Why did I write SHRM-CP and how did it go?

Anish asked me to write about why and how I prepared for the SHRM-CP examination so a few HRs who might not know about this certification yet could benefit. I spent some time reflecting on whether I should actually write it or not, and finally, here I’m. If it helps someone, I am happy. If not, that’s still okay 😉

Background

I am an engineer by education and early-career profession. I did my masters in Computer Science and joined Oracle in Bangalore where I spent more than 3 years doing things that I was not contented with, and that I do not consider myself good at. FullContact happened as a you-got-what-you-wished-for opportunity, and I happily accepted the offer to join there as an HR. I always loved the HR job, unlike many other engineers out there!

Well, it goes without saying that I am without an MBA. Did it matter? I will be blunt: it did matter to me, though it didn’t to my employer. I was a beginner in the HR profession, but I was invited to lead the India people division of the organisation, owing to the trust and hope the then leaders had in me. I had to make it up to it, and I did not have an MBA. Did it really matter? Does it, now?

(Image courtesy: www.peoplematters.in)

Hey dude, do you really care about the degrees (and not the skills)?

We as humans tend to see and believe things as binaries—YES or NO! Do degrees really matter? Some say that it doesn’t, and some it does. Certain degrees do really matter, but what matters more is the kind of environment you studied in and the exposure you have attained. I have seen the case studies MBA colleges use to teach the graduate students in the tier-2 colleges and the top B-schools in the country and abroad. I was well aware of the differences in engineering education, but the kind of exposure those top-tier B-schools provide to their MBA students is something unparalleled from my observation. One can’t simply say that degrees do not really matter. What matters is exposure and potential—be it with a degree or not.

One may argue that college degrees cannot provide the quantum of exposure that on-the-job training provides. While this generally true in our country, the quick(kick)start the tier-1 educated graduates get is, still, something. There’s no denying that.

Back to our story: well, I did not have a degree. My ego and self-esteem played, and I thought of doing a distance MBA, joined, fully paid for and found it to be worthless an affair, left it at that. But as time progressed, thanks to the openness and unusually solid support that I got from this organisation (and the HR communities that I am associated with such as NIPM Kerala Chapter), I could learn A LOT while being on the job. I wanted to, however, benchmark myself to see where I stood (read this as self-appraisal. Unless you benchmark yourself, you are not giving yourself feedback. If you do not give feedback often, you are buying the same fish, again).

I heard about the SHRM certification and I was not eligible to write SCP then, hence chose CP; out of the blue, after reading some online reviews. I knew that it would take some effort, but my organisation supported me by spending considerably good amount of money on this learning effort by sponsoring the digital training kit for the examination. That’s one reason why I was fast ready to write the exam.

Tell me more about the exam

There is more than enough articles on what and how the SHRM Certification examinations are, hence I will skip that part except for an excerpt:

  • You can write SHRM-CP if you have 2 (or, 1 for those with PG) years of professional HR experience. If you are senior in terms of service, you could try SHRM-SCP.
  • The test is computer-based. Continuous 4 hours (trust me, my eyes pained). 160 questions. I wrote it at Prometric centre in Trivandrum, Kerala, India.
  • Of the 160, there are 95 knowledge-based questions, 65 judgement questions. They are all multiple choices, but alternatives can be confusing and similar-looking. This page gives you a sample set of questions.
  • How I prepared: There are four books that came along with the digital learning kit that was sponsored by the organisation. I read them. They are quite helpful and one may get tons of revelations of as to how many bad concepts/understanding of HR that one has had (I did). In fact, this was the best outcome of preparing for this certification.
  • You will get to know your provisional results immediately after the test. They will send you the official intimation later.
  • The examination costs you $400 ($300 if you are an SHRM member). The certificate is valid for 3 years (and can be renewed by acquiring certain recertification points by doing online courses, attending seminars, etc.). It is not mandatory that you purchase the digital learning system. This page may be helpful.

(Image courtesy: blog.shrm.org)

Should I do it?

  • Yes, if you want to benchmark yourself, and maybe, study something that you already didn’t know. Or, if you are doing it as a self-confidence booster.
  • No, if you are just doing it for a pay hike. Mostly no organisation—I understand some may still be doing—in India provides with a pay hike for HRs just because they have a certification (but that’s not the case abroad, and some job descriptions specify these certifications as minimum requirements, which is a benchmarking/filtering tactic). However, it can be a distinguishing factor. After all these, I know in person a ton of HR professionals doing much better than me, without an MBA and/or an SHRM Certification. So, it’s just all about what you want.

If you’re not so concerned about the certification, why have you written “SHRM-CP” in your LinkedIn profile name?

I am just being ostentatious.

So, you’re saying that you’re after fancy degrees (or candidates with such degrees)?

Wait there, never did I say that I have high respect for candidates just with fancy degrees. Moreover, I believe in interviews that are based on Behavioral Competencies (from a People standpoint)—BEI as it is called—rather than education texts that fill in white spaces on a resume.

TL;DR: Take an SHRM certification exam (or its competitor HRCI) if you want to benchmark yourself against what is considerably-okay in the industry. You may gain some confidence, too.

Wait, did I write a TL;DR at the bottom? 😉

P.S: Julian has written about how he passed the examination already, my job is reduced by 90% in writing this article and hence not explaining what he has already done.

P.P.S: I would strongly recommend being part of the SHRM community by spending money on their membership. It is really worth it (an online membership would suffice) in terms of strategic/operational documentation that is available on their member-only portal and the community of HRs they have built.

If you have more questions, I am happy to help. Please drop me a message or write in comments (beware: you are going to talk to someone who is known to be incommunicado for longer durations; so please expect the delay).

Also published at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-did-i-write-shrm-cp-how-go-arunanand-t-a-shrm-cp

Work From Home Musings

Here’s the snapshot of my WFH experience (though I’ve done it in the past, not as many continuous days as this time).

Work From Home, Working From Home
Image Courtesy: www.entrepreneur.com
  1. Gained weight. I was on a consultant diet for the last three weeks and had lost 3 kgs. Looks like I eat at leisure while at home and gained 2 kgs over the last one week.
  2. I eat my meals on time, but while at the office I am known to procrastinate meals and eat them all together later. However, I drink less water while at home. And I miss pantry talks.
  3. Missing the office AC. The room where I’ve set up my work from home corner is damn hot. Internet at the office was heavenly, too.
  4. Missing my people around, especially the G&A team of FullContact. Meetings having been moved online, I’ve started missing meeting people in real. Added to it, I am in HR.
  5. I fail to switch to work attire though many on the web suggest doing so.
  6. Productivity swings. At times, I am underproductive while productivity soars up sometimes.
  7. Feeling unnaturally sleepy after lunches (while at the office, it doesn’t happen quite often).
  8. Kid at home & Working at home together is a bad idea.
  9. Last but not the least, I am living two more days in a month. I have a two-hour transit daily, multiply that by 24 and you get 48 hours = 2 days!

Did your employer ever deny the Experience Certificate? Read on.

Indian labour laws are, majorly, employee-centric than employer-centric. Though this is the state of the act, most employees are not aware of their rights per various labour laws of the land. Or else, many employers purposefully do not educate their employees of the latter’s rights at the workplace.

One of the major threats many young professionals face from disgruntled employers is ‘we will not issue the experience certificate unless you do x or y‘. Not issuing an experience certificate is, unfortunately, used by many HRs and management as a tool to get something done by the employee. This something could be repayment of what the employee owes to the company, the employee not serving the notice period, etc.

Another common practice among some SMEs (I must admit that this trend is on a decline now) is to keep the originals of the employee’s certificates and mark lists with them until the term of employment/resignation. This is to make sure that the employee does not look for alternative employment whilst employed at the master organisation. Poor employee, s/he believes that the organisation has rights in their limit to do so and obeys this demand.

As it turns out (and it has always been like that), NO EMPLOYER is entitled to DENY experience certificates (service certificate in legal terms) to an employee or a former employee. If the employee demands such an experience certificate during or after the term of employment, the organisation is BOUND to issue one. To cite the labour law, 2J(3) of Kerala Shops and Commercial Establishments Act, 1961 mandates that the employer shall issue the service certificate in Form BE, within seven days from the receipt of such a request from the employee (every state has its own S&CE Act, and they will have similar provisions).

In a nutshell, employer cannot deny a service certficate (experience certficate) even if the employee is absconding or under a formal domestic enquiry for a gross misconduct. If the employer does not follow the request, the employee has the right to contact the District Labour Officer or the Labour Court thereafter for redressal.

Now, Section 5E of the aforementioned act says:

5E. Prohibition of retaining education certificate or experience certificate.—No educational certificate or experience certificate in original received from an employee shall be retained by the employer of any establishment at the time of appointment or during the course of employment.

This means, no establishment has the right to retain the originals of the experience certificate and/or educational certificates of their employees. Copies, however, can be maintained for record purposes, but originals have to be returned immediately after verification.

Ever denied justice? Talk to your HR first. If they do not fall in line, you now know what to do.

Also published at LinkedIn and medium.

The Agony and Ecstasy of Working as HR Professionals in Organisations Today

‘You should not stop being people’s advocate! The day you end being one is the day the HR dies’.

These words which I happened to randomly listen to while working at Oracle as an Engineer, later became the cornerstone of my HR career. While I believe that any job has its own merits and fashions, there are certain jobs that have the capability to make impacts of higher gravities. HR is one, nevertheless, it goes a thankless job in some organisations.

HR, like any other job, is like a two-sided coin. You will have happy days; and then there will be days that give you a headache. Interestingly, the primitives on which the functions of an HR are based invariably embrace the ‘headaches’. What’s fun if things go as in the books; HRs come into play when things are not in line or if there’s no line at all. Thus, the headaches become opportunities. We cannot really see these as binaries—either yes or no—but grey. Let’s have a closer look:

Leaders with People Mindset

HR team’s vision will only be successful when your company has a management that believes in people. Forget your company’s revenue, business strategy and everything else; it’s the faith of the management in the people business and their mindset of treating people as the largest investment that drives the success of any HR team.

Starting from the CEO, every C-level and VPs should have a clear understanding and buy-in to the policies that the HR team parks on. This is the biggest factor of all which decide if an HR’s life is hell or heaven. This article on HBR says that during 2008 recession, only a  third of HR departments were consulted when layoffs happened, pointing to lesser influence HRs had in strategic business/people decisions—this is fast changing now.

It’s imperative for the modern day HR to work closely with the line managers as well, to make sure that the ‘people mindset’ envisaged at the top level trickled down appropriately at the length and breadth of the organisation. The organisation’s profitability comes only through the growth; and growth comes only through its employees and culture—not the C-officers alone! HR is certainly a partner in strategy execution, and hence they should have business acumen and understanding as well as the people mindset. 33% of execs believe that there’s ineffective HR leadership that drives their organisation to the unsolicited directions as per this HBR report. This can be tricky and painful for some of us, but definitely the need of the hour; it has always been, but clearer in the recent years.


Data and Opportunities for Analytics

With the advance of technology, data has come to play a major role for the HR as well. This has helped establish data-driven strategies. Since most HR operations have gone digital, HR gets instant access to the data and can run an analysis on it to reach faster and effective conclusions. Analytics has resulted in the greater impact of HR activities starting with talent acquisition through engagement to exit.

Changing Workforce

Gen X is fast coming to the top of the ladders, and most ‘workforce’ now comprises of Gen Y and Z. The millennials tend to pose and trigger a change in the way most HR teams function. The factors that excited Gen X may no longer be valid/needed for the Gen Y/Z. This needs a larger discussion in all organisations, where HR takes the lead role.

Starting from how your recruit talent to keeping them engaged should change due to this workforce change. Your ‘food coupons’ or ‘telephone reimbursement’ may not be an attractive benefit as it used to be. Your vacation plans, office timings, attire requirements and health initiatives may need a thorough change keeping in mind the interest of the new workforce. This is one place where HR gets into agonies or ecstasies. This also points to changing your HR practices and policies to accommodate the new-styled workforce who love things to happen faster and easier.

Pay Gaps and Diversity

Gone are those days HR recruited the ‘protagonists’ alone. Ideologies and societal factors keep changing, and Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) has become another opportunity for HR. While this is seen as an ecstasy from a philosophical standpoint, various reports suggest that the pay gaps and men:women employee ratios are still really bad in numbers. The report from WeForum suggests that in 82 out of 142 countries, pay gaps based on gender is still increasing. This is alarming, and agonising for the HRs, for they have been trying to establish a reverse scenario through D&I and localisation initiatives.

KPMG reports that HRs around the world struggle to keep in line with the global workforce, which turns out to be an agony for the HR fraternity, yet. With globalisation, teams become more and more integrated and agile, which HRs must run fast to cope with. Increasing number of remote, and arguably virtual, employees demand that the HRs tighten their belts.

Attraction, Training and Retention

Organisations today want not job-seekers, but talents. For example, in IT, with the massive ‘attack’ of automation over the services sector has diminished the glitter of the old glossy, silky texture of the industry to a great extent. Companies today want to find talents (“attraction”) rather than applicants finding them for jobs (“acquisition”). The onus is on the HR team.

The new organisation have a diverse workforce that constantly looks for enhancing their skill set. The old school training curriculum is undergoing a thorough revamp, which is, yet again, equally agonizing and ecstatic for HRs. Starting from the training modes—virtual to gamification to anytime anywhere learning platforms—to the training content, organisations are thoroughly revamping their L&D strategies with the Gen Z in mind.

Another area of concern for the HR is retention. It’s way beyond creating a good brand; stories float about youngsters rejecting offers from big brands to choose what they want to do in small companies. Retention plans of the new age is another agony for HRs, planning of which needs a thorough analysis of their workforce as well as the industry trends. People don’t just stay back for money.

HR Tech: the future

As it goes without saying, HR Tech is already here. Yesteryears’ Personnel Manager changed to HR, and then got transformed into People Enablers over a period of time. The new role of HRs will be that of technology and business leaders enabling people functions with the help of cutting edge tech. Coming of tech into HR will certainly reduce the job opportunities of the existing HR workforce, but wait! It’s a two-sided coin again. While this is seen as an ‘oh-my-god-am-I-gonna-lose-it’ scenario, why don’t we look at the brighter side of it? It gives us room for learning technology and pouring it into what we have been doing, thereby making a yet greater, happier, better workplace! Ain’t it ecstatic?!

Disclaimer: Any of the discussions above does not reflect the views of my present or previous employers. Views are all personal.