Ep. 59

Demystifying the Value of HR Certification w/ Anthony Howard

In episode 59, we talk with Anthony Howard about HR certifications and if they are really needed in the world of HR.
59 - Anthony Howard

Anthony Howard

Founder, CEO, Lead Facilitator & Coach
HR Certified, LLC

Whether you’re hoping to get into the HR space, already working in HR, or seeking opportunities to progress in the field, there may come a time when you consider getting certified. But if you’re not familiar with the HR certifications out there, you’ll have questions—a lot of them. Is this for me? How do I justify spending the time and money? What certification do I need to land that dream job? In this episode of the HR Mavericks podcast, Anthony Howard answers these questions and more. As the founder, CEO, lead facilitator and coach at HR Certified, LLC, Anthony is well-equipped to give advice for anybody considering getting certified.

During this episode, we talked about:

  • Who HR certifications are good for—and who they’re not good for
  • Creative ways to pay for certifications
  • The two main ways that HR certifications add value to your career
  • Which certifications to get started with
  • How to choose between HRCI and SHRM
  • The process and timeline of becoming HR certified
  • Tips for getting started with a human resources career

Find Anthony on LinkedIn or send him an email to get in touch!

Episode 59 Transcript

You’re listening to HR Mavericks, a weekly podcast, featuring leading small business HR professionals who share their experiences and insights to help you know how to turn your HR processes and employee experience into a strategic business advantage. Let’s get into the show. 

[00:00:00] Garrett Jestice: Welcome to the next episode of the HR Mavericks podcast. I’m Garrett Jestice. And today I’m joined by Anthony Howard from the Atlanta area. Anthony is a founder, CEO, lead facilitator, and coach at HR Certified. Anthony, how you doing today?

[00:00:18] Anthony Howard: I’m good. I’m doing really great. Really great. It’s kinda hot here. It’s I think it’s hot everywhere, but, but other than that, I’m doing great.

[00:00:27] Garrett Jestice: You got the hot and humid down there in the south, right.

[00:00:30] Anthony Howard: Yeah. Yeah. Now I escaped from Chicago, which is the total opposite of that to come here. So I’m embracing it. I think I got a little tan too.

[00:00:39] Garrett Jestice: Yeah, looking good, looking good. We’re super excited to have you on the show and really to dive into this topic today. But before we do, we wanna get to know you. So tell our listeners just a little bit more about you and your background and what your company HR Certified does.

[00:00:53] Anthony Howard: Yeah. So, again, I’m originally from Chicago, Illinois. My initial goal in life, was to be an elementary school teacher and, that didn’t quite work out. So well,for many reasons. And so I had to find, figure out what I’m gonna do with my life. I came back to Chicago from school, entered corporate,

I walked in a call center and one of the first HR jobs I got was working in a benefit service center where I was taking calls like, Hey, I got married, I want to add my wife onto coverage. Hey, I wanna know if, I’m at the doctor’s office and I can’t get everything updated. And there was something that sparked it in.

[00:01:30] Anthony Howard: There was something that sparked at that time, because I got excited over reading, like things like summary plan descriptions. Who gets excited about that. I was like, well, this is a thing. This is a thing. And so one day somebody came to me and was like, Anthony, you sure you just wanna do benefits, you don’t wanna be a generalist.

And I said, I never thought about that. And so I went on the path to wanting to be a, a HR generalist. And I had been at benefits for five years at this point. And everybody kept telling me, oh, you are a benefits guy. You’re not a generalist guy. And I was like, well, how in the world can I get into this? And so I was with a company that, that sponsored me to get my PHR certification and literally three months from there, I moved into my first generalist role. I took a pay cut to do it, but it was the best decision I ever made. And I went along that track. And 20 years later here I am. I’m a strategic HR business partner. I’ve worked in multiple industries, but if you noticed them about my pathway, what launched me was certification, that’s what got me in the door.

And so because of that, I owe so much to it that I just became a passion project. And here I am.

[00:02:41] Garrett Jestice: I love it. I love it. That’s a perfect precursor story for what we’re gonna talk about today. So we are super excited to have you on the show. And I gotta ask too, you know what, you know, you’ve been in this space, HR, right? Generally for across lots of different companies for, you know, years now, what’s kept you in this space. What have you loved about it that’s really kept you in the HR.

[00:03:02] Anthony Howard: .And this answer to this question differs for everybody, but for me it was the variety. It was being able to be every company that I was with every role that I had, it just created, you know, there were new challenges that were out there. Some examples of when I was a HR specialist and I had learned all that information from the certification, like I literally was able to go to the material and say, based off where we need to go, this is a solution and I could come across, like I’m a subject matter expert, like I’ve done it before. I, implemented a new, uh, HRS system. I built up a talent management program. I was able to use the jargon that an experienced person would have, and it allowed me to be able to show what I could do. So for me, what’s exciting, is being able to be a part of positive change that’s aligned not only to the business, but to employees. And for me, it is if I can do something to improve the quality of life of somebody who choose to work for a company, then I’ve done my job because I mean, everybody’s stressed out, you know, it’s just like, and I want people to find their passion on what they really want to do.

And for me, I like being a Jack of all trades and an expert of none. I want to be, I just, I wanna know enough to be dangerous, but not too much to where I get into, you know, kind of like. a, you know, a deep vertical, so that’s pretty much what that’s, what interests me. And again, everybody’s different, but that’s the thing about this field.

You can choose to go a special route or do this, you know, this flight land pattern that I’m doing.

[00:04:38] Garrett Jestice: Yeah, well, that’s great. You can definitely see the passion as you talk about what you do. And I love that’s part of your goal is to help people find, you know, their passion too. So, so we wanna jump into this topic, Anthony, and of course, bringing you on the show. We have to talk about the value of HR certification since that’s really what you do, that’s what your company does, right?

So I’m gonna jump right into the meat of this because I know you are also a member of the HR Mavericks community and you, and being a member of that community, which we love, that’s awesome. Our kind of shared goal or vision there is how can we democratize HR knowledge, practices for everyone. Right.

And so I can see how some people might be at odds a little bit thinking about that. You know, these certifications often, there’s these big companies that are charging you tons of money to go get these certifications. They’re great for the right person at the right time. And so that’s really, I wanna start.

Who are HR certifications for, who should consider HR certifications, and who are they not for? And what other gaps out there could help fill in some of that knowledge, if a HR certification isn’t the right thing for you.

[00:05:46] Anthony Howard: Yeah. So there’s quite a few categories that it’s good for. And there are some that it’s not good for. The number one profile that is good for is somebody who’s looking to go along the generalist track, because getting certified covers the entire domain of human resources, right? From, from talent acquisition to training development comp and benefits, compliance, all of that.

so if you’re going along that track, hR business partner, and also you wanna be able to move into, leadership into where you’re at the table with, with coming up with solutions for the company, you need to have, you need to have a good reach across all of the capabilities of the human resources function.

[00:06:32] Garrett Jestice: Yeah.

So another, that is good for is also on the opposite end, if you’re trying to get into the space and either you’re a specialist, like for example, for me, I was in Benefits. I see a lot of talent acquisition people that wanting to pivot and want to be more of a generalist. So it’s, it is a great place that if you go deep and you decide to be broad again, certification is good.

[00:06:57] Anthony Howard: The other is for entry. Like, Hey, I see a lot of people who are office managers who are actually, leaders within the business that are looking to pivot to get into HR and then people who are just looking to get their foot in the door. And what it shows in that range is that you’re committed. They, you know, when managers see a resume and they see you deeply into this, the number one question is like, why would you wanna do this, if you know, if this is a whole new function for you. That is your solidified commitment that I, I know this stuff, and I’ve actually took a further step than I needed to make myself marketable for you to give me a shot.

[00:07:39] Garrett Jestice: Right.

[00:07:40] Anthony Howard: Now, the other end is who is not good for. So, what I find is, the individual’s not good for, and again, it’s about timing and everything like that is if you’re just, if you are not certain that this is what you wanna do, right.

If you’re confused about like, I just wanna use this to be able to get exposure. no, this is not the route to go about doing that. and then the other scenario that is not, good for is thinking that once you get it, that success is gonna come like immediately. I think I was kind of like a little bit of an exception to the rule because the company I wind up pivoting to, they had exposure to me while I was in the benefits job.

[00:08:21] Anthony Howard: Right. But to, yeah, you’re, it’s gonna be a while, like, right. You gotta give yourself that time to be able to really get into that role. And then the other is you know, your financial situation, like where you are, this is an investment, right? It’s not, this is not one of those where, you know, when, I mean a lot of these training courses, like I’ve seen, like, for example, the, ATD, the training development at their courses, it’s like 15, 1600, $1,800 for designations and things.

And it’s just like, it seemed like it’s unattainable. So what I would say there is. be strategic with the way that you use your resources. If you’re with the company that is devoted towards training development, talking to your manager, that this is what you wanna do. And, I know one thing I’ve been able to do with, those that try to, get this, I’ve gotten people approved to get this course covered and you tuition reimbursement.

Cause normally you think like, oh, that’s a course. That’s not gonna be covered. Yeah, it’s a course. And it’s a pass fail. You pass, you get the certification, you fail you don’t right. So it’s a creative way to do it. And I’ve also seen scholarships. There’s, you know, it’s not often, but there’s some companies who are willing to, you know, have scholarships.

I know that we’re gonna have one for the, for the junior, level. So sometimes, you know, there, there could be opportunity there. One more thing is joining nonprofit, HR organizations, because a lot of times they wanna motivate their members to stay. They wanna develop them so that it could be, that’s a good way to do it as well.

But it, it is. But think about it. And again, I know that the cost is like, you know, sometimes it feels like it could be unreachable, unattainable, but it is an investment because the money that you put into it, your mission is to get that money back and forward in your career trajectory.

[00:10:10] Garrett Jestice: Yeah, that makes total sense. And those are such excellent tips. I kind of threw you a hard question from the get go, and I think you just knocked it outta the park. So, excellent tips. I really wanna dive into this a little bit deeper, so help us really understand, I think you’ve touched on this, but what value does an HR certification truly provide?

[00:10:27] Anthony Howard: Yeah. Yeah. Well, let’s be a little cocky for a moment. Those letters after your name, look good.

[00:10:36] Garrett Jestice: That’s right.

[00:10:37] Anthony Howard: They look good on resumes. They look good. on, stationary, they look good on your email signature. Like I don’t have to know HR to know that you certified because HR is in the certification like, oh, he’s certified.

They don’t have to know. So it’s good for branding. It’s good. It is good to say that this, and when you think about certification, you, okay, if I had a professional, every professional position has a designation. Right. Would you rather go to a certified accountant or would you rather go to an accountant more than likely you’ll be like, oh, I’m gonna go to certified. You don’t know nothing about the certification. You just know they certified something about that seal. It, it does something for the person. it gives a, an increased level of credibility towards whatever you’re talking about. So that’s number one. Now number two, which is really the reason why you should be doing this is so that you can be comfortable with being able to provide comprehensive solutions to people, issues and challenges.

Right?

You don’t. Have to be a subject matter expert in anything. and I’m saying this from just pure experience is that this you can, if you study this right, and you’re working, or you’re looking to get into some place, you can literally get your whole game plan out there. So when I think about like, you take a training class to, to be a master trainer, or you go for business strategy, or you go for business analytics, all those cost money individually, I envision like, a course in which all of that is in there.

And it covers the surface of all of that. And you can go and pull and go deeper if you need to. That’s perfect. And I think that’s the number one thing. It’s the value add, so you can excuse me so that you can gain the confidence to be able to pitch. And here I go, I’m so excited. I’m so excited. I’m hitting buttons on my keyboard and everything.

Okay.

[00:12:35] Garrett Jestice: Losing his voice the whole bit, huh?

[00:12:37] Anthony Howard: About voice, everything you see him back there. Just judging me. You see, you see that little thing right here, but the value add is instead of taking this process to pass the test, you should be doing this so that you can establish a whole new baseline to work from that’s gonna launch your career.

And that’s what that, and that’s what I pride myself to is what is that formula to do that? So that look, you can rock and roll regardless of wherever you go and this getting that allows you. So that’s the, those are the two reasons.

[00:13:08] Garrett Jestice: I love it. Yeah. So really it’s about, you know, the branding piece, like you talked about being able to show that, you know, what, you know, your stuff, right. You know what you’re doing and then the confidence piece, so that you actually have that foundation to build on to actually make an impact at your company.

Right.

[00:13:25] Anthony Howard: Yeah, that’s it. And what’s gonna be key again, outside of that is being able to, and cuz a part of that, like for example, the one thing that’s taught is that we have to know the language of business. We can’t go in with all of this jargon and everything. We have to understand how we are an enabler of the business, right?

People don’t report to us. what we do is we help them. If you’re doing terminations you’re in the wrong place, or they don’t know what HR truly do, we are helping the business to minimize risk. And if that means that we’re being advocate of an employee, to be able to do that’s what we’re doing.

It’s like everything we do should be able to help the company win. Yeah.

[00:14:02] Garrett Jestice: Great. Awesome. So help us make sense of all of these different HR certifications that are available. So someone coming in new, you know, there’s so many that are out there, right? So, so where do you even start?

[00:14:15] Anthony Howard: Yeah. So I’m going back. I’m gonna date myself for a little bit. But at the time that I entered the profession and I gained designations, it was a lot simpler. The landscape was simpler. It was just HRCI, and what’s really interesting. People don’t know this SHRM. HRCI used to be in the same building as SHRM when all of this was going on and there was a change of direction.

And in that change of direction, they, they decided to go another way of testing. And it was a bitter divorce. I’m just gonna let you know it was bitter. It was, you can Google it and you like, ugh, so the people who were there, we knew what it was, and so after that, now we got two domains.

We got SHRM, we got HRCI. But there’s only a few categories here that you need to be aware of. Right? The qualifications are pretty much the same with some exceptions. And so since we don’t have time to go through all of them, I’m just gonna do the bigger one. I’m gonna start off with the entry level people, right?

APHR is the one, unless you are going for a degree in human resources. And when you do that, what’s gonna happen is you can sit for the SHRMCP, but I do recommend that if you’re entry level, you do APHR right? The, SHRM CP and the PHR have equivalencies to each other.

And so it’s more along that generalist route that you’re looking to do, or a senior, associate, or a junior business partner. That’s perfect. Both of them align with one another. The senior level is all about strategy. You’re doing more. You’re doing less tactical and more strategic, meaning that you’re in the offsite planning meetings.

You are giving status updates to,you’re the one representing, you are a leader of either a specialty within HR or of the function as a whole. That’s where the SCP comes in and the, SPHR comes in. And again, there’s some exceptions for military, certain degrees that you have, number of hours.

[00:16:18] Anthony Howard: Cut through all of that and just have that as your, as kind of like where you are.

[00:16:23] Garrett Jestice: Okay. Awesome. Excellent. that’s perfect advice. What about those who say well, which one should I do? You know? I know the level that I’m at, but do I go, you know, HRCI or do I go the SHRM route and why?

[00:16:36] Anthony Howard: Yeah. Okay. Well, this is what I’m gonna say. HR designation is the HR designation. You are 100% more marketable with one than with none. Right? And so my interpretation of it, and again, this is of me, right? Is that it’s political. Right? You wanna get the designation that’s targeted towards where you want to go.

So if your company has a preference for SHRM, ha get SHRM. If it’s for PHR and you know how you can do, you don’t even have to ask them, just go to the website. See and do a sort by the company name and see what designations they have and align yourself to that. But you wanna know what my true answer is, get both, then you won’t have to worry about none of that. So if you get the PHR and get the SHRM CP, if you get the, and you might think that, oh my God, they’re different tests, blah, blah, blah, blah. I can tell you from experience that the people who take one of the test can take the other equivalency.

I have not had anybody pass one and fail the other. Right. It’s the same thing. It’s just packaged differently, it, and that’s my, you see, I got both of ’em here, right? It has nothing to do about my preference for HRCI or SHRM. It’s just that, you know, to kind of go through that.

If I went through that whole process of study, all of HR. I might as well get it over with what I got the, and then if you pass that gives you even, more motivation to go ahead and just knock that other one out. So that’s my advice that you get, go ahead and get both done, but if you can’t do that or don’t wanna do that, then get the one, get the version, it’s political.

Then you get the one that’s the preference to your hiring manager that you want to go at the company that you looking to go.

[00:18:19] Garrett Jestice: It makes total sense. That’s great advice. So I know we hit on this a little bit earlier, but again, this all sounds just like a ton of work and super expensive. So when people come to you and they’re, they know they want to do this, but they’re a little overwhelmed with the amount of work that it’s gonna take or how expensive it’s gonna be.

You know, what do you tell them? What options are really available for people?

[00:18:41] Anthony Howard: Yeah. and that’s the thing, right? Everybody is different as it relates to the way they study and the way they consume information. And then there’s another dynamic that’s in this whole thing, which is about taking a standardized test. You know, if you’re just getting outta college, that part ain’t going be a problem.

But a lot of, professionals that are getting certified are, you know, they’re, they are working adults and they hadn’t the last time they took a test was to get into, either their graduate program or undergrad SAT or ACT. Right. So really, it really depends on the person. And that’s what I really pride myself in, in doing, is coaching them based off their needs and telling a plan that works best for them. But I’ll what I’ll do for the purposes of this discussion is kind of go over the, what the ideal would be and then you can adjust up or down from here. This is a three, if you are committed to doing this and you are working adult, you are reasonably able to go through the course of study and sit for the exam within three to four months, what does that mean?

That means that, you’ll have to dedicate somewhere between three to four hours a week towards this process and how that you do that is up to you. The best way to study is incrementally because HR material is boring. You’re not reading a Game of Thrones book or nothing like that. Like this is boring stuff.

And so if that’s the case, take it a little at a time. The best way to do it, that I did, this is the part I didn’t have, is being able to, going by going through a course. Is bringing that content to life through examples, the stuff that I’m talking to you about, and that solidifies it even further when you’re able to say, okay, how is this applied in the real world, especially if you hadn’t had any experience around it.

But if, again in three to four months, if you’re consistent with it, or if you’re finding challenges in the material like don’t rush yourself. Like spread it out longer if you need to. It’s not a matter of if it’s when. Right. So yeah, I, you know, I don’t recommend accelerated course, even though I, you know, those are things that we do offer.

I don’t, I, that is a, Hey, I need to hurry up and get it done because I got, this is a requirement for my job, but to really get the it’s three months, like at 12 – 14 and bring it out depending on just how well, and then take a pre take a pretest, like go to the SHRM. They have, you can buy like $50 and get like a pretest so you can kind of gather where you are. You gotta have established a baseline to establish what that study plan will look like. But again, 12, 14 weeks dedicated time to be able to do it. If you have a life expectancy thing that’s happened, then you need to extend that on out. Don’t rush it.

[00:21:27] Garrett Jestice: Yeah, great advice. Excellent. Next question I have for you is really just on getting into the HR profession. And so I know that there’s a lot of people that want to do that and it can be a hard, to know, how do I get into this? Do I need a certification first? Do I need experience first? You know, in fact, I have a friend, a family friend who couple weeks ago, kind of started asking me some of these questions, cuz she knew knows that I host this podcast, interact with people like you and said, you know, she’s been out of work for some time as she’s has some younger kids she’s wanted to get back into it.

She’s never worked directly in an HR function, but she’s worked in, you know, tangential fields. She knows she has this desire to get into HR, but just doesn’t know where to start. So for people like her, what tips can you provide those HR job seekers of where to get started?

[00:22:17] Anthony Howard: Network. So she’s already done number one thing with linking up with you. You need to network at the places that could have your target, even if they don’t have a position to open. Right. And then also you need to network with the people that are in the role that you’re looking to get. Hey, tell me more about the role, would you do what the day in the life would look like? Do you mind, you know, letting me know of any opportunities that come open, it is a nontraditional route, but what I do find, and it’s a lot of that happens here in the south is that it’s not about what, you know, it’s who, you know, and when it comes down to human resources and getting your foot in the door, we’re no different

And why I say that is because the HR profession in itself, and I’m just gonna say like, look, I’m in it. or whatever. Like, we’re really judgemental people. Like I posted something the other day, letting people know that we got a job open, but then I put a disclaimer saying I’m not the hire manager, don’t call me. Right. We don’t refer nobody. We like, that’s the thing. Like we don’t refer anybody, especially if we don’t know ’em. And that’s just part of the whole aspect because we take great pride in our brand and what we do, and all it takes is this one person is mess up and you’re just like, oh, I ain’t taking no more referrals from Anthony.

[00:23:32] Anthony Howard: Right. I just, what saying don’t take it personal as it relates to that, but it requires, but that requires you to build the relationship with the person. Right. So do that also be a part of, of associations as well? like, Hey, like I know that there’s a keynote speaker or whatever, but, the meat, the sauce and everything is the networking.

Like you can’t, you cannot work in this profession and not feel comfortable in talking to somebody who you don’t know. Like it’s just not, you might wanna rethink this thing.

[00:24:01] Garrett Jestice: Yeah.

[00:24:02] Anthony Howard: So, you got network. And network at these conferences network online net, you know, connecting with people. I, you know, I do it all the time.

I reach out and it’s like, oh, that I’ve, I don’t know anybody that work at that company. And it’s, I’m lemme reach out and say, Hey, I would love to network with you. Right. And nurture those relationships, not to the point where you’re distracted from everything else that you’re doing in life. But, you know, Hey, when the birthday come up and that thing come up, like that’s a perfect time.

Hey, you know, or if they congratulate congratulated you a few times, then you’re just like, Hey, thank you for supporting me, like throughout this whole journey. So networking is good. The certification would also help. I wouldn’t say it’s required, but it would be definitely helpful because this is the thing, and this is the data that say that, that says it, there’s and in the entry level phase, There’s only about 3% of people who got, who are certified. So you are actually more marketable at the junior level of certification than you do when you go up the upper ranks, cause more than likely if you a director manage more likely you already have it.

[00:25:05] Garrett Jestice: Mm-hmm mm.

[00:25:05] Anthony Howard: So the, it, what I’m saying is that you actually have more value at that level than any other. So, but it’s not, it is not required, but it’s definitely recommended you definitely stand out.

[00:25:17] Garrett Jestice: Yeah. Interesting. Really good tips. Well, Anthony, this has been such a great conversation. There’s so much you’ve shared. I’m sure we could talk on this topic for, you know, an hour longer, but,

[00:25:27] Anthony Howard: Uh, huh? You can like, come on, bring it,

[00:25:30] Garrett Jestice: that’s right, that’s right. We could just keep going.

Yeah, well, unfortunately we have a, don’t have enough time today, but we really appreciate you joining and sharing some of these tips with some of our listeners, as we do kind of wrap up here, if there are listeners that want to get in contact with you, because they want to ask you additional questions because they wanna work with you, or they, whatever it is, what’s the best way for them to contact you?

[00:25:54] Anthony Howard: Okay. For, to reach out to me directly, I live on LinkedIn. I’m in the feeds. So you can reach me at Anthony Paris Howard. on LinkedIn. Also, you can send me an email at [email protected]

[00:26:10] Garrett Jestice: Excellent. We will drop the link to both of those in the show notes. Last question I have for you, Anthony. You know, typically we like to wrap these up with just our guests sharing a tangible tip that our listeners can do this week. So what’s one thing that you think our listeners can or should do this week to help improve their HR or people functions at their own companies?

[00:26:32] Anthony Howard: Yeah. Get some rest. Pause for a moment. We’ve just come through, a pandemic that has challenged us in every facet of our lives. And for those of you who work in HR, it’s even do believe so, because our employees were going through it. And so you gotta take a pause, relax, tap into something that you get your Zen from, for me, I can’t wait till Game of Thrones come out and then, and late August until then I’m playing the board game.

Okay. I’m back. Just find that thing, find that place, find that, that activity, that, that will allow you to be able to have like a peace of mind. I actually, and also, I have something where like something in the office, it’s not for people who come in here. It’s for me, when I go through the, and I have to, you know, I’m there, I’m in that vineyard, I’m having, siping some wine and I’m relaxing thinking about what my future state will look like.

[00:27:29] Garrett Jestice: love it.

[00:27:30] Anthony Howard: Yeah, that’s my tip. Take care of yourself cuz you can’t take care of anybody else until unless you are taken care of and we’re being challenged in every aspect today.

[00:27:39] Garrett Jestice: Excellent tip. Especially for HR people. We’ve seen definitely a lot of burnout the last few years. So take a minute and relax and recuperate. So thank you so much, Anthony, for taking your time to be with us today. We hope you have a great rest of the day.

[00:27:55] Anthony Howard: Alright you too, Garrett.

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