Posts Tagged ‘HR professionals’

Can these letters make a difference?

Why do we certify? Is it because the letters look good after our names? Maybe it’s to impress others? Well, the letters may look good after our names but I’m in the impress others camp.  Although we, generally, do not certify to impress others in a smug sort of way but to show that we possess a certain amount of knowledge without waving it in the air or shouting it out loud. 

A profession is defined as a vocation founded upon specialised educational training.  Historically, as a vocation moved towards becoming a profession, a specific set of skills and/or a body of knowledge developed. Certification exams became a means of assessing whether any one member engaged in the vocation possessed the requisite skills and body of knowledge.  Hence, certifications were developed for many professions. 

Certification can set you apart from the crowd. It can lend a certain level of credibility that you just might know what you are doing. Employers quite often include preferences for certifications in job postings. In the HR community, it is quite common to find a preference or a requirement for PHR or SPHR certified candidates. Considering the overwhelming number of applicants an employer may receive for a single position posting, filtering by this means can make the task much less daunting.

The Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI), the recognized leader in HR certification, announces that it has over 108,000 certified HR professionals in more than 70 countries and territories. Considering that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that approximately 1 million human resource professionals currently work for US businesses, even if all the certified professionals were in the US, we are only talking about 10%!  With those numbers, I’m guessing that those letters after your name can set you apart. 

In addressing the second half of my question, can not certifying harm you? Maybe, maybe not, but why not help yourself wherever you can?

With regards,

Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR

Vivian L. Mora is certified as a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institution and holds a master’s degree in sociology and economics. She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX. 

Vivian offers an online HR certification prep course twice a year once in the Fall and again in the Spring (www.moraHR.com/hreducation.aspx). For more information, please contact me directly at (877) 310-6553, ext. 702.

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Can a human resources professional afford to turn a blind eye? Whoever came up with this phrase could not possibly have worked in our profession. At any rate, this commonly means to ignore something as if you did not see it. In most instances this is in reference to something that is perceived to be or is wrong. I believe this is the exact behavior that has the U.S. stumbling economically. Given this belief, of course, we would have to say that no one can truly afford to turn a blind eye. But we know in reality it happens. As an HR professional, if you have heard the following phrases:  “You didn’t see that”, “You can overlook this for once”, “We’re willing to take the risk” or “What’s the worse that can happen?” then you’ve been asked at some point to turn a blind eye.  So the question is “How often can you do this and still maintain credibility as an ethical HR professional and guardian of integrity?”

To make a difference, HR must always be seen as the credible activist that Dave Ulrich (et al) describes in his recent publication, HR Competencies.  This competency makes the difference between an HR professional who is going through the transactional motions and one who is strategically effective. Ulrich states that this means “operating in a principled way and taking action that is consistent with company values, which reflect how the company wants to be seen and experienced by customers, investors, employees, and other stakeholders.”  How often have you seen a company’s value statement endorse “turning a blind eye”? Never, right? So the answer to the earlier question is also “NEVER.” If you must, hang your hat here as you communicate the importance of approaching work with integrity.  How a thing is done should be just as important as getting the thing done.

Our reputations and ability to influence the organization as HR professionals depends greatly on how we are perceived and whether we are trusted. A single instance of ignoring a lapse in values or principles can topple your credibility and render you irrelevant.  Work diligently to maintain your integrity and that of your organization to reinforce your relevance to its success.  Do the right thing, never turn a blind eye.

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In the past couple of months I’ve attended at least 4 seminars or meetings in the Human Resources community where the proposed Employee Free Choice Act of 2009 (officially, H.R. 1409) has stirred up a minor or major panic in HR professionals. Part of the reason for the panic is that in each case the presenter was a labor or employment law attorney. It’s part of their job to cause you to panic and then call them up because you need their assistance to put your mind at ease.  There are billable hours involved, of course. I have very close friends who are attorneys so before you all start treating me like Benedict Arnold, I said only a part of the panic was induced by dollar signs. I will go further to say that it was the smaller part (but still effective). 

If you are not familiar with H.R. 1409, a brief overview is available at http://morahr.com/hrnewsview.aspx. However, here are the major aspects in a nutshell. Introduced in the US House of Representatives on March 10, 2009, H.R. 1409 is known as the Employee Free Choice Act of 2009.  This act if passed in it’s current version will impact employers in three very important ways. It would (1) amend the National Labor Relations Act to establish an easier system to enable employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations through a signature/checkcard system rather than private ballot elections; (2) provide for mandatory and stiffer injunctions for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts, and for other purposes; and (3) require companies and newly certified unions to enter into binding arbitration if they cannot reach agreement on an initial contract after 90 days of negotiations and 30 days of mediation.

The majority of the panic I saw on the HR faces of the audience and that I heard voiced is attributed to three points that I pieced together from each presentation. The HR leaders within these organizations know that a union may be attractive to their workforces because:

  1. the workforce is currently compensated and provided benefits at a much lower level than their organized competitors;
  2. management does not have and have not made appropriate efforts to forge a positive working relationship with the workforce; and
  3. the HR professional seems to feel powerless to effect change to either of the two points above.

The unsettled HR professional now sees organizing, if made as easy as the attorneys have stated it will be, as an inevitability. Is it really so?  I don’t think so.

As an HR professional I began my HR career in labor relations and loved it! I am the product of a union steward, my mother, and a business owner, my father (just to be clear, not in the same business). Conflicting views? Definitely! Being a child brought up in between the two worlds, it seems natural that I chose a path that also exists in between the two worlds. Some would say that my path was not truly in between bacause I worked for the company. To them, I would say, if anyone in business has not yet figured out that the company’s success rest solidly within its workforce, get it now. If you are in the profession of human resources, your very effectiveness depends on whether you understand how important it is to unify these two groups in a positive and productive working relationship and whether you are able to communicate the mutual benefit in a manner that everyone gets it. 

I’m not a labor attorney, legislator, nor am I a prognosticator. However, given that one of the more liberal Democrats, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D. Ca.) has already indicated she will not support the EFCA as is, I don’t  believe it will pass in its current form. I do believe it will pass in a milder but still potentially worrisome form. I have a hard time seeing our legislators eradicate private balloting. That would be so un-democratic! We can all see a compromise in the future for this legislation.

For the sake of making a clear enough case to your managment teams, let’s assume that H.R. 1409 does pass in its current form. All the unions around the US are now openly celebrating in the streets. Does your organization have little to worry about or a lot to worry about? You know the answer already.  Share it with your leadership teams and start making the changes needed to stay union-free.

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I attended a presentation at the local HR association monthly meeting focused on “HR at the Table”. The presenter was the senior executive VP of Global Sales for a very prominent organization. Do you find that a little interesting also? Yes, well, he had at some point during his career held responsibility for the HR function and gained a great appreciation and understanding of the function. Beyond that, why not? Why not hear from someone whose function is quite naturally at the table? The shortest possible version of his overall message was that if you want a seat at the table, you must think and act strategically! Ta-daaaa! 

You’ve heard that before? Okay, there is a bit more. It’s the bit more that inspired this entry and will probably inspire more. During the 40-minute presentation, it was also asserted that an individual can be taught to think strategically. What are your thoughts on that? When I first heard it, I immediately thought of all the HR professionals I’ve encountered who did not approach their work in this manner. I tried to imagine that group shifting to a more strategic approach. Is it truly possible? As I thought about it more, for some, yes! For others, I’m sorry to say, but no. For the latter group, myopia either set in somewhere along the way or has always been present. Their neural pathways are set.  This type of change requires a major shift in perspective and thought patterns. You will have to, not only, see things more broadly but find solutions from a broader range of creative thought. The shift and the path to the table call for openess, adaptability, discipline, and an immense amount of mental fortitude.  That is major change if you’re not so inclined already!

There are many HR professionals who do have the potential to make their way to the table. Those professionals can take that unoccupied seat by being more strategic in their overall approach to human resource managment. Ahhh, there it is again, be strategic. This persistent call to be more strategic can be a bit confounding because you’ve heard it tossed around too often and too loosely. Does each person who states this have the same definition and expectation in mind? Probably not, but simply put, being strategic means thinking long-term and broadly about the business you’re in and finding solutions that yield the most value on a long-term basis. It means getting beyond what’s right in front of you for the day, week, or month. This can be a tough task in itself for many but no one will tell you that the path is short nor smooth. Your will and your capabilities will be tested and challenged all along the way but coming from someone who has traveled that road, it is so worthwhile. Your organization and you will be better for it.

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