not just something I feel like I have to get because HR is panicking. I’m going to let things settle so I can take my time to learn new skills.
“I have an advantage,” she says. “I don’t have to unlearn the old ones.”
Top 3 Certifications for HR Professionals
Traditional human resources degrees enhance salary and position. A bachelor's degree in leadership, business administration, or communications remains the go-tos for professionals. But if employees already have a degree, it’s more meaningful than ever to have a nationally recognized certificate.
Industry experts and recruiters say the top three are:
1. SHRM Certified Professional, or SHRM-CP. This certification issued by the Society of Human Resources Management is designed for HR professionals already in the field and looking toward management positions. The certification is for HR professionals engaged in operational roles such as implementing policies and serving in many day-to-day HR functions.
2. Senior Professional in Human Resources, or SHRM-SCP. This certification, also issued by SHRM, was built for HR professionals at a senior level. This one is ideal for those already in strategic roles looking to move into positions where they will develop HR policies, oversee the execution of HR operations, or lead HR strategy.
3. Senior Professional in Human Resources, or SPH. This certification, issued by the Human Resources Certification Institute, is designed to develop knowledge in the field.
“If I were 25 years old again, I would be doing one of these,” says Kimberly Anderson, a recruiter who hires in the public sector but never attempted a certification. “I had the experience, and that’s what counted. Now that human resources is changing so much, I would absolutely be getting a certification (such as SHRM-CP) because right now, that’s what counts.”
4 New Roles for HR Professionals to Explore
Many experts point to a necessary focus on technology and sciences because HR professionals will increasingly be asked to work alongside IT and understand the inner workings of evolving technologies. Melanie Schendel, 24, manages an ever-shifting mobile workforce of caregivers. She says, “Human resources as a field is changing so fast,” that she’s taking her time deciding her next career move: “Are there even certifications for jobs that don’t even exist yet?”
The Society of Human Resources Management predicts more technology-centric roles will emerge in coming years, and recruiters say they will increasingly consider additional technological training as premium skills.
According to SHRM, here are the top new roles to train for.3
1. AI Data Ethics Officer. A human bias officer would help ensure algorithms used in making workforce decisions are free of bias related to race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and age.
2. Chief HR Technology Optimization Officer. Burgeoning technology platforms used in HR and the adoption of software-as-a-service (SAAS) technologies need a chief HR technology optimization officer with sharp communication skills to manage the chaos.
3. Experience Engineering Specialist. Michael Rochelle, chief strategy officer and principal human capital management analyst for the Brandon Hall Group, an HR advisory and research firm in Delray Beach, Fla., says, “There's a need for more people in HR who really understand software because systems in the function are becoming more sophisticated. The world is moving toward 100 percent web-based HR support, and HR needs to operate like a services organization in terms of treating employees like customers.”
4. Data Science Manager. Leaders need evidence to make decisions, and a data specialist would make sense of data from team member surveys, recruiting platforms, benefits portals, and other HR systems to solve problems.
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