Professionalism in Human Resource Management: Evolution of a Standard

By Harrison, Laura | People & Strategy, Fall 2015 | Go to article overview

Professionalism in Human Resource Management: Evolution of a Standard


Harrison, Laura, People & Strategy


The concept of certification in HR is a curious one. Unlike some professions, there are no formal or universally applied requirements to practice HR. Of course, many employers expect their HR teams to have specialist qualifications, but can a qualification really "certify" someone to practice in a particular field?

Most employers look for more than a qualification when recruiting HR practitioners; they look for a symbol of professionalism that indicates an individual's commitment to raising his or her standards of knowledge, capability, and ethical practice. In the U.K., and increasingly in other parts of the world, particularly Southeast Asia and the Middle East, that mark of professionalism comes in the form of chartered membership in the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Headquartered in the U.K., with more than 140,000 members worldwide, we're among only a handful of professional bodies in the world that awards HR and L&D professionals with chartered status.

All chartered members of the CIPD must demonstrate that they have the technical knowledge, skills, behaviors and experience outlined in our body of knowledge, the Profession Map.

The Profession Map was first published in 2008, after a large-scale research program involving organizations all around the world, and we've been continually updating it ever since. As well as defining the building blocks of effective people management practice across 10 professional areas or specializations, including L&D and organization design, it also describes eight fundamental behaviors that underpin good HR regardless of your specialty (see chart).

A range of CIPD qualifications help provide individuals with the expert knowledge outlined in the map. They span three levels--foundation, intermediate and advanced--and are taught at hundreds of approved universities, colleges, and private training providers across the world, meaning there's a range of full- and part-time courses and flexible study options that enable students to learn at their own pace and gain credit for their achievements.

These qualifications form the most popular route to professional membership of the CIPD. The foundation and intermediate certificates and diplomas qualify learners for associate membership in the CIPD, while our advanced (Masters level) diplomas provide the underpinning knowledge to apply to become a chartered member or chartered fellow. But a qualification alone doesn't make you eligible for chartered status, nor is a qualification necessary if you can demonstrate that you've developed the relevant knowledge through experience on the job. While a qualification assesses a person's knowledge at a given point of time and certifies that they successfully completed a particular program of study, professional membership also indicates an ongoing commitment to continuing professional development that is far more indicative of a person's professional competence.

With or without a qualification, we assess all our chartered members and chartered fellows against the levels of competence outlined in the Profession Map. The map is flexible, so practitioners can choose what to focus on, depending on their area of work, the level of accountability they have in their role, and their career development ambitions. For example, one professional may find their role requires a far deeper knowledge of resourcing and talent planning, while another will focus much more on employee relations. …

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