CEO Message – February 2017

Celebrating the CHRP

Bill GreenhalghHRPA has just finished celebrating 75 years of our Annual Conference & Trade Show, during what was arguably our best conference to date. This event is an integral part of our history and one of the longest-standing benefits we have to offer our members.

As we wrap up those celebrations, my mind turns to another of our most integral offerings: our designations.

As most of you know, HRPA’s three-tiered designations – the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP), the Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL) and the Certified Human Resources Executive (CHRE) – offer HR professionals the opportunity to demonstrate their rigorous study, their competence and their professionalism to employers and peers in just four letters. Those acronyms are shorthand for the dedication, professionalism, deep knowledge base and unwavering commitment to ethics that is the standard our designation holders are held to and they are the only designations in Canada that truly validate the capability of HR professionals at all levels in organizations. In repeated surveys, top business executives report that their confidence in the contribution of HR to business results has increased by more than 60% because of our laddered certification framework.”

The CHRP in particular is the longest-standing HR designation in the country, and its brand recognition is unparalleled.

In 2014, when HRPA was conducting research around our new three-tiered designations, we engaged in an extensive member consultation. Our members were adamant that we retain the CHRP and its brand equity. They told us what they wanted – and we listened.

Now, HRPA is the only association granting the CHRP designation, and we offer it nationally. HRPA has no residency requirement for designation holders, so you can earn and use your CHRP anywhere. You are authorized by HRPA to use it wherever you happen to reside (with the sole caveat being that in Quebec, you must also be a member of the Quebec HR association).

HRPA’s designations are based on the world’s most up-to-date competency frameworks, and they are protected both by legislation under the Registered Human Resources Professionals act of 2013 and various trademarks and, in the case of the CHRP, by a Federal Government Official Mark

Our designations aren’t just a nice resume point, however – holding one of HRPA’s designations has tangible, measurable career benefits. According to a PayScale study, HR professionals with these designations not only earn more than non-certified practitioners but are promoted faster, enjoy an expanded choice of career options and enjoy the credibility that being professionally designated brings. And In repeated surveys, top business executives report that their confidence in the contribution of HR to business results has increased by more than 60 per cent because of our laddered certification framework.

We’ve come a long way toward advancing our designations while also preserving and honouring the long and respected history of the CHRP, and its significance to the HR profession. I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished together, and I’m so proud of all of our designation holders who continue breathe new life into our valued history.


Kind regards,

Bill Greenhalgh


CEO Message – October 2016

Have designations, will travel

Bill GreenhalghYou may have already heard, but HRPA had some exciting news this past month. We’ve made an important stride toward taking our designations and competency framework to the next level: the global level.

In August, I went to Singapore to present our core competency framework to a technical committee (TC260) of the International Standards Organization (ISO).  I presented the framework with a recommendation that ISO should mandate a multinational working group to develop global standards in HR integrating competency frameworks from various countries into a single global framework.

The committee endorsed HRPA’s proposal unanimously, and created a new working group to develop that harmonized framework, for which I was named Chair.

Currently, there are only a handful of countries that have comprehensive and detailed core competency frameworks in HR; these include Australia, the U.S., the UK and HRPA’s in Canada. HRPA’s competency framework is the newest in the world, allowing us to provide our members with the most up-to-date competency framework globally.

Having a global competency framework will help enhance the human resources profession worldwide; create a common basis for education, training and talent selection; and facilitate the mutual recognition of designations between countries, meaning that it will become easier for you to gain valuable international experience with your CHRP, CHRL or CHRE in hand.

However, just as an employer’s recognition of your HR designation reflects the validation of your capability, the ISO’s recognition of HRPA’s competency framework proposal as an initial foundation reflects the validation of all we have worked to achieve these past few years in regards to offering our members the most rigorous and respected designations possible.

The next steps in the process will be for each national standards association to issue a call within their countries for subject matter experts to provide input. The timeline on establishing the framework to completion is estimated at three years.

If you’d like to be involved in this, or any of the other ongoing ISO standards HR projects, the first step is to be accredited by Standards Canada and you can apply via this link.

As always, we welcome the input, expertise and involvement of our members – and it’s an excellent opportunity for you to help shape the future of HR.

Allowing you the freedom and flexibility to leverage the value of your designations wherever your career takes you is a critical endeavor for us. That’s why HRPA built our designations on a foundation of recognition, rigour and respect – a foundation that transcends boundaries.

Kind regards,

Bill Greenhalgh


The Socialization of HR Professionals

Simply put, the professionalization agenda is one that aims to see the HR profession recognized as a true profession and HR professionals recognized as true professionals.  There are different facets to professionalization, however.  One facet refers to things that must happen at the institutional level; another facet refers to things that must happen at the individual level.  Institutional changes refer to the establishment and strengthening of professional regulatory bodies, the statutory recognition of the profession, and the establishment of identifiable HR programs is post-secondary educational institutions.  Changes at the individual level refer to an evolution in the behaviour, values, and attitudes of HR professionals.  There is still a lot of work to be done at the institutional level; but these aspects are reasonably obvious.  The evolution in the behaviour, values, and attitudes of HR professionals is more difficult to capture, however, and has been subject of less attention.  Nonetheless, the professionalization of HR has as much to do about how we think and conduct ourselves as anything else.

The process by means of which professionals become professionals is likely complicated but socialization arguably plays a big part. defines socialization as follows: “process by which individuals acquire the knowledge, language, social skills, and value to conform to the norms and roles required for integration into a group or community.  It is a combination of self-imposed (because the individual wants to conform) and externally-imposed rules, and the expectations of the others.”  The socialization of HR professionals is a topic that has not received much attention in the past but it is an issue that we need to come to grips with if we are to push forward with the professionalization agenda.

Although the process of socialization into a profession is an on-going one, it is especially important in the formative stages of professionals’ careers.  To the extent that HR exists as a group or community, socialization does occur; but this process of socialization has never been intentional or focused.  It is also not clear that the knowledge, language, social skills, and values that are being socialized into new entrants to the profession are those that are needed to move forward with the professionalization of HR.  Other professions have been more focused and deliberate in socializing their new professionals into their professions.

Indeed, in many other professions there are internships, articling, supervised practice stages, and professional education programs.  These are not just ‘experience’ requirements, and they are not so much about the acquisition of knowledge and skills: these are systematic and deliberate programs designed to inculcate professional values, ethics and attitudes.  For many professions, the early career phase is considered of crucial importance and the inculcation of the attitudes and values of professionalism is the most important aspect of this phase.

By way of contrast, this phase in the development of HR professionals does not appear to be ‘engineered’ as well.  There appears to be very little discussion of what it means to be a professional in the formative stages of HR professionals’ careers.  (In fact, there is very little discussion of what it means to be a professional in HR, but we will leave this topic for another day.)  We all recognize that there is a gap between academic learning and practice as a professional, but whereas other professions have seized upon this as an opportunity to socialize new entrants into the profession, the HR profession has yet to get deliberate and focused about using this gap between academic learning and practice as a professional as an opportunity to inculcate the attitudes and values of professionalism.

The socialization of new entrants into the profession is something we need to do better.  We need to think about it more, and be more focused and deliberate in carrying this out.  There are a number of different models out there that may be worth considering.  The professional education programs which are the cornerstone of the accounting certification programs are interesting models.  In order to do this, however, we need to begin a dialogue on the professional values, ethics and attitudes of the HR profession.  This could well be seen as the next stage or phase in the professionalization of HR.

Claude Balthazard, Ph.D., C.Psych. is Vice-President, Regulatory Affairs, HRPA and Special Regulatory Advisor, CCHRA.

The collective dimension of professionalism

Let’s take it as a given that there is value for HR professionals to be perceived as true professionals.  Professionalism is sometimes considered in terms of the behaviour of individual members of a profession.  However, there is a collective dimension to professionalism which is quite important.

Even with no experience with a particular member of an occupational group, we often have are expectations as to the professionalism of that individual based on the occupational group to which they belong.  Sometimes we notice the professionalism of an individual, or lack thereof, precisely because of the expectations we have of the occupational group they belong to.  When a member of an established profession behaves unprofessionally, we notice.  Similarly, when a member of an occupational group which does not have a reputation for professionalism does behave in a professional manner, we also notice.

Just how much the behaviour of one individual impacts our impression of the members of an occupational group?  Clearly, the exceptional individual does not change our perceptions of the occupational group precisely because we have identified the behaviour as exceptional.  “The exception confirms the rule.”  On the other hand, repeated experiences with members of a particular occupational group will begin to cement a particular impression that will be attributed to the occupational group as a whole.

Consider Mike Holmes, the contractor on television who comes is to fix the messes and botched jobs left behind by other contractors (Holmes on Homes, Holmes Inspection).  Although the television show might have done good things for Mike Holmes, it is not clear that it has done much good for the reputation of contractors as a whole.  Imagine a medical reality TV show where the premise would be a surgeon fixing the botched operations of previous surgeons.

It is not clear how much an individual can transcend the reputation of their occupational group.  The reputation of HR as an occupational group follows each member of the occupational group and acts as a default of sorts.  Some individuals may try to distance themselves from their occupational groups, but it is not clear how successful that strategy is.

There is also more to perceptions of professionalism than behaviour.  For instance, no matter how professionally a vintage guitar appraiser behaves, it is unlikely that vintage guitar appraising would be considered a profession.   There are various facets to being considered a true profession.  One has to do with the organization of the profession and its various institutions, governmental recognition of the profession, the existence of professional schools are hallmarks which define true professions.

What seems to be important is consistency.  When experience with members of a particular occupational group is consistent, we are more likely to attribute the characteristic to the occupational group; when experience with members of a particular occupational group is inconsistent, we are more likely to attribute the characteristic to the individual.

So how is this important to HR professionals?  First we need to recognize that increasing the perception of professionalism of HR professionals is a collective challenge.  Whether we like it or not, HR is an identifiable occupational group.  The HR profession needs to present a consistent image of professionalism.  That some HR professionals present in a professional manner and that some do not is not that helpful.

Interestingly, professionalism is one of those characteristics that everyone claims to have.  And yet, when HR professionals are asked about the professionalism of other members of the profession, they will often have negative things to say, at least about some individuals.  (One always wonders if individuals who are said to be unprofessional are aware of their lack of professionalism, or is professionalism one of those characteristics for which self-perceptions are always in danger of being distorted?)

The main point here is that the perception of the HR profession and its members is important to all HR professionals.  Even those HR professionals who do not belong to any professional HR association cannot truly distance themselves from such generalized perceptions.  The collective dimension of perceptions of professionalism does make it more difficult to manage or change these perceptions because it requires the concerted efforts of a broad and diverse group some members of which might not have bought into the professionalization agenda.

Claude Balthazard, Ph.D., C.Psych. is Vice-President, Regulatory Affairs, HRPA and Special Regulatory Advisor, CCHRA.


Is HR a ‘semiprofession?’

The term ‘semiprofession’ is used, at least in some circles, to refer to occupations which have many of the features of a profession, but are not considered to be quite ‘true’ professions.  Not surprisingly, the term is controversial and the lines between profession and semiprofession are often quite blurred.  The term ‘semiprofession’ itself is based on a comparison where the semiprofessions fall short of a standard defined by the true professions.  From this perspective, who would want to say that they are a member of a ‘semiprofession?’  Nonetheless, the concept exists and does appear relevant to HR; so let’s have a closer look.

There are different types of semiprofessions.  Many semiprofessions evolved to assist or support professions; other semiprofessions operate independently but with a more limited scope of practice.   For example, a dentist would be considered a professional, whereas a dental hygienist would likely be considered a semiprofessional.  In engineering, an engineer would be considered a professional, whereas an engineering technologist or technician would be considered a semiprofessional. Likewise, in law, a lawyer would be considered a professional, and a paralegal might be considered a semiprofessional.   (It is interesting to note that there is no other profession that HR assists or supports, or another profession that HR might be considered a ‘limited scope’ version of.  This may turn out to be an important factor in the future evolution of HR.)

The Wikipedia entry for ‘semiprofession’ gives a list of twelve criteria which distinguish semiprofessions from professions.  This list was originally published by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) way back in 1976.  The list is as follows:

  1. Lower in occupational status
  2. Shorter training periods
  3. Lack of societal acceptance that the nature of the service and/or the level of expertise justifies the autonomy that is granted to the professions
  4. A less specialized and less highly developed body of knowledge and skills
  5. Markedly less emphasis on theoretical and conceptual bases for practice
  6. A tendency for the individual to identify with the employment institution more and with the profession less
  7. More subject to administrative and supervisory surveillance and control
  8. Less autonomy in professional decision making, with accountability to superiors rather than to the profession
  9. Management by persons who have themselves been prepared and served in that semiprofession
  10. A preponderance of women
  11. Absence of the right of privileged communication between client and professional
  12. Little or no involvement in matters of life and death

According to this list of criteria, most would agree that the HR profession falls in the ‘semiprofession’ category.

The distinction between semiprofession and profession explains a lot of what has been happening in the HR profession over the last while.  The introduction of a degree requirement, the push for regulatory status, and the pursuit of a public act all seem to point to a semiprofession that is doing its best to become a true profession.

Understanding the distinction between semiprofessions and professions brings insights to the nature of the changes that the HR profession is currently undergoing not only at the institutional level but at the individual level as well.

The distinction between semiprofession and profession explains a lot of the diversity in the opinions of HR professionals on a whole variety of topics.  The shift from semiprofession to profession is something that plays out at the individual level as well as at the institutional level.  Indeed, on just about all of the defining criteria above, there are some who are comfortable with the semiprofessional position; others would like to see more movement towards professional position.  For example, individuals who come from the semiprofessional perspective are more likely to identify with their employer and less with the profession; individuals who come from the professional perspective are more likely to identify with the profession and less with their employer.  Individuals who come from the semiprofessional perspective are less comfortable with being subject to regulation from their regulatory body; individuals who come from the professional perspective are more likely to be comfortable with being subject to regulation from their regulatory body.

This shift from occupation to semiprofession to profession is what is referred to as the ‘professionalization’ of HR.  The concept of professionalization not only explains a lot of what is going on in HR at the institutional and individual practitioner level, it can also serve to provide a roadmap for the profession—we will leave a discussion of this roadmap for some other time.

Claude Balthazard, Ph.D., C.Psych. is Vice-President, Regulatory Affairs, HRPA and Special Regulatory Advisor, CCHRA.