Business Leaders & Human Resources


Scott W. Lester, University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire, Jason Fertig, University of Southern Indiana, and Dale J. Dwyer, University of Toledo, published “Do Business Leaders Value Human Resource Certification?” in Online First in Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies.

Professor Lester discussed their process in his responses below.

Who is the target audience for this article?

Anyone associated with the Human Resource Management (HRM) profession or considering entry into the profession.

What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

HR majors at various universities were required or strongly encouraged to take the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification exam to make them more marketable. With the HRCI’s decision to change the eligibility requirements to not permit anyone without requisite exempt-level HR experience to sit for the exam, recent graduates are adversely affected.

Were there findings that were surprising to you?

We were not surprised. Organizations tend to see certification as a good thing for the company’s reputation, but based on the limited empirical research available, certification doesn’t appear to have a major impact on career related decisions once the certified employee has been hired.

How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

For a practitioner standpoint, organizations need to start using certification as one criterion for evaluating career opportunities. If HR professionals don’t perceive much added value from having attained certification, then they will be less likely to take the necessary steps to maintain that certification.

From a research standpoint, it would be helpful to gather larger data sets investigating the perceived value of certification as reported by HR professionals themselves. To what extent do they see value in attaining certification? What benefits are reported most? What anticipated benefits fail to be fulfilled?

How does this research fit into your body of work/line of research?

In an earlier study (Lester, Mencl, Bourne, Maranto, & Keaveny, 2010) my colleagues and I found that those HR majors who passed the PHR exam were two and a half times more likely to attain a job in the HR profession upon graduation than their counterparts who either did not take or did not pass the exam. The current study was meant to advance our knowledge of the extent to which certification benefits individuals once they have secured employment in the field.

How did your paper change during the review process?

We provided greater detail on the differences between voluntary certifications like the PHR and required licensure like the CPA. We also ran some additional analyses and added a graphic to better illustrate the results.

What,if anything, would you do differently if you could go back and do this study again?

It would have been nice to secure a larger sample, but we were pleased that we got enough responses to complete this initial investigation.

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