Update on the Regulatory Agenda at HRPA

Three and a half years ago, I wrote a guest commentary in Canadian HR Reporter entitled The Regulatory Agenda at HRPA.  I thought it might be useful at this time to go back to this commentary and provide a progress report on the regulatory agenda at HRPA and give some ideas as to where HRPA’s regulatory agenda may be headed over the next three years.

The 2008 commentary began by explaining how it was that HRPA was the regulatory body for Human Resources Management in Ontario and noted two objectives for HRPA as a professional regulator:  (1) to protect the public by ensuring that Human Resources Management professionals are competent and act in an ethical manner, and (2) to move the profession forward along the path of professionalization.  To accomplish these two objectives, the 2008 commentary identified three thrusts:

  1. Developing an awareness and clarity around the whole concept of professional regulation in Human Resources Management both within the profession and within the public.
  2. Fostering a sense of ownership, responsibility, and accountability in regards to regulatory matters on behalf of all members of the profession
  3. Moving forward with the continued professionalization of Human Resources Management in Ontario

Much has happened since November 2008.  As it said it would in the 2008 commentary, HRPA did introduce its Rules of Professional Conduct, HRPA did put its public register online, and HRPA did make great strides in making the profession more accessible to internationally educated professionals.  And HRPA did produce a series of webinars on the regulation of the Human Resources profession in Ontario.  In addition, HRPA reintroduced the experience requirement to its certification process in May of 2009.  December 2009 saw the passage of the Ontario Labour Mobility Act, 2009; and HRPA was compliant with that legislation from day one.  In 2010, there was the huge number of exam-writers who wrote the exam in anticipation of the implementation of the degree requirement in January 2011.  Through it all HRPA also managed to achieve NCCA accreditation for its CHRP certification program in March 2011, and in doing so, become the first Canadian certifying body to achieve this.  In a less visible way, HRPA made many changes to its regulatory processes and procedures to bring them up to the standards of other Tier 1 professional regulatory bodies.  It has indeed been a busy time since the commentary was published.

And yes, there was Bill 138.  The 2008 commentary did foresee a time in the future, when HRPA might go back to the provincial government to ask a new act—but at the time it was never thought that it would happen as fast as it did.  Bill 138 did more to raise the awareness of members and others of the fact that HRPA was a professional regulator than any communication or education initiative could ever have done.  In the discussions surrounding Bill 138, many came to the realization that HRPA became a professional regulatory body over twenty years ago.  A side benefit of the introduction of Bill 138 into the Legislature, however, was that it increased the level of awareness of HRPA and the Human Resources profession among politicians and senior government officials many times-fold.

HRPA is very much committed to staying the course in regards to its regulatory agenda because it is in the ultimate interest of its members to do so.  The idea of protecting the public interest was something that just wasn’t on the radar screen a few years ago, now it is one of the three main thrusts of HRPA’s strategy.  Having started the ball rolling with awareness, the focus has now turned to execution.  Simply put, HRPA has committed itself to doing things well as a professional regulator.  In the same way that HRPA set out to bring it certification program up to the highest standards, as demonstrated by NCCA accreditation; the objective is now for HRPA to bring all other of its regulatory processes to the same high standard.  It is HRPA’s objective that all its regulatory processes would be on par with those of Tier 1 professions in Ontario.

There are many facets to performance as a professional regulatory body: ensuring that processes run smoothly, maintaining policies and procedures up to date, providing guidance to members, taking appropriate action when issues arise, ensuring compliance with all applicable legislation and building strong stakeholder relations.  HRPA needs to do well in all of these facets.

Not only is it important for HRPA to do things well, it is important for HRPA to be seen to do things well.  A big part of regulation is earning and maintaining the trust of members and the public.  Professional regulators must often make decisions that are not liked by those who are impacted by the decision—that is just the way it is.  This only makes it more important, however, that professional regulators be seen as competent, independent and unbiased, and committed to openness and transparency.  Professional regulators are under increased scrutiny by government, the public, the media, and consumer groups.  It just isn’t possible to ‘fly below the radar’ anymore.  HRPA has recently conducted a ground-up review of its by-laws as they pertain to professional regulation.

HRPA will also become more pro-active in its approach to regulation.  The traditional model of professional regulation was a fairly passive one.  This traditional model could be called the ‘gatekeeper and enforcer’ paradigm.  Once individuals were allowed into the profession, the regulator would only intervene when things went wrong.  Increasingly, progressive regulators have shifted the balance to more proactive regulation.  The idea of proactive regulation is to prevent problems from happening in the first place.  Quality assurance, requirements for continuing professional development, providing guidance to members, educational initiatives, and public outreach initiatives are all examples of the more proactive approach taken by many professional regulators.

There will be more education efforts aimed at professionals entering the profession to make sure that there is a better understanding of professional affairs.  There needs to be more dialogue and discussion as to what professionalism means for Human Resources.

All in all, much progress has been made in regards to HRPA’s regulatory agenda, but much remains to be done.  However, if the last three years are any indication, there is nothing stopping HRPA from achieving its objective of creating value for its members and the public by striving to achieve excellence as a professional regulator.

Claude Balthazard, Ph.D., C.Psych.

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