Step it Up, Lon! Even if Just for Us.

Lon O'Neil

Dear Lon (if I may),

Thanks so much for inviting me to blog from the 2010 SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition. It is a privilege I’ve not taken lightly. You and your team of more than 350 SHRM employees and irrefutably one of the best volunteer organizations around provided great content at a great venue…and you pulled it all together with 11,000 great HR pros. I know many of us leave with a renewed sense of energy and faith in our beloved profession.

I was lucky to have met you the other night at SHRM’s Partner Reception (I was the one who complimented you on your hair). Again, a privilege I’ve not taken lightly. I’ve learned in my long association with SHRM that its leadership team is crucial not only to its own success, but more importantly to the profession’s growing prominence as the people expert. One of the ways we build that prominence is through the HRCI certification process…and resulting designation that the business community is increasingly recognizing as an important qualifier to our value.  As I understand it – and I may be wrong here – you don’t have a PHR, or an SPHR, or GPHR…nothing…nada. What is up with that?!?!? I mean, seriously. You are the CEO of SHRM, right? You were the Chief Human Resources Officer with Kaiser Permanente for goodness sakes.  We all know four letters behind your name isn’t necessarily what it’s all about. But I bet it says a lot to your 250,000 members in over 140 countries.  And that should matter to you.

So here’s my personal challenge: take and pass a qualified HRCI test by the end of 2010. It’s really not that bad and there are lots of great resources out there to help you along. I’d be happy to coach you myself. In the meantime, thanks for all that you do for our profession – HRCI designation or not. We all look forward to seeing those four little letters popping up sometime in the next six months.

Warmest regards,

Charlie Judy, SPHR
HR Executive, Talent Management Blogger

p.s. I’d love to interview you for the “Not -So-Back-Office” Series. Let me know if you’re interested.

Photo Credit: SHRM

14 Responses to Step it Up, Lon! Even if Just for Us.
  1. John
    June 30, 2010 | 2:53 pm

    Wow, very bold!

    I agree with you, I think it would lend a bit more credibility to the overall role in the org.

  2. Lance Haun
    June 30, 2010 | 3:10 pm

    Isn’t that just a token accomplishment, even if he does it?

    SHRM’s board doesn’t think he needed it to run the organization so SHRM the organization has already spoken as to the importance of the designation.

    And personally, I think that’s fine. Not all of those 250,000 members are certified. Certification shouldn’t be a litmus test for leadership at SHRM.
    Lance Haun´s last blog ..If My Wife Can Get On Twitter- So Can YouMy ComLuv Profile

  3. laurie ruettimann
    June 30, 2010 | 3:14 pm

    The relationship between SHRM and HRCI is so weird. While they keep a professional ‘distance’ between the two organizations, I know for a fact that they share data, mailing lists, and some IT infrastructure.

    It would behoove Lon to get his SPHR (or whatever) and champion the accreditation that is SOLD SO HEAVILY (and I use the word ‘sold’ for a reason) to the SHRM membership.

    I’m a SPHR (since 2001) and I write an anti-establishment HR blog. If I can do it, so can Lon and every single member of that board.
    laurie ruettimann´s last blog ..Steve Boese and Workplace Bathroom EtiquetteMy ComLuv Profile

  4. Ben Eubanks
    June 30, 2010 | 4:34 pm

    Hmmm… He’s a CEO now. Do CEOs really need the letters? Not sure about that. His time is valuable and I can’t honestly say that it’s worth his time/effort to pass.

    Couldn’t he get an “honorary” SPHR anyway like other famous people? :-)

    Ben Eubanks´s last blog ..SHRM10 Social Media Panel Thoughts VideoMy ComLuv Profile

  5. Charlie
    June 30, 2010 | 6:55 pm

    @john – as a fellow SPHR, it doesn’t surprise me that you do. missed you this week!

    @lance – no one said anything about it being a litmus test to leadership and at this level it certainly doesn’t mean diddly to his own professional credential. so let me ask pose this point differently: does Lon hurt the credibility of the profession and its credentials by having one? probably not. does he potentially hurt it by not having one? probably.

    @laurie – while i can’t fully appreciate the HRCI and SHRM entanglement, i appreciate your raising it. we all now that a supreme driver to one’s decision to actually attend the annual conference in the first place is their recertification requirements. whether or not the organizations like it, they are very much in bed together on this one.

    @ben – see my response to lance. does he NEED the letters? of course not. and i’m actually fine with an honorary designation. but i think as a CEO (particularly) he should wave the flags…and an HRCI designation is one of them.

  6. Lance Haun
    July 1, 2010 | 1:34 am

    Does he impact the credibility of the *profession* by not having letters after his name? No, not at all. Credibility is primarily external view of validity. Given his time at KP, I’m guessing that SHRM’s selection gives the profession plenty of credibility.

    I think he may undermine certification as the standard but that has been long overdue. I don’t agree that certification has done much to validate HR as a profession. The certs in HR are a joke. And I mean that of no offense to anyone who has actually studied, done it the right way and maintains their education. There are plenty of people who abuse and misuse the system.

    SHRM basically sold their recert credits to anyone that could write the check this conference. It was a disgrace. That discredits the certification process a lot more than Lon’s lack of it IMO.
    Lance Haun´s last blog ..If My Wife Can Get On Twitter- So Can YouMy ComLuv Profile

  7. Charlie
    July 1, 2010 | 10:51 am

    @lance – how could you not expect to offend “anyone who has actually studied, done it the right way, and maintains their eduction” by referring to the HR certifications as “a joke.” this is not an all or nothing proposition. building the validity and value of these certs is not a flip-the-light-switch activity. it’s the best thing we have going – perfect or not. do you think blowing it up and starting from scratch is the right way to approach it? and yes, his not having it effects the credibility of the profession: not because he doesn’t have the letters necessarily, but because we can’t seem to get our message straight, we talk out of both sides of our mouths. they flaunted the four letters at every turn during the conference – you get a special ribbon attached to your name tag, there was a private lounge for those who are certified, etc. if that’s the message we’re sending, then he needs a cert to be “vivid about that message” (See Marcus Buckingham). if it’s not the message, than we need to stop screwing around and get more clear about that.

  8. Jessica Miller-Merrell
    July 1, 2010 | 12:13 pm


    Isn’t a manger about walking the talk and if someone that represents an organization such as SHRM that suggests and promotes to its more than 250,000 members about the benefits of certification, it makes sense that the CEO and COO would both have some sort of designations?

    Good fine and excellent conversation. Keep up the good work!


    Jessica Miller-Merrell´s last blog ..SHRM Outside the Conference Outside the BoxMy ComLuv Profile

  9. Michael Cohen
    July 1, 2010 | 4:17 pm

    What a great post. I believe that he should have a certification, it’s like the head of the AMA not having an MD or the head of AAJ not having a law degree. And getting certified isn’t anywhere near as difficult/time consuming as getting one of those advanced degrees.

    Also, I was looking at the SHRM executive team and only one individual is certified. What’s up with that? Frankly, I’d also like SHRM to be more transparent as to what is going on within their organization. Is there a high level of job satisfaction? Are their employees happy? Is there work life balance?

    Finally, the reviews on for SHRM are less than stellar. If they were better, and if SHRM were run better, would I be getting more for my dues money?

  10. John Jorgensen
    July 2, 2010 | 8:55 am

    Charlie, great post. I applaud Lon for stepping up and taking the SPHR and not accepting an honorary one if offered. I agree with Jessica that it is part of the walking the talk. I have also mentioned to Lon that he has more guts than I would in that situation. Not sure I would let anyone know I was taking it until AFTER I passed….just in case.

    Great seeing you this week Charlie.

  11. Lance Haun
    July 2, 2010 | 10:45 am

    I’m not immune to offending people. I’m a blogger after all.

    Anyone with $400 going to the conference could have essentially bought themselves three years of certification without ever attending a class.

    I think that’s the joke of certification. It’s SHRM approved too, just like hiring a CEO without their highly touted credentials.

    Now I know many SPHR’s who continue their education seriously, took the exam seriously and help colleagues out. But they share that designation with a lot of people that don’t belong.

    Does certification need to be completely redone? Not necessarily. But things need to change for it to be an effective tool for both individuals and HRCI.

    And let’s not compare HR to doctors, lawyers or even CPA’s. Those three professionals are required to be certified (CPA’s dependent on role but still). SHRM supposedly represents all HR professionals regardless of certification.
    Lance Haun´s last blog ..Simplify EverythingMy ComLuv Profile

  12. Charlie
    July 2, 2010 | 11:17 am

    THIS JUST IN: I have it from a reliable insider from a State SHRM organization that Mr. O’Neil plans on sitting for the SPHR this Fall/Winter. He claims to have heard it directly from the horse’s mouth. If true we’re all rooting for you, Lon!

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