What the Hell is an SPHR?


Eleven years ago, my boss told me to get my SPHR. I was twenty-six and had worked in HR for six years but I was having trouble being taken seriously as a HR leader.

Uhm, that’s because I was twenty-six.

But it also didn’t help that I was working with brilliant people who eventually orchestrated the insurance devices behind derivatives and credit default swaps. Those people were smart and knew how to make money. I knew a little something about PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT PLANS.


Doesn’t quite impress people the way you think it should.

So my boss said, “Go get your SPHR.”

Right. Okay. I googled SPHR — yes, we had the Googles back then — and found a three-day course taught by Mike Losey. I took the class, took the scantron test at a local high school on a Saturday afternoon, and passed with flying colors.

The whole process took about nine weeks.

And nobody at work cared that I passed.

I’ll tell you what — HRCI does God’s work in trying to define and promote a standard for Human Resources professionals. And I’ll tell you something else. I’ve had failing HR Generalists turn their performance around because I made them study for and take the certification exam. These men and women learned more about their profession through the process of studying for the exam. They became smarter people. I’m proud of that.

But do I really think that the HR certification means anything special? Do I really think it’s required to do business in the field of Human Capital?

No way.

I know people who haven’t done a lick of HR work in their lives — professors, consultants, accountants — who studied for and passed the SPHR exam with very little effort. If you can memorize a bunch of information, you can pass the test. I should know because instead of figuring out how to re-certify for my SPHR via a complex system of credits, I just took the test again in 2010.

And I passed again.

  • It’s not a murderboard.
  • It’s not defending your PhD thesis.
  • It’s not the bar exam.

It’s a test that proves you know a little something about Human Resources.

Let’s applaud people who pass the exam but let’s not flaunt the certification in front of serious and talented people who are trying to do real work.

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