SHRM Stepping Back from HR Standards Work

SHRM-Logo2The Society for Human Resource Management recently alerted the members of its HR standards task force that it plans to end its current role in creating standards for the HR profession in areas such as cost-per-hire and performance management. In a letter to the task force, Deb Cohen, SHRM’s senior vice president for knowledge development, said that while SHRM believes “the HR profession needs consensus-driven HR standards,” its own priority is on competency-based certification. SHRM recently announced details of its new competency-based certification, which, as we’ve previously reported, has caused a rift between it and the HR Certification Institute.

SHRM will be transitioning out of its role as the American National Standards Institute administrator of the U.S. technical advisory group (TAG) for the HR standards, known as ISO/TC 260, sometime during the first quarter of 2015, Cohen wrote.

“One of the things we want to focus on is keeping our new competency model fresh and refreshed, because once you create a new model you need to ensure people know what they need to do to stay up to date,” said Cohen in an interview.

SHRM will also transition out of its role as an ANSI “Accredited Standards Developer” and will work with ANSI to find a replacement organization to carry on that work, she wrote.

“We’ve been actively reaching out to already-accredited standards-developing organizations and we’ve had some inquiries from folks interested in becoming accredited standards-developing organizations,” said Cohen. “We’re very hopeful we’ll find one soon and, frankly, if it takes a little while we’re prepared to help in any way.”

SHRM plans to continue being an “active member” of the U.S. TAG, said Cohen. “We’ll continue to have a voice and a point of view regarding new standards, and we’ll continue to vote and participate in meetings, because we think this is very important work. We just won’t be the administrator.”

Elizabeth Neiman, a spokeswoman for ANSI, confirmed that SHRM had given notice of its intent to withdraw. “We are grateful for their many efforts, as well as their stated intention to continue as an active participant in standards development work, both domestically and internationally,” she said in an emailed statement.

A source who spoke on background said the move confirms that SHRM wants to focus on its new competency certification and probably wanted to reassign the small number of staff members who’d been working on the standards. The source also said there had been some grumbling that ANSI seemed to care more about process than content and that too much time had to be devoted to “crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s.”

Cohen agreed that ANSI is “very process focused” but said that is simply part of their job.

“My sense of ANSI is that they want to ensure an open, consensus-driven process and, in order for that to happen, there need to be a lot of process checks,” she said. “I don’t think they have a dog in the hunt with regard to content—that’s not part of their purview.”

The new certification process carries high stakes for SHRM, the source said: The organization anticipates that its revenues will dip as it transitions from the previous HRCI certifications and waits for people to sign up for the new ones. In anticipation of this, the source said, SHRM recently conducted layoffs at its Alexandria, Va., headquarters and froze hiring for some positions.

Cohen declined to comment about the layoffs.

“SHRM is still committed to consensus-driven standards for the HR profession—we’re pleased to have been involved and plan to continue, but we’re changing the role we’ve been playing,” she said.