Ensuring That Certification Reflects the Evolving World of HR

​The world of HR is changing faster than ever before: Advancing technology, increasingly dispersed workforces, never-before-seen business challenges, new employment laws and regulations, and growing talent gaps are just a few examples. The knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics that competent HR professionals need to support their workplaces are evolving, too.

The SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge (SHRM BoCK) is the foundational document of SHRM certification. To ensure that it reflects the behavioral and technical competencies that are most relevant in today’s world, every few years SHRM conducts a practice analysisa thorough, systematic research study of the profession—to stay current with trends in HR. The last study was conducted in 2015-16, and the 2019-20 study is nearing completion.

Based on the results of the latest study, SHRM is revising the SHRM BoCK to reframe and update its content. The research will also affect the SHRM certification exams, SHRM Learning System, curriculum guidebook for HR degree programs and, ultimately, the taxonomy for all of SHRM’s work.

Conducting the Practice Analysis

The current practice analysis effort began with over 80 HR subject matter experts from around the world, whose discussions in 14 focus groups centered around the SHRM BoCK’s eight behavioral competencies and one technical competency, HR Expertise (made up of 15 HR functional areas organized into three knowledge domains). SHRM captured the experts’ feedback about the skills and knowledge HR professionals need to effectively perform their jobs today.

Based on this feedback, SHRM drafted a revised version of the SHRM BoCK and then created a survey to validate the feedback. In early 2020, this survey was sent out to more than 100,000 HR professionals worldwide. They were asked to rate the importance and level of knowledge and proficiency required for HR professionals to demonstrate the competencies, subcompetencies, proficiency indicators and key concepts (all of which are components of the SHRM BoCK). People from nearly 75 countries responded to share their expertise.

Analyzing the Early Results

The survey responses were carefully analyzed. Initial results of the practice analysis have revealed interesting trends and shifts in the world of HR.

Key areas have become more important over time, and competent HR professionals need the knowledge and skills to support these areas. Today’s HR professionals, for example, have to be able to effectively handle remote workers, manage multiple generations in the workplace, address automation, and champion inclusion and diversity—and to do so in new ways.

Other areas of HR appear to be less important than they were in 2015-16. It is becoming less common for HR professionals to need to know about union management, even while it remains an important aspect of HR in some industries and countries. Some aspects of global HR received low ratings from the survey respondents. SHRM is considering removing low-rated topics from the next edition of the SHRM BoCK.

Implementing the Revised SHRM BoCK

Rolling out a revision of the SHRM BoCK is a lengthy and complex process. SHRM is committed to taking the time to make the required changes and updates, based on the 2019-20 practice analysis, thoroughly and properly.

The revised version is expected to be released in December 2021 as a user-friendly electronic-only resource (no longer as a printed booklet). The current version of the SHRM BoCK, which was issued in 2017, will remain in effect through the winter 2021 testing window. The new SHRM BoCK will take effect in May 2022, the beginning of the spring 2022 testing window.

Even before the effective date, SHRM will start using the revision for other certification-related purposes over the next several years. The SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP exam “blueprints”—guidelines for the types of questions to be used on the exams in 2022—are being revised to align with the revised SHRM BoCK. The materials for the 2022 editions of the SHRM Learning System and the HR curriculum guidebook are also being updated to reflect the new SHRM BoCK.


December 2021: Public release of revised SHRM BoCK; SHRM Learning System reflects revised content.

May 2022: New SHRM BoCK takes effect; certification exam blueprints reflect revised content.

Ashley Silver, SHRM-CP, is a test development specialist at SHRM.

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Written by HR Today

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