Why are Certifications Important in Continuing Education for HR?

Evolving dynamics in global business impact many professions and we can agree that in today’s world, changing dynamics affects all roles in the profession of human resources (HR). Capricious world events shape organizational strategies and goals, strain access to resources, influence customer demands and influence the life of employees who are entering or striving to advance in the workforce.

The role of HR is not stationary and expectations from the board room to the employee at work is that the HR professional acts as the driver of change supporting and building a culture of continuous learning.

We know the cultural behaviors in continuous learning act with a focus on building new skills, providing consistent methods of learning and presenting relevant information for employees and leaders. HR professionals who understand the importance of building a continuous learning culture also appreciate how this culture can address disruptive change and position the organization and the employee for present and future success. The HR professional, fully engaged in a role to lead a learning organization, delivers value to influence organizational sustainability and growth.

Creating a Learning Culture by Walking the Walk

Fulfilling a leadership role in continuous learning means that the HR professional must be the role model. In other words, HR professionals must “walk the walk,” which requires self-motivation, persistence in acquiring new knowledge, expanding skill set, remaining relevant, being prepared for the unexpected, increasing competence at every level and bringing latest ideas from learning to inform strategy and inspire others. There is no other option but to be the “fire” in the organization who learns and creates the energy and avenues for others to learn.

The initial foundation of continuous learning and self-development for a HR professional begins with building structural knowledge and subject matter expertise through a master’s in human resource management or an MBA with a concentration in human resources. Both degrees create significant benefits for HR professionals in building broad business knowledge which aligns with the industry’s professional competencies. When contemplating either degree, if one is considering a specific career in HR, the MBA with a concentration in HR may not be specific enough to develop the subject matter expertise or people-centric view required in HR roles at every level in an organization. One’s career goals influence choosing one degree over the other. HR professionals who are seeking to move up in their careers to a director, vice president, chief human resource officer or chief administrative officer will need a master’s degree in human resources management. The HR professional who shows a commitment to continuous learning and combines a master’s degree in human resources with certificates or certification is a professional well positioned to move forward in a HR career.

The Importance of HR Certifications and Certificates

How does the HR professional focus on continuous learning? While reading relevant literature and participating in professional network groups can be tools in the continuous learning toolbox, one of the most prevalent opportunities for continuous learning in the HR market is participation and completion of certificates and certification.

  • Providers like HRCI, offer relevant innovative HR certification programs and learning opportunities which will advance the skills and knowledge of HR professionals.
  • Certificates are widely accessed and accepted as increasing content expertise which senior leaders expect the HR professional will apply to their role.
  • The educational design of work in certificates or certifications is developed with a body of skilled peers and assessed according to credentialing standards, making the educational experience not only relevant but rigorous.
  • Earning certificates and certifications during the life cycle of a HR career sends a specific message to current and future employers: You are a serious leader in your profession. Your commitment will translate into increased earning potential, greater personal credibility and a professional and personal competitive advantage.

Certificates and certifications are not intended to replace learning from an established university degree. Successful completion of these activities in continuous learning shows present and future employers that as a HR professional you are ready – ready to address emerging issues, to bring new thinking to the plate to solve problems and to “take on whatever” comes your way.

Market data indicates that the combination of a degree and certificates or a certification increases opportunities and salary by a wide range related to the type of industry and the type of certification. Pay increases can be in the range of 4% to 28% according to a study conducted by PayScale.com.

While the PayScale study is from 2018, a fact that continues to be relevant is that if a HR professional is seeking to advance to a HR manager and higher, a combination of a degree and certificates which lead to a certification is prevalent in the market. The need for all three is especially true when seeking a role as a director, vice president or chief human resources officer.

As expressed earlier, the role of HR today does not stand still. Significant workforce changes created by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic will continue.

Age and ethnic origin demographics are changing the “face” of the average employee, therefore HR leaders need to lead with action to address learning needs to retain employees and progress the organization. This leadership starts with a professional strategy and personal commitment to build continuous learning by lighting the desire in oneself and bringing the commitment to others.

Deborah Gogliettino is the associate dean of business at Southern New Hampshire University, where she has worked since 2015. She has also served as the director and senior vice president of human resources at private companies. She earned her master of business administration from West Connecticut State University and a master’s in leadership from Grand Canyon University. She has earned credentials in workforce analytics, social media and human ethics, in addition to all of the required education to retain the Senior Professional in Human Resources from HRCI.