What can HRPA members expect of their professional regulatory body?

By Claude Balthazard, Ph.D., C.Psych., CHRL
Vice-President, Regulatory Affairs and Registrar at HRPA

HRPA is a dual-object professional organization—it is both the professional association and the professional regulatory body for Human Resources professionals in Ontario. The essential difference between a professional association and a professional regulatory body is that the professional association serves the members whereas the professional regulatory body serves the public.

Professional associations and professional regulatory bodies think of their members differently as well. Professional associations think of their members as clients.  Professional regulatory bodies look at their members as the subjects of regulation.  Not that this is a matter of choice—legislation mandates that professional regulatory bodies put the protection and promotion of the public interest above all other objects.

So then, the question may be ‘as a member when do I know that I am dealing with my professional association and when do I know that I am dealing with my professional regulatory body?’ There are different ways of answering that:

  • Anything that is done with the primary object of promoting and protecting the public interest relates to the professional regulatory body;
  • Anything that involves the exercise of powers delegated through the Registered Human Resources Professionals Act, 2013, relates to the professional regulatory body;
  • Anything that has to do with the establishment, maintenance, development, and enforcement of standards—be they standards of qualification, standards of practice, standards of professional ethics, or standards of knowledge, skill and proficiency– relates to the professional regulatory body;
  • Anything related to registration, certification, quality assurance, complaints and discipline, and the public register relates to the professional regulatory body.
  • Any email or letter that contains the phrase ‘pursuant to the authorities under the Registered Human Resources Professionals Act, 2013,’ relates to the professional regulatory body.

So let’s get back to the question at hand—what can members expect of HRPA as their professional regulatory body?

Members of HRPA can expect the following from their professional regulatory body:

  1. A steadfast commitment to the promotion and protection of the public interest
  2. Measured and considered use of statutory powers
  3. Procedural fairness
  4. Equal treatment
  5. Transparency
  6. Responsiveness

1. A steadfast commitment to the promotion and protection of the public interest

Everything that a professional regulatory body does should find its justification in the promotion and protection of the public interest. This should be no surprise, it is required by law.  This is not as straightforward as it sounds, however.  The public interest is a difficult concept to pin down.  It is easy for the public interest to become a reason given for other more self-serving agendas.  What it means to promote and protect the public interest is a perennial topic among professional regulators.

It does not serve the Human Resources profession well if its professional regulatory body is not seen to act in the public interest.

Unfortunately, the reality is that there is a high level of skepticism among the public and in the media as to whether self-regulation is an effective approach. In fact the phrase regulatory capture was coined to refer to the situation where regulators identify with and advance the interests of the regulated over the interests of those who were intended to be protected by regulation.

As a professional regulatory body, HRPA must not only avoid any bias, it must avoid any appearance of bias.  Professional regulatory bodies must be seen to be incorruptible.  Any appearance that the professional regulatory body is beholden to any commercial interest or special interest group is deadly for the perception of impartiality.

Members can expect that as a professional regulatory body, HRPA will be guided by the promotion and protection of the public interest and that HRPA will avoid any activity or relationship that would or could lead to the appearance of bias.

2. Measured and considered use of statutory powers

The Regulated Human Resources Professionals Act, 2013, gives HRPA significant regulatory powers—but with such powers comes significant responsibility to use these powers in a measured and considered manner.  The fact that such powers are statutory means that, if needed, the courts will support the enforcement of policies established by HRPA.  It also means that all regulatory decisions made by HRPA’s adjudicative committees and staff are subject to judicial review by the courts.

The powers in the Regulated Human Resources Professionals Act, 2013, were delegated by the Legislature because it felt that such powers would be necessary or beneficial for HRPA to have in order to fulfil its public protection mandate.  HRPA cannot shy away from using statutory powers when the use of such powers is called for.

HRPA as a professional regulatory body will never act capriciously. HRPA will use sound decision-making processes in arriving at its regulatory policies.

Members can expect that the exercise of statutory powers by HRPA is done in a correct and responsible manner.

3. Procedural fairness

Procedural fairness is also known as due process. There are two key characteristics of procedural fairness: (1) that all parties have the opportunity to be heard, and (2) that any decision be made by an impartial judge or panel.

What is not always well understood is that adjudicative decisions made at HRPA are made by committees, which are independent of HRPA. HRPA establishes the committees and appoints individuals to these committees—but the adjudicative committees are independent of HRPA’s Board or staff and even have access to their own independent legal counsel.

Furthermore, when the Act calls for the conduct of hearings, such hearings fall under the rules set out in the Statutory Powers Procedure Act, 1990.  This Act sets out the standards of procedural fairness that these hearings must meet.

All in all, members can expect the highest standard of procedural fairness should they be involved in any adjudicative process at HRPA.

4. Equal treatment

Equal treatment refers to a number of different things. For instance, HRPA has strict adherence to published deadlines.  The reason for that is that it is in the nature of some to abide by published deadlines whereas others will expect exceptions to be made for them.  The problem is that this leads to an inconsistent application of rules, which is not fair.

Equal does not mean identical. HRPA has a comprehensive accommodation policy that allows for adjustments to normal assessment procedures.  There are also established processes for requesting extensions in meeting the Continuing Professional Development requirement.  The idea is to apply consistent decision rules to achieve consistent decisions.

Members can expect that no one else will be treated differently than they are because of who they know at HRPA.

5. Transparency

Transparency is very important because it engenders confidence in regulatory processes. At HRPA, there is extensive documentation of all regulatory processes.  As well, disciplinary hearings are public (unless there is a compelling reason to close a hearing).  The outcomes of disciplinary proceedings are also public.

As required by law, HRPA published its annual Fair Registration Practices Report, which relates how HRPA’s registration practices compare to the standards set out in the Fair Registration Practices Code.

HRPA members can expect a professional regulatory body that strives to be as transparent as it can be.

6. Prompt response

From the perspective of a professional regulatory body, members are not customers in any usual sense of that word. Although the professional regulatory body serves the public, there is no reason why it should not deliver a high level of service to all stakeholders.  As a professional regulatory body, HRPA sets response time targets for all manner of enquiries.

HRPA members can expect a professional regulatory body, which provides timely responses to questions and requests.

Although the above was written from the perspective of what members of the profession can expect of their professional regulatory body, the same six dimensions would apply equally to what the members of the public can expect of HRPA.

HRPA as a professional regulatory body wants to exhibit the same level of professionalism that it expects its members to demonstrate. Indeed, having a professional regulatory body that is seen to be trustworthy and deserving of public confidence reflects well on the Human Resources profession as a whole.

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Do we really want to professionalize?

By Claude Balthazard, Ph.D., C.Psych., CHRL
Vice-President, Regulatory Affairs and Registrar at HRPA

That is a really good question—but there are layers to that question. For some years, HRPA asked the following question on its annual member survey: ‘Do you agree that the professionalization of HR is, or should be, an important issue for the profession?’ The results appear to show an overwhelming support for the professionalization of HR.  But then again, what professionalization means is not defined in the survey.  We have seen that professionalization is a quid-pro-quo—that is, the profession has to give to get.  The get is easy—enhanced status, respect, and remuneration.  The give, however, is discussed much less often.  Did the survey respondents carefully consider the gives and the gets of professionalization and decided that the net benefit of professionalization was positive before answering the question?  Probably not.  But this is something that needs to be worked through.  If the support for professionalization is simply a reflection of the idea that it would be nice to have more status, respect, and remuneration as HR professionals, then the support may be shallow.  If professionalization is sold solely based on its benefits, then there is the danger of feeding into this shallow support.  Strong support for professionalization requires that the gives be considered as much as the gets.

chart-2

The equation below summarizes the idea:

net-benefit

Of course, many of the gives and takes are intangibles.  Nonetheless, the equation still makes sense.

What are the gives of professionalization?

There is one aspect which separates professions from other occupations—professions are governed and regulated by a professional regulatory body whereas this is not the case for other occupations. By law, these professional regulatory bodies are required to govern and regulate their members in the public interest.  Simply, there is no way this can happen without introducing costs and obligations that must be borne by the members of the profession.  Even if the professional regulatory body takes a minimalistic approach to professional regulation, the costs and obligations are not insignificant.

There is the requirement to establish various committees such as a complaints committee, a discipline committee, a review committee, a capacity committee, and an appeal committee. Regulatory proceedings must often meet procedural standards which apply to all administrative tribunals.  Regulatory decisions are subject to judicial review by Divisional Court, which is a branch of the Ontario Superior Court.  Members of these statutory committees need to be oriented and trained.  In some jurisdictions, professional regulatory bodies must file annual reports on their regulatory activities.

Maintaining a professional regulatory body also means conducting research into risks posed to the public arising from the practice of the profession.

Participation in the regulatory body’s quality assurance program

In fulfilling its obligation to protect and promote the public interest, the professional regulatory body is required to put in place policies and procedures which ensure that the professionals it regulates are competent and act in an ethical manner. Collectively, these are referred to as quality assurance initiatives.  The most common quality assurance mechanism is to require participation in continuing professional development programs.  In many professions, members are required to submit to practice inspections and/or peer review programs.  Indeed, l’Ordre des conseillers on ressources humaines agréés in Quebec already has a practice inspection program.

Professional liability insurance requirements

Members of regulated professions are often required to carry professional liability insurance. HR professionals who are employees will be covered by the organization’s errors and omissions insurance, but members in independent practice need to purchase their own coverage.  This requirement exists to protect the public by ensuring that members are able to cover any valid claim that could be made.

Constraints on professional practice

One of the obligations of professional regulatory bodies is to govern the practice of its members. An important aspect of this obligation is to issue professional guidance to members.  This professional guidance can be broad as with Codes of Ethics and Rules of Professional Conduct or quite specific as in practice advisories.  In essence, professional guidance tells members of a profession what they can or cannot do.  Some members would believe that it is not the role of the professional regulatory body to tell members how to do their jobs—but it is.

Another constraint on professional practice has to do with limitations on business structure. Many professional regulators regulate the practice of firms that offer professional services.  Firms need to be registered with the professional regulatory body, and members must keep the professional regulatory body informed of any changes in the structure of the business.

Many professions have limitations on advertising.

Professionals are not free to practice their profession in whatever way they see fit.

Being answerable to professional regulatory body

One aspect which distinguishes professionals from other occupations is that they are answerable to their professional regulatory body. Members are required to inform the professional regulatory body of any civil judgments, criminal convictions or misconduct proceedings brought forward by another regulatory body.  Members may be required to inform their regulatory body of a bankruptcy or insolvency event.  Professionals are required to fully cooperate with any investigation into allegations of misconduct on their part or any other investigation by the professional regulatory body for that matter.  It is also the case that professional regulatory bodies have continuing jurisdiction over former members, which means that individuals can no longer avoid investigations and discipline by resigning from their professional regulatory body.

Limitations on privacy and other rights

The courts have reiterated that being a member of a self-regulated profession is a privilege, and that members of such professions must accept certain limitations on their privacy. The public register contains information that some members would prefer not to be made public—for instance, information on previous disciplinary proceedings against them, whether the member has professional liability insurance, and so on.  In fact, in Ontario, the Minister of Health has ordered the regulatory bodies falling under the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to make even more information on the professionals they regulated available to the public.

In addition, in the course of an investigation by the professional regulatory body, an investigator may enter the business premises of members. The latter often causes concern among some members.  However, of the 39 professions regulated by public act in Ontario, all 39 have the power to enter the business premises of members under investigation without a warrant.

At times, being a professional is inconvenient

There are many ways in which being a professional is inconvenient at times. The difference between being professional (adjective) and being a professional (noun) is that for professionals professionalism is not a nice-to-have but an essential commitment to the public.  Professionals are expected to be professional all the time.  Not only are professionals expected to be professional all the time but, as noted above, professionals are accountable to their professional regulatory body for their behaviour as professionals.  Sometimes being a professional means being expected to a stand on principle which may not be popular with some employers and clients—but that is part of being a profession too.

Is it possible to get the benefits of professionhood without incurring the costs and obligations of professionhood?

What is seen as a cost or obligation on the part of the profession is also what creates value of the public. The argument here is that an occupation cannot get the benefits of professionalization without incurring the costs and obligations of professionalization.  In fact, it could be argued that assuming these costs and obligations is exactly what the public uses in deciding whether an occupation is a true profession or not.

Continuing on the path of professionalization means will only increase the costs and obligations borne by the members. In HR our governing bodies are just beginning to become full-fledged professional regulatory bodies.  Up until now, our governing bodies have not really taken on the full responsibility of professional regulation.  As they do, the costs and obligations borne by the members will no doubt increase.  On the other hand, the benefits of professionhood would also increase.

The tricky part, however, is that it would appear that it is the profession and its members that need to make the first move. In other words, the HR profession and its members will need to assume the costs and obligations of professionhood before the public will grant the commensurate benefits of professionhood to the HR profession.

In the established professions, the costs and obligations that come with professionhood are taken for granted—members of these professions have gotten to the point that these are considered just part of the package—but for some HR professionals assuming these costs and obligations may take some getting used to.

The key point

The key point is that to keep on making progress along the path of professionalization, shallow support won’t be enough. Shallow support for professionalization will lead to a timid implementation of measures designed to protect the public and suboptimal levels of compliance on the part of HR professionals.  In either case, that may not be enough to convince the public to grant the full benefits of professionhood.  Of course, the alternative is to fully embrace professionalization, fully aware of the costs and obligations that come along with the benefits.  What is important is that HR professionals are fully aware of the costs and obligations of professionalization as well as the benefits, and that the choice to professionalize is done with full engagement.

 

 

Nobody really likes to be regulated: On the relationship of professionals to their regulatory bodies

By Claude Balthazard, Ph.D., C.Psych., CHRL
Vice-President, Regulatory Affairs and Registrar at HRPA

In a self-regulation regime, the relationship of professionals to their professional regulatory body can be complicated. On the one hand, the professional regulatory body is simply fulfilling a commitment that the members collectively made to promote and protect the public interest by regulating the practice of the profession; and yet, fulfilling this commitment can sometimes lead to a more adversarial relationship between members and their professional regulatory body.  An interesting event that gives insight into this complicated relationship happened in the consultations that preceded the passage of the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010[1] (ONCA).

In August of 2010, the Standing Committee on Social Policy held hearings on Bill 65, the then proposed Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010. The impetus behind the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010 was to reform the governance of not-for-profit corporations by giving individual members more power—powers such as the ability of members to remove any director or directors from office by ordinary resolution at a special meeting, the ability to vote down some of the regulatory provisions the professional regulatory body would pass with respect to them, and give members the right to seek court-ordered investigations.

Four professional regulatory bodies made representations before the Committee: the Ontario Architects Association, the Law Society of Upper Canada, the College of Veterinarians of Ontario, and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario (note that two of these bodies were dual-object professional organizations—the Ontario Architects Association and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario–and two were single-object professional regulatory bodies—the Law Society of Upper Canada and the College of Veterinarians of Ontario).

The arguments put forth by these four professional regulatory bodies were very similar—(1) that the relationship of professional regulatory bodies to their members is not the same as the relationship of non-regulatory bodies to their members, and (2) if Bill 65 passed as proposed, members of professional regulatory bodies could use these powers to hinder the ability of their professional regulatory body to fulfill its public protection mandate.

For instance, the College of Veterinarians of Ontario argued[2]:

“The mandate the College has to regulate its members in the public interest places the College, as the Law Society pointed out, in a completely different relationship to its members than those a charity or a club would have with its organizations”

The Ontario Architects Association argued[3]:

“As a self-regulating profession, the rights of our members, who are regulated by the OAA, are different than the rights of members of a non-profit corporation.”

The Law Society of Upper Canada argued[4]:

“What you have to remember is that even though we are a not-for-profit, without share capital corporation, we are actually in the regulation business, so that our members are the people we regulate.”

For their part, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario noted[5]:

“We are a regulatory body. Frankly, if our members are happy with what we’re doing, we’re not doing our job.”

In the end, the Committee agreed with the professional regulatory bodies and called for exemptions to the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010 for professional regulatory bodies. Indeed, subsection 3 (5) of the Registered Human Resources Professionals Act, 2013, reads:

3 (5)  The Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010 does not apply to the Association, except as may be prescribed by regulation.

What is interesting to note is the similarity of the arguments—the idea is that if given a chance, members, either individually or collectively, would act to limit or disable some of the regulatory powers of their professional regulatory body.

The reason may not be that complicated—nobody really likes to be regulated, and it really doesn’t make that much of a difference whether it’s self-regulation or direct regulation. It does not help that many professions are licensed—members of these professions may not feel that they chose to be regulated.  Interestingly, the issue seems to be the same in professions that are unlicensed such as accounting (with the exception of public accounting).

But regulation is part of a deal—a ‘social contract’ as Sullivan[6] puts it:

“In Canada and the United States the social basis of the extraordinary grant of occupational authority and independence to professionalized occupations such as medicine and law has been a social contract between the profession and the public… In exchange for a grant of authority to control key aspects of their market and working conditions through licensing and credentialling, professionals are expected to maintain high standards of competence and moral responsibility.”

From this perspective, regulation is all about holding up the profession’s side of the contract. What may be happening is that professionals may be losing sight of the quid-pro-quo nature of professional regulation.  Or perhaps there is a belief that the benefits of professionhood can be had without paying the price.

Indeed, many of the obligations and costs of professionhood are immediate and salient (i.e., dues, continuing professional development requirements, mandatory professional liability insurance requirements, various self-reporting requirements, abiding by various rules of professional conduct) whereas the benefits of professionhood are less tangible and less immediate (i.e., professional status, influence, respect, feeling like one is making a positive and valued contribution, remuneration).

The relationship of a professional regulatory body with its members has to be based on more than just the wielding of statutory powers. Without the connection to the benefits of professionhood, all that is left of professional regulation is burden and obligation.  It is important for professional regulatory bodies to remind members of the profession that protecting the public interest is in the enlightened self-interest of members.  The status and trust that the public puts in professionals is there only because professionals hold themselves to high standards of competence and trustworthiness.

Reflecting on the comment made by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario, perhaps the word ‘happy’ is just too much. The aim of a professional regulatory body is not to have ‘happy’ members, but rather ‘fully supportive’ members who understand why their professional regulatory body does what it does and who are confident that their professional regulatory body is doing the right things and doing things right with respect to protecting and promoting the public interest.

[1] There is no firm date when Ontario’s Not-For-Profit Corporations Act, 2010 (ONCA) will take effect. A new technical amendments bill will need to be re-introduced, debated and passed in a future session of the legislature. That means that the ONCA is unlikely to take effect until 2016.

[2] Ontario, Legislative Assembly, Official Report of Debates (Hansard), 39th Parl, 2nd Sess, Sp-204 (23 August 2010) (Ms. Susan Carlyle).

[3] Ontario, Legislative Assembly, Official Report of Debates (Hansard), 39th Parl, 2nd Sess, Sp-204 (23 August 2010) (Ms. Kristi Doyle).

[4] Ontario, Legislative Assembly, Official Report of Debates (Hansard), 39th Parl, 2nd Sess, Sp-206 (23 August 2010) (Mr. Malcolm Heins).

[5] Ontario, Legislative Assembly, Official Report of Debates (Hansard), 39th Parl, 2nd Sess, Sp-204 (23 August 2010) (Mr. Tom Warner).

[6] Sullivan, W. M. (2000).  Medicine under threat: professionalism and professional identity. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 162(5), 673-5.

How can the HRPA serve both the interests of the public and the interests of its members ?

By Claude Balthazard, Ph.D., C.Psych., CHRL
Vice-President, Regulatory Affairs and Registrar at HRPA

The objects of the Association as spelled out in the Registered Human Resources Professionals Act, 2013, (the ‘Act’) are as follows:

Objects of the Association

4. The objects of the Association are,

(a)  to promote and protect the public interest by governing and regulating the practice of members of the Association and firms in accordance with this Act and the by-laws, including,

(i)  establishing, maintaining, developing and enforcing standards of qualification,

(ii) establishing, maintaining, developing and enforcing standards of practice,

(iii)establishing, maintaining, developing and enforcing standard of professional ethics,

(iv) establishing, maintaining, developing and enforcing standards of knowledge, skill and proficiency, and

(v) regulating the practice, competence and professional conduct of members of the Association and firms;

(b) to promote and increase the knowledge, skill and proficiency of members of the  Association, firms and students;

(c)  to promote and protect the welfare and interests of the Association and of the human resources profession;

(d) to promote inter-professional collaboration with other professional bodies;

(e)  to address any other matter that relates to the regulation of its members that the Board considers appropriate.

Objects are concise statements of the ultimate purpose of a corporation. All not-for-profit corporations must state their objects in their articles of incorporation.  Newer legislation such as the Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010, and the Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2009 use the word ‘purposes’ instead of ‘objects’ but the meaning is the same.

Objects are very important to not-for-profit corporations. The powers of a not-for-profit corporation are limited to what is written into its objects (purposes), whereas, typically, the for-profit corporation has no such limits.  In other words, not-for-profit corporations cannot operate outside the boundaries of their objects.  Objects are also important in relation to the duties and liabilities of directors.  Should Board members allow the corporation to undertake activities that are outside the authority of the corporation’s objects, they will become exposed to personal liability for the consequences of those actions.

Even a cursory scan of HRPA’s objects suggests a potential conflict among the objects of the Association. The first object states “to promote and protect the public interest by governing and regulating the practice of members of the Association and firms” and a few lines down one finds “to promote and protect the welfare and interests of the Association and of the human resources profession.” So whose interests does the Association serve—those of the public or those of the Association and of the human resources profession?  What happens when these conflict?  Which takes precedence?

The existence of objects serving the interest of the public and serving the interests of the Association and the human resources profession creates what is sometimes called a dual-object organization.

How can dual-object organizations achieve a balance between public interests and member interests?

Sometimes the issue is put in terms of how the Association should balance the interests of public with the interests of the members.

It should be pointed out that the interests of the public and the interests of the Association and the human resources profession are not always in conflict. Indeed, to a great extent, the interests of the public and the interests of the Association and the human resources profession are congruent.  However, the fact that the interests of the public and the interests of the Association and the human resources profession are congruent in many areas has the unfortunate effect of confusing matters.  For instance, it makes it more difficult to discern the true intent behind a given action, policy, or decision.  Now this confusion would be of no real effect if the interests of the public and the interests of the Association and the human resources profession were always congruent.  However, there are critical moments-of-truth where the interests of the public and the interests of the Association and the human resources profession will diverge, and for that reason it is important to sort out how to manage these two potentially conflicting objects.

Resolving the conflict between serving the interests of the public and serving the interests of the Association and of the human resources profession

It is argued that the objects of the Association must be read in such a way that the interests of the public must trump those of the Association and of the human resources profession. Three lines of argument are presented that point to this conclusion.  These three lines of argument are:

  1. That only legitimate purpose of legislation that creates self-regulating professions is to protect the public interest, and that this overarching purpose must inform the interpretation of the objects of the Association.
  2. The exclusion of HRPA from the application of the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010, indicates that the Legislature understands professional regulatory bodies to be different than other not-for-profit corporations and that the regulatory mandate must prevail over the interests of the members,
  3. The specific language used in the Act reinforces the interpretation that the Legislature understands HRPA to be professional regulatory body first and foremost.

Let’s review each argument in turn.

The primacy of the public-interest is inherent in the nature of self-regulation

William Lahey, Associate Professor of Law, at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law, wrote a paper for CPA Canada in the context of the unification of the accounting professions which dealt with self-regulation[1].  Lahey’s argument for the primacy of the public interest is as follows: the only legitimate purpose for delegating regulatory powers to a self-regulating organization (SRO) through legislation is that it serves the public interest.  Thus, everything that is in the legislation should be interpreted through that lens.

“It is worth stressing that to be self-regulated under legislation means to be self-regulated in the public interest. As explained above, the rationale for any regulation of accountancy is that regulation is needed in order to protect those who require the specialized knowledge and skill of accountants. One implication of this is that the institute/association or Board that it is given legislative authority and responsibility to carry out regulatory functions must be thought of as a public body that is accountable to the public.”

“The rationale for being given legislative control of your own regulation is that this is the best public policy option for protecting and advancing the public interest that is the basis of the decision to regulate in the first place. On this understanding of the nature of the legislative mandate of SROs, in accounting or in any self-regulating profession, member interests must yield to public interest whenever the two conflict.”

But there is another layer in Lahey’s argument, the whole rationale of self-regulation is predicated on the ability to of the members of a profession to put self-interest aside. That professions are given the privilege of self-regulation stems from the ethos of the professions.  If the Legislature did not believe that the members of a profession would be able to act in the public interest, the delegation of self-regulatory powers would be irresponsible.  The premise is, therefore, that the Association will use its regulatory powers in the public interest.

Exemption from the Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010

Subsection 3 (5) of the Registered Human Resources Professionals Act, 2013, states:

Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010 does not apply

(5) The Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010 does not apply to the Association, except as may be prescribed by regulation. 2013, c. 6, s. 3 (5).

Why would the Human Resources Professionals Association be exempted from the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010?  The answer is that the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010 contains provisions that would have granted members powers that might have been used to thwart HRPA’s regulatory mandate.  HRPA is not alone in having been exempted from the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010, virtually all Ontario professional regulators have also been exempted. The Legislature understands professional regulators to be fundamentally different than other not-for-profit corporations.

A discussion that is informative and relevant here relates to the arguments which were made in support of exemptions from the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010 by a number of professional regulatory bodies.  Hearings on the proposed Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010 were conducted by the Standing Committee on Social Policy on August 23, 2010[2].  Four professional regulatory bodies appeared before the Committee: (1) the Ontario Architects Association, (2) the Law Society of Upper Canada, (3) the Ontario College of Veterinarians, and (4) the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario.  All four professional regulatory bodies made essentially the same argument—that professional regulatory bodies need to be exempted from the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010, because of the inherent conflict of interest between accountability to the public and accountability to the membership.

For instance, it was argued that the power of members to remove any director or directors from office by ordinary resolution at a special meeting might cause a chill in a board or council debate over a measure that would protect the public interest but may be unpopular with the profession. One representative for one of the professional regulatory bodies was quite candid in saying “Frankly, if our members are happy with what we’re doing, we’re not doing our job.”

In the end, the government agreed and professional regulators governed by public act were granted exemptions from the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010. It goes without saying that other not-for-profit corporations such as member benefit associations did not receive such exemptions.  Indeed, intent of the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010 was to provide the members of such associations with greater powers and recourse. By exempting HRPA from the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010, the Ontario Legislature was reaffirming its intent that the interests of the public as served by the regulatory mandate should not be defeated or diminished by the interests of the members.

Construction of the text in the Act

In legislation, the choice of words is telling.

Specifically, the fourth object—to promote and protect the welfare and interests of the Association and of the human resources profession—does not explicitly say that HRPA can or should advocate on behalf of its members.  HRPA’s legislation says that HRPA will promote and protect the welfare and interests of the profession. The objects do not talk about undertaking activities that would protect the members. If we assume that the language was drafted with care, this wording was intentional.

There is an important shade of meaning between serving the interests of the profession and serving the interests of the members of a profession.  Indeed, a number of the members of the provincial Legislature who spoke on behalf of the Act (none spoke against the Act) noted how the enhanced regulation of HR professionals by public act would, by creating a robust professional regulatory body for the profession, foster a strong and professional HR profession—an outcome which serves all stakeholders[3].  Fostering a strong and professional HR profession is not quite the same as promoting the interests of the members of a profession.  Now many would agree that a strong and professional HR profession is also in the interest of the members of the profession, but what driving the support for the profession on the part of the Legislature is that it ultimately serves the public interest.

The type of language that is usually seen in the objects for professional associations will generally refer to activities that directed at or on behalf of members. Typical language would include things like:

  • sharing information for the mutual benefit of the members;
  • to represent the members and present their views to other associations and government and regulatory agencies.

This object seems to have been crafted in such a way as to assist HRPA in balancing its public protection mandate with its responsibilities to the members. It suggests, that HRPA should serve its members’ interest on the more global level by ensuring the integrity of the profession and fostering professionalism, rather than promoting the self-interests of members.

The fifth object is often referred to as the ‘basket clause’ because it is intended to capture appropriate purposes and actions of the corporation that may not have been enumerated specifically in the objects.

It is interesting to note that the “basket clause” included in HRPA’s legislation references only matters that relate to “the regulation of its members that the Board considers appropriate.”   This suggests that the Board may undertake activities related to the regulation of the profession that may not be specifically listed in the objects, but with respect to its association functions it should not go outside of what is permitted in 4(c).  The wording of the basket clause also reinforces the interpretation that the essential purpose of the Association is to govern and regulate its members in the public interest.

What does this all mean?

The objects of the Association must be read in such a way that primacy is given to HRPA’s regulatory mandate. At the end of the day, it is not a matter of balancing the interest of the public with the interests of the members.

“To ask the question in this way suggests a tension between the interests of the two constituencies. It suggests that SROs [self-regulating organizations] need to manage this tension (or conflict) by trading one set of interests off against the other in a way that gives some effect to both. This may not be the appropriate way to think of the relationship between public interest and member interests.”

As noted above, to the extent that the public interest is at odds with the member interests, the public interest must take precedence. Rather it is a matter including in the fulfilment of the Associations’ regulatory mandate aspects that are also beneficial to members such as enhancing the competence and professionalism of members.  It is important to keep in mind, however, that the ultimate reason for doing these things is not to serve the interests of the members but to serve the public interest.

[1] Lahey, W., (Undated). Self-Regulation and Unification Discussions in Canada’s Accounting Profession. CPA Canada.

[2] Official Report of Debates (Hansard), Monday 23 August 2010, Standing Committee on Social Policy, Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010. http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/committee-proceedings/committee_transcripts_details.do?locale=en&BillID=2347&ParlCommID=8875&Business=&Date=2010-08-23&DocumentID=25150

[3] Ontario, Legislative Assembly, Official Report of Debates (Hansard), 40th Parl, 2nd Sess, No 82 (5 November 2013) http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/house-proceedings/house_detail.do?locale=en&Date=2013-11-05&detailPage=/house-proceedings/transcripts/files_html/05-NOV-2013_L082.htm#tidyout

The WIIFM of membership

By Claude Balthazard, Ph.D., C.Psych., CHRL
Vice-President, Regulatory Affairs and Registrar at HRPA

WIFFM stands for “What’s in it for me?”  The term is used in sales and marketing to remind salespeople to see the products or services they sell from the point-of-view of the buyer.  WIIFM can be applied to membership in HRPA, where the idea would be to look at membership from the point-of-view of the member or prospective member.  WIIFM is also linked to value and value proposition.  Wikipedia defines value proposition as: “a promise of value to be delivered and acknowledged and a belief from the customer that value will be delivered and experienced.” Value, of course, is in the eye of the beholder; value is more psychological than economic. Different people put different value on the same product or service—some value low price, others value certain features, and still others may value the trendiness of the product or service.  WIIFM can refer to the filter through which individuals view the value proposition; in the sense that value is value as perceived by the customer.

Membership in a professional organization—especially one that is both professional association and professional regulatory body—is complex. This is because much of the value of membership in a professional organization involves intangibles.  It is also complex because of the variety of filters that can be applied to membership in a professional organization.  In other words, membership in a professional organization means different things to different people.

Two value propositions

What is value? Is it simply ‘what you get,’ or is it something more?  The ‘what you get’ is important, but the ‘what you need to give to get’ is equally important.  We can define value as net benefit, or the difference between what one gets and what one needs to give to get.

Net benefit = What you get – What you need to give to get

In regards to membership in HRPA, there are two value propositions. HRPA is a dual-object professional organization: it is both the professional association and the professional regulatory body for Human Resources in Ontario. Professional associations and professional regulatory bodies have distinct value propositions. Professional associations and professional regulatory bodies have different ‘what you get’ and ‘what you need to give to get’. Let’s explore this idea a bit further. Table 1 below gives some of the key ‘what you get’ and ‘what you need to give to get’ value elements for membership in professional associations and membership in professional regulatory bodies. This list is not exhaustive by any means.

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Professional associations are borne out of common interest—individuals practicing the same occupation coming together and sharing information about various issues or interest to members of the occupation. Typically, the requirements of membership in professional associations is minimal—essentially the payment of dues.  In exchange for payment of dues members of professional associations have access to events, networking opportunities, mentoring opportunities, publications, affinity programs, and other membership services.

Membership in a professional regulatory body has a different value proposition. Of course, when a profession is licensed the essence of the value proposition is the right to practice the profession or the right to perform certain acts (i.e., authorized acts).  Nonetheless, even when the profession is not licensed or does not have any authorized acts, the value proposition is similar.  Here, the ‘what you need to give’ goes well beyond the simple payment of dues.  Members of professional regulatory bodies must accept a number of obligations in addition to the payment of dues: being answerable to a professional regulatory body, limitations on privacy and other rights, the requirement to carry professional liability insurance, the requirement to participate in quality assurance programs, being subject to practice inspections, being required to inform the professional regulatory body of bankruptcies and other insolvency events, the requirement to answer to any complaints made with the professional regulatory body, accepting various constraints on professional practice, and so on.  On the other hand, the ‘what one gets for what one gives’ for professional regulatory bodies is pretty unique: access to a title protected by statute, status of being a true professional, the satisfaction that comes from being a true professional and being recognized as such, better remuneration, and a more interesting and fulfilling career.

To summarize, membership in a professional association and membership in a professional regulatory body have very different and distinct value propositions. Each has a different set of ‘what you get’ and ‘what you need to give to get’.

In many professions, the professional association is separate from the professional regulatory body. Individuals will usually belong to their professional regulatory body, but many choose not to belong to their professional association.  These become separate decisions.  For what are known as dual-object professional organizations (accountants, architects, land surveyors, professional geoscientists, professional foresters, and Human Resources professionals), the professional association and the professional regulatory body are the same organization.  For dual object professional organizations, membership in the professional association and membership in the professional regulatory body are linked—it become a ‘package deal’.

WIFFM as filter

As noted above, the WIIFM can be understood as the filter with which an individual sees the value proposition. All of the elements in Table 1 are in play, but individuals can assign very different weights to the elements on either side of the table.  Depending on the weights assigned, individuals can arrive at very different values of net benefit.

Specifically, for each of the elements in Table 1, an individual could assign a value (this could be done as a fixed-sum exercise, where the sum of the values for all elements must add up to 100). Two individuals could assign very different weights to the various elements.  One can imagine an individual who derives more value from membership in a professional association whereas another individual might derive more value from membership in the professional association.  Even within one of the value propositions, individual could vary significantly.  For instance, within the professional regulatory body value proposition, one individual could find value in the ability to put initials after his or her name, whereas another individual may find value in the sense of professionalism and contributing to the advancement of the profession.

It is also the case that individuals can put different value to the ‘what one has to give to get’ side of the equation. For some, the obligations of being a member of a professional regulatory body are no big deal, they are just part and parcel of being a true professional.  In fact some may see value in the obligations of being a member of a professional regulatory body as a reflection of their commitment to professionalism.  On the other hand, some may accept only reluctantly such obligations.

Economists would then note that any decision is relative to other options in the marketplace. Other options would have their net benefit also, and an individual would choose the option with the greatest net benefit.  Again, this plays out differently depending on the weights one assigns to different elements.  For instance, the professional regulatory body value proposition is more unique.  If an individual is looking for a group to belong to, there may be more options in the marketplace; however, if an individual values being a true professional, then there are fewer options.

Indeed, there are vastly different reasons for becoming and remaining a HRPamember.

Another complicating factor in regards to WIIFM is that individuals don’t always know what their true weights are, and just asking them doesn’t always work. Indeed, psychologists would say that individuals do not have direct access to their motivations.  Practically, this means that just asking individuals what they value doesn’t always yield accurate answers.  In other words, some individuals will say that certain aspects are important to them, but make decisions that suggest that other aspects are more important.  This makes figuring out the WIIFM for any individual a bit more difficult.

So let’s recap.

  • The key idea behind WIIFM is to look at membership from the point-of-view of the member or prospective member.
  • Membership in a professional organization has complex value propositions—especially in the case of dual-object professional organizations which are both professional association and professional regulatory body.
  • It is important to consider both the ‘what you get’ and the ‘what you must give to get’.
  • Membership in professional associations and membership in professional regulatory bodies have different value elements (‘what you get’ and the ‘what you must give to get’).
  • The WIIFM is like a filter through which one sees the value proposition. Individuals can and do put different weights on the various value elements, both on the ‘what you get’ and the ‘what you must give to get’ side of the equation.
  • There are vastly different reasons for becoming and remaining a member of the HRPA. In other words, there are many different WIIFMs at play.

Would licensure be a good idea for HR?

By Claude Balthazard, Ph.D., C.Psych., CHRL
Vice-President, Regulatory Affairs and Registrar at HRPA

In an HR Executive Online blog, dated September 2014, Sue Meisinger argues that licensure is not a good idea for Human Resources.  Meisinger’s blog picked up on an idea that always seems to be in the background in any discussion of where the HR profession may be going.  Meisinger gave three reasons why licensure would be a bad idea for HR:

  1. Human Resources already deals with mountains of regulatory requirements,
  2. There is no activity that only a “licensed HR professional” should do, and
  3. The legislative processes across the 50 states could result in a hodgepodge of regulatory requirements that limit or change what HR professionals can now do.

Lets look at each in turn.

We need to start with the purpose of licensure. The purpose of licensure is to protect the public by not only governing and regulating the practice of a profession but making participation in this regulatory regime compulsory.

The first reason is not a valid reason not to regulate or license a profession. If it is in the public interest to regulate or license a profession, the government should do so.  That members of the profession don’t want to be encumbered by additional regulatory requirements is just too bad.  However, not all governments will see the need to protect the public in the same way; also, different jurisdictions will have different tools at their disposal to achieve similar regulatory objectives.  As Meisinger notes, Human Resources professionals already deal with mountains of regulatory requirements.  Indeed, the employment relationship and the workplace are already highly regulated in many jurisdictions.  There are two perspectives here.  One is that the existence of employment and workplace legislation obviates the need to regulate HR professionals.  The other is that the regulation of HR professionals makes sense in that it supports and reinforces employment and workplace legislation. Different jurisdictions will have a different take on this.

The second reason is an interesting one and one that has important ramifications for the HR profession. Of course, there is nothing that HR professionals can do that others cannot—that is what licensure is all about.  The question is whether there is anything that competent and ethical HR professionals can do that others should not be allowed to do because allowing others to do these things would introduce too much risk of harm to the public.

Depending on the regulatory regime and the profession, these prohibitions can be broad or quite narrow. In many professions, the prohibitions are in terms of specific activities that only licensed professionals can carry out—these are sometimes called restricted acts.  In many professions, the restricted acts may be much narrower than the scope of practice of the profession.  In fact, in some professions, only a minority of professionals will engage in restricted acts.  For instance, in many jurisdictions public accounting is licensed but other aspects of accounting are not.

The threats to the public can come from both lack of competence and/or unethical behaviour. Often, professional regulation is a matter of accountability.  Consider public accounting again.  The reason why public accountants are licensed is not to protect public companies from the actions of their auditors but to protect the public (e.g., shareholders, potential investors, governments) from misrepresentation of the financial state of affairs in a given public company.  The purpose of licensure in this case is to ensure that public accountants give independent and unbiased assessments of a company’s financial state of affairs.

If HR were ever to be licensed, it would be based on a rationale similar to public accounting—the idea would not be to protect employers from the decisions, actions, and policies of their HR professionals, but to protect employees from the actions of either HR professionals or the actions of employers as enacted by HR professionals.

From this perspective, the way licensure would come to HR is likely a compliance sign-off. Essentially, that an HR professional is required to put their license on the line and sign-off on the completeness and accuracy of some compliance document.  Public accountants are not what they are because they know more about accounting than the accountants who prepared the financial documents in the first place, public accountants are what they are because they have a fiduciary duty to the public.

The point here is that the activity that only a “licensed HR professional” should do is not the same as finding an activity that only HR professionals can do.  On the other hand, if there is nothing that well-trained HR professionals can do significantly better than untrained individuals, the profession is in trouble, deep trouble.  As a precursor to any thoughts of licensing, HR needs to work out what it is uniquely capable of delivering.

The issue with the last point—that licensure could result in a hodgepodge of regulatory requirements that limit or change what HR professionals can now do–is similar to the first in that licensure does not exist for the benefit of licensed professionals. Any state legislature must do what it deems necessary or justified to protect the public interest.  The fact that one or more other states do not see the same need to protect the public interest, or that they take a different approach to the protection of the public, is not a reason for a state legislature not to act.  Yes, it can create a mess for regulated professionals, but that is just the way it goes.  Meisinger mentioned how lawyers take both a multi-state and state-specific test as part of their bar exams.  Imagine if we argued that lawyers should not be regulated because the states don’t seem to be able to agree on a common set of laws.  Again, the reason why lawyers are regulated is to protect the public, the fact that it makes life somewhat more complicated for lawyers is an unfortunate side-effect.  Another way of looking at it is that if licensing were to come to HR, it would likely start in some states and spread to other states.

The main point here is that to think of licensing as ‘bad for HR’ is to assume that licensing exists to serve the interests of the profession. The key question is whether the licensing of HR is ‘good for the public.’  This could happen in two ways: (1) HR professionals work at evolving an argument for the licensure of HR, or (2) a large scale meltdown such that the state feels compelled to act.  For instance, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act which came into force in July 2002 and introduced major changes to the regulation of corporate governance and financial practice was a reaction to regulatory failure.

Whether licensure happens for HR someday is not the most pressing issue, what is most important is that HR work out what it is uniquely capable of delivering. This is the necessary but not sufficient precursor to licensing, but, more importantly, it is core to any claim to being a profession.  Otherwise, HR just becomes just a collection of things that a loose community of individuals who think of themselves as Human Resources professionals do.  Then, having defined one or more activities that HR professionals are uniquely prepared to do, the next step would be to convince the state that having others carry out these activities brings about an unnecessary or unacceptable level of risk for the public.  However one feels about licensure for HR, it is clear that the profession is not at the point where this can seriously be considered.

Is regulation a four-letter word?

By Claude Balthazard, Ph.D., C.Psych., CHRL
Vice-President, Regulatory Affairs and Registrar at HRPA

Before 2008, the words regulation, regulator, and regulatory did not appear anywhere at HRPA; after 2008 these words started appearing in all sorts of places—webinars, documents, strategy documents, and annual reports.  How did this come about? and perhaps more importantly why did this come about?

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For many, especially in business, regulation is a four-letter word. It is synonymous with red tape, bureaucratic meddling, and extra costs.  Even Industry Canada, in a 1994 report of the Small Business Working Committee offered the following definition of regulatory burden[1]:

“Regulatory burden is essentially government burden. The burden of government is the intervention and interference of government in the operations of a business. … It is the cost involved in complying with regulatory requirements, collecting taxes and responding to information demands from government. And it is the administrative hurdles, the lack of customer service, the delays, the uncertainties and the frustration involved in dealing with public bureaucracy.”

From this perspective, regulation is at best a necessary evil; and at worst an unnecessary evil[2]—certainly not something one would wish upon oneself. But we chose to become a regulated profession nonetheless. Why?

One of the most straightforward answers to this question comes from an unlikely place—a Harvard Business Review blog post by Roger Martin, who was the Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto at the time[3].

“Many years ago, the consulting firm I worked for got the mandate to do a broad review of health discipline regulation. While one might think that the various medical professions would have lobbied the lead partner on the project to recommend excluding them from any regulatory burden, the exact opposite was the case.”

Martin expresses the business view well—regulation is something to be avoided; but he found that the exact opposite for many professions. He goes on to explain why.

“One after another, wannabe professions — from shiatsu massage therapists to mind-body-spirit healers — traipsed into our offices to argue for why they needed to be regulated. They all longed to be taken seriously and regulation was their ticket… And frankly, if a profession isn’t regulated, we pay almost no attention to it in any event.”

So the idea is that for professions, regulation means legitimacy and being taken seriously, and there really isn’t any substitute. Being regulated is the difference between being a ‘wannabe’ profession and being a real profession.  Given this quid-pro-quo, most fledgling professions wanting to be recognized as legitimate will pursue regulation (how many succeed is another matter, however).

Of course Martin’s analysis is made from the point of view of business, regulation is still a burden but for professions the benefits of being regulated outweigh the costs of being regulated.

There is also the difference between regulation and self-regulation. Self-regulation is a privilege that is accorded to professions.  Professions, because they are professions, are trusted by government to regulate their own profession in the public interest.  Self-regulation means that the government deems a profession and its members to be mature enough to self-regulate.  It also gives the professions more control over their destiny.

If there is going to be regulation, then self-regulation is better than government regulation.

There may also be more than just being taken seriously and being seen to have the maturity to manage one’s affairs as a profession at stake. There is a more cynical view as well.  Some sociologists who study the professions explain the desire for professional regulation as a simple matter of self-interest. Here the benefits of regulation are seen to be the ability to command a better price for professional services through market closure.  In fact the Competition Bureau of Canada continues to have the same concerns (even though the Bureau would itself be seen by business as part of the regulatory burden).  In December 2007, the Competition Bureau of Canada Self-regulated professions: Balancing regulation and competition[4] considered the issue.  This report reviewed the extant literature at the time which did support the conclusion that professions did profit from regulation.

More recently, in the US, the White House released a report Occupational Licensing: A Framework for Policymakers[5]. This report relates that estimates find that unlicensed workers earn 10 to 15 percent lower wages than licensed workers with similar levels of education, training, and experience.

It is interesting to find that business bloggers, sociologists, and even government agencies all see self-gain in the desire of occupations to be regulated.

A different perspective

There is another perspective however. Many writers, in listing the defining characteristics of the professions, include statements such as an ideology that asserts greater commitment to doing good work than to economic gain and to the quality rather than the economic efficiency of work[6],” “The service is for the public good[7],” or “A commitment to duty above self-interest or personal gain.[8]

Regulators share this idea of serving the public good. Indeed, most regulators have protection and promotion of the public interest as their primary object.  The ideology of service of the professions and the public interest mandate of regulators as sympathetic to each other.  That is why many professionals do not see regulation as entirely a burden.  Many professionals see the ‘burdens’ of regulation as another facet of this service ideal, not something to be avoided or minimized.

So we have various reasons why occupations pursue regulation, from legitimacy, to financial self-interest, to a common purpose in serving the public good. As with many endeavors, motivations are often complex and layered.

HRPA and the ‘R’ word

Although HRPA became a regulator back in 1990 with the passage of the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario Act, 1990; it took some time for HRPA to think of itself as a regulator.  To be fair, in the 1990 Act, the mention of regulation was somewhat buried.  It did not appear in the objects of the Association, but the section which enables the Board to pass by-laws.  In the 1990 Act, the Board was given the authority to pass by-laws “regulating and governing the conduct of members of the association in the practice of their profession, by prescribing a code of ethics, rules of professional conduct and standards of practice.”

In the 2013 public act which replaced our 1990 Act, the reference to regulation is clearer and up-front.  The first object of the Association now reads: to promote and protect the public interest by governing and regulating the practice of members of the Association and firms in accordance with this Act and the by-laws.”

There can no longer be any doubt—HRPA is a regulator. The interesting twist, however, is that because the Association is comprised of its members, every member of HRPA has become a regulator in a way.  Regulation is not something that the Association does to its members, it is something that the Association does on behalf of its members in fulfilment of a commitment all Associations members have made collectively to promote and protect the public interest.  Seen this way, regulation, regulator, and regulatory are not words to be avoided.

[1] www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/061.nsf/eng/rd01339.html

[2] Although, after the financial meltdown of 2008, there was a lineup of economists, politicians, and others to praise regulation as the reason why the Canadian banking system weathered the storm so well.

[3] Martin, R. L. (2010, July 1). Management is not a profession — but it can be taught. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved July 16, 2015, from https://hbr.org/2010/07/management-is-not-a-profession.htm

[4] A copy of this report can be downloaded from http://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/vwapj/Professions-study-final-E.pdf/$FILE/Professions-study-final-E.pdf

[5] White House (July, 2015). Occupational Licensing: A Framework for Policymakers. Washington DC: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/licensing_report_final_nonembargo.pdf.

[6] Freidson, E. (2001). Professionalism: The third logic. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press/Blackwell.

[7] Millerson, G. (1964). The qualifying associations: A study in professionalization. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

[8] Schultze, R. (2008).  What does it mean to be a self-governing regulated profession? Journal of Property Tax Assessment and Administration. 4(3), 41-53.

Eight reasons why HRPA members should feel confident that any investigation into a complaint made against them would be fair and impartial

By Claude Balthazard, Ph.D., C.Psych., CHRL
Vice-President, Regulatory Affairs and Registrar at HRPA

In its annual membership survey, HRPA includes questions about professionalization and professional regulation. There is one question which focuses on the perceived fairness and impartiality of investigations carried out by the Association.  The results are shown below.  As a professional regulatory body, these results are cause for some concern, although the situation may also represent an opportunity.

Thirty-six per cent of HRPA members who responded to the 2015 HRPA Membership Survey indicated that they did not know or were unsure as to whether any investigation carried out by HRPA into a complaint made against them would be fair and impartial[1].  Although a don’t know/not sure response is better than a negative response, confidence in the fairness and impartiality of their decisions means everything for professional regulatory bodies, and therefore this kind of result is cause for concern.

The interesting thing, of course, is that very few survey respondents would have had any direct experience with HRPA’s complaints process; in fact, very few survey respondents would even have had indirect experience with HRPA’s complaints process (i.e., knowing someone who did have direct experience with HRPA’s complaints process). If not on the basis of direct or indirect experience with HRPA’s complaints process, one can only speculate as to the basis for such ratings.  It is worthy of note that 36% of survey respondents did not seem willing to presume that HRPA would investigate any complaint against them in a fair and impartial manner.

This article is not about HRPA’s complaint process per se, but rather about (1) the relative lack of confidence in HRPA’s ability to investigate complaints in a fair and impartial manner, (2) why HRPA members should be confident in the fairness and impartiality of any investigation pursuant to a complaint, and (3) what may be done to increase the level of confidence members have in the fairness and impartiality of HRPA’s complaints process.

[1] The question was also asked in the 2014 HRPA Member Survey. The 2014 results for this question were virtually identical to the 2015 results presented here.  This would appear to be a stable result.

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Many members do not seem to realize just how much HRPA’s regulatory processes and procedures, including the complaints process, have evolved in the last few years.   So let’s tackle the question directly—why should HRPA members be absolutely confident that any complaint made against them would be investigated in fair and impartial manner.

Just to be clear, however, let’s quickly note that the mandate of the Complaints Committee is not to make a decision as to whether the member is guilty of misconduct or not but rather to decide whether there should be a disciplinary hearing into the matter. It is what is called a screening committee.  To make this decision, the Complaints Committee is required to carry out a thorough investigation into the allegations and makes a decision based on three criteria:

  1. If the allegation(s) were to be true, would the matter be serious enough to merit a referral to discipline?
  2. Is there enough evidence to support prosecution of the case?
  3. Is it in the public interest to prosecute the case?

If the panel of the Complaints Committee believes all three criteria to be met, the matter is referred to the Discipline Committee. (Actually, before the matter is sent to discipline the case is reviewed by Independent Legal Counsel (see below) to get a legal opinion on the viability of the case.  There is also a process to deal with complaints that appear to be without merit without having to carry out a thorough investigation into the allegation(s).

Eight reasons why HRPA members should feel confident that any investigation into a complaint made against them would be fair and impartial:

1. Because, as a quasi-judicial body, HRPA is subject to statutory requirements which set standards of procedural fairness for all key proceedings.

The key to understanding the standard of fairness and impartiality in place at HRPA is to understand that it exercises its regulatory powers pursuant to statute. As a result, many of its proceedings are subject to the Statutory Powers Procedure Act, 1990—the same rules that apply to tribunals such as the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal, and the Ontario Labour Relations Board, to name just a few.

2. The regulatory decisions made by HRPA, including decisions of the Complaints Committee, are subject to judicial review by Divisional Court (a division of the Ontario Superior Court).

Should a given process fail to live up to the standards of fairness and impartiality, the affected party could appeal the decision to HRPA’s Appeal Committee and, ultimately, to Ontario’s Divisional Court. Divisional Court would specifically consider matters such as the fairness and impartiality of the process that led to the decision.

3. Panels are comprised of three members, including panels of the Complaints Committee, and one member of the panel is often an external member (not a member of HRPA).

Although members may be concerned as to whether they will be treated fairly throughout the complaints process, there is also the concern on the part of the public that the Association would ‘go soft’ on its members. To mitigate against even an inadvertent or unwitting bias in favour of the member, panels will usually include an external member of the public with no affiliation to the Association.

4. When appropriate, Complaints Committee panels will appoint an external investigator to conduct the investigation.

These external investigators are very skilled at being fair and remaining impartial—that is what they do. These investigators are thorough.  Should the case be referred to discipline, the investigation report would be disclosed to the member, and the investigator would be subject to cross-examination.

5. Adjudicative panels, including panels of the Complaints Committee, have access to Independent Legal Counsel (ILC) for advice on procedural matters.

Adjudicative panels, including panels of the Complaints Committee, have access to their own independent legal counsel (paid for by the Association). This independent legal counsel is made available to the panel to provide advice on matters of procedure.

6. HRPA has implemented an extensive Code of Conduct for Members of Adjudicative Committees which all members of adjudicative committees must agree to abide by before taking on and adjudicative duties.

HRPA’s Code of Conduct for Members of Adjudicative Committees deals with matters such as conflict of interest, the conduct of hearings, decision-making, confidentiality and the handling of confidential information, and behaviour vis-à-vis other members of the panel.  This Code of Conduct can be downloaded from the HRPA website.

7. HRPA provides training to all its adjudicative committees, including the Complaints Committee, on matters such as decision-making, writing reasons, and so on.

HRPA has developed a series of webinars on various facets of regulatory adjudication such as regulatory governance, panel assessment skills, conducting investigations, conducting hearings, writing reasons, and process review skills. Members of adjudicative committees, including the Complaints Committee, must complete the requisite modules before they can be assigned to a panel.

8. The Registered Human Resources Professionals Act, 2013, imposes a duty of confidentiality upon all who are involved in the administration of the Act (this would include anyone involved in the review of any complaint).

Indeed, the Act provides for fines of up to $25,000. for any person convicted of breaching the duty of confidentiality. This would be a decision made by the courts, not by HRPA).

What can or should be done about it?

As noted above, an interesting aspect of these results is that the vast majority of survey respondents have had no direct nor indirect experience with HRPA’s complaint process. This means that the responses to this question had to be based on something else than direct or indirect experience with the complaints process itself.  But this will always be the case; unless one becomes the subject of a complaint, or files a complainant against another member, or one becomes a member of the Complaints Committee, it will be difficult to see the workings of the complaint process and how investigations are handled close up. And given the confidentiality of the information and the sensitivity of the matters being investigated, information about cases that were not sent to discipline will always be general in nature.  In fact, there is currently a push in Ontario to make more information about complaints against professionals available to the public.  Many professional regulatory bodies are concerned about this trend because allegations can be unjustified.

One can understand the skepticism vis-à-vis the handling of complaints on the part of the public. There are many that believe that self-regulation is an impossible ideal—that even professionals are unable to set aside self-interest and be able to discipline their own.  Here we find that members are also not quite convinced that their professional regulatory body can handle complaints in a fair and impartial manner.

In regards to complaints, HRPA members are most concerned about retaliatory complaints by union members and recently terminated employees. Obviously, this a concern that is grounded in reality.  Nonetheless, in fulfilling its public protection mandate, the Association cannot presume that any complaint filed by a union member or disgruntled employee must, by the very same fact, be retaliatory or vexatious.  By law, HRPA must consider the complaint and investigate the allegations in a fair and impartial manner.

So what can be done to increase the level of confidence of HRPA members into the fairness and impartiality of the complaints process?

The first step is to recognize that it is an issue. That members of the public are somewhat skeptical of HRPA’s complaints process is unfortunate but understandable; that HRPA’s members are somewhat unconvinced of the fairness and impartiality of its complaints process is more concerning because, after all, maintaining a fair and impartial complaints process is a responsibility that HRPA members have taken on collectively.

One thought is that this may be a reflection of where the HR profession is along the regulatory maturity curve. In many ways, HRPA is just beginning to understand its role as a professional regulatory body.  As the profession becomes more comfortable with its role as a professional regulatory body, so will the level of confidence of members in its workings.

 

What is the minimum amount of formal training required to obtain a designation in Human Resources management?

By Claude Balthazard, Ph.D., C.Psych., CHRL
Vice-President, Regulatory Affairs and Registrar at HRPA

This article considers the following question: ‘What is the minimum amount of formal training required to obtain a designation in Human Resources management?’ However, before we answer that question we need to provide a context for the question.

Why is formal training important?

Simply, higher education has always been associated with the professions. Over the years, the number of available designations has increased significantly. By designation, we mean some kind of protected title usually accompanied with the right to put certain initials after one’s name.  Obviously, there are more designations than there are professions.  Although all professions have some designation or another, not all designations confer professional status.  Human Resources management claims to be, or aspires to become, a true profession—therefore the amount of formal training required to obtain a designation in HR is directly relevant to this claim.

There are many articles and books which discuss the characteristics or attributes of professions—some reference to advanced training is invariably among the list of characteristics or attributes. For instance, Friedson (2001) included in his widely cited list of characteristics of professions that an occupation must have “a formal training program lying outside the labor market that produces the qualifying credentials, which is controlled by the occupation and associated with higher education.” But not all formal training is the same or equivalent.  In this regard, an earlier article by Greenwood (1957) made some relevant points.

One of Greenwood’s (1957) attributes of a profession was a systematic body of theory“The crucial distinction is this: the skills that characterize a profession flow from and are supported by a fund of knowledge that has been organized into an internally consistent system, called a body of theory.” (Greenwood, 1957, p. 46).

From there, Greenwood noted some of the implications of this for the training and education of professionals—“Acquisition of the professional skill requires a prior or simultaneous mastery of the theory underlying that skill. Preparation for a profession, therefore, involves considerable preoccupation with systematic theory, a feature virtually absent in the training of the non-professional.”

And from there—“Because understanding of theory is so important to professional skill, preparation for a profession must be an intellectual as well as a practical experience. On-the-job training through apprenticeship, which suffices for a nonprofessional occupation, becomes inadequate for a profession. Orientation in theory can be achieved best through formal education in an academic setting.”

Experience alone is not sufficient for professions; or putting it the other way around, if experience is sufficient to teach all that one needs to know to work in a given occupation, then it is not a profession. This is not a theory vs. experience argument—both have a role to play.  It does means that academic preparation and experience are not interchangeable however.  The role of on-the-job experience (articling, internships, and supervised practice) is to transform academic knowledge into professional competence.  Experience without the academic preparation doesn’t work (again, if it does that is fine but it does mean that we don’t have a profession).  On-the-job experience is not a good vehicle to teach theory.  Academic preparation without experience, doesn’t work either.  It takes both and in sequence.  The bottom line is that allowing experience to substitute for formal training is inconsistent with the claim that a given occupation is a profession.

Professions have been associated with degree-level education offered through the formal educational system. For instance, Sir Alan Langlands’ working definition of professions are those occupations “where a first degree followed by a period of further study or professional training is the normal entry route and where there is a professional body overseeing standards of entry to the profession” (Langlands 2005). This is consistent with the approach described above—the first degree delivers the foundation in theory, this is followed by more advanced or applied professional training aimed at transforming theoretical knowledge into professional competence.

Another angle on the issue is to consider the difference between professions, semiprofessions, and trades. The essence of the distinction has to do with the intellectual or cognitive demands of the work—in short, the amount of theory involved or required.

Compared to professions, semiprofessions have shorter training periods, a less specialized and less highly developed body of knowledge and skills, and markedly less emphasis on theoretical and conceptual bases for practice.  Compared to semiprofessions, trades have even shorter training periods, an even less highly developed body of knowledge and skills and very little if any focus on theory.

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The much greater emphasis on emphasis on theoretical and conceptual bases for practice has a number of implications for the training of professionals. First, much more time is spent initially in acquiring the theoretical and conceptual knowledge bases.  Then, practice is understood as the practical application of this theoretical and conceptual knowledge base.  Practice cannot be separated from the theoretical and conceptual knowledge base.  For professionals, there is learn-by-doing—but this learn-by-doing must come after having acquired the theoretical and conceptual knowledge base and this learn-by-doing is all about learning how to apply this theoretical and conceptual knowledge base.  This theoretical and conceptual knowledge base is best acquired in formal academic programs of study.  In professions, on-the-job learning is not used to acquire the requisite theoretical and conceptual knowledge base.

By way of contrast, trades will often use an apprenticeship approach. Apprenticeships are workplace-based training programs involving in-school studies and supervised on-the-job training, during which the apprentice learns the knowledge, skills, tools, and materials of an occupation.  Apprenticeships are very different from the supervised practice of fledgling professionals.

Discussions of the level of the formal training are complicated by the fact that different jurisdictions use different frameworks. There are a few benchmarks, however.  For instance, the Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region (Lisbon Recognition Convention) is an international agreement between 55 signatory states which relates to the assessment of foreign credentials.

Some designations require coursework which falls outside the formal education system and which would not be credited by the formal educational system. For instance, many continuing studies programs are non-credit—which means that recognized degree-granting institutions will not recognize the coursework.

The minimum amount of formal training required to obtain a designation

The table below gives the minimum amount of formal training required to obtain a certain designation. Note that the minimum amount of formal training required to obtain a certain designation is not necessarily the typical amount of formal training candidates will have.

Designation Granting body Minimum formal training
Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) None
Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL) Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) Degree + degree-level HR coursework
Certified Human Resources Executive (CHRE) Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) None
Professional in Human Resources (PHR) Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) High school diploma
Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) High school diploma
Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) None
Human Resource Management Professional (HRMP®) Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) High school diploma or global equivalent
Human Resource Business Professional (HRBP®) Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) High school diploma or global equivalent
Professional in Human Resources – California (PHR-CA) Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) High school diploma
Senior Professional in Human Resources – California (SPHR-CA) Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) High school diploma
SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) Less than a bachelor’s degree includes: working toward a bachelor’s degree; associate’s degree; some college; qualifying HR certificate program; high school diploma; or GED.
SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) Less than a bachelor’s degree includes: working toward a bachelor’s degree; associate’s degree; some college; qualifying HR certificate program; high school diploma; or GED.
Associate Member (Assoc CIPD) Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) None
Chartered Member (Chartered MCIPD) Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) None
Chartered Fellow (Chartered FCIPD) Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) None
Certified Compensation Professional (CCP) WorldatWork Society of Certified Professionals None
Certified Benefits Professional (CBP) WorldatWork Society of Certified Professionals None

The table clearly shows that for the most part the minimum level of formal training required to get an HR designation is quite low—certainly below that which is usually expected of professions. For the most part, HR designations accept the substitutability of experience or achievement with formal training in HR.

Notes

Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA)

Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) uses different approaches for each of its three levels of designation. At the HR administrator level, the CHRP includes an alternate route—with 10 years of professional experience in HR it is possible to qualify for the CHRP designation without any specific coursework in HR.  At the CHRL level, candidate must have a degree and have completed degree-level coursework in HR.  There are no alternate routes.  At the CHRE level, individuals qualify by documenting that they have demonstrated required competencies.  There is no required academic preparation or formal training to qualify for the CHRE.

Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI)

The Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) has partial substitutability of experience and formal education.

For instance, eligibility to write the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) exam is as follows:

  • A minimum of 1 year of experience in a professional-level HR position with a Master’s degree or higher, OR
  • A minimum of 2 years of experience in a professional-level HR position with a Bachelor’s degree, OR
  • A minimum of 4 years of experience in a professional-level HR position with a high school diploma

This means that an individual with a high school diploma could qualify for the PHR designation.

Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM)

Similarly, SHRM also has a partial substitutability. Although less experience is required for individuals with undergraduate or graduate degrees, individuals with high school diplomas can qualify for the SHRM designations.

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)

CIPD offers an experience assessment route. CIPD’s experience assessment process is based on a portfolio approach.  Candidates are required to demonstrate that their experience and achievements meet the expectation set out for the level of designation aimed for.  Formal academic training is not required to qualify by means of the experience assessment route.  For those who qualify via the experience assessment there are no further exams or assessments.

WorldatWork Society of Certified Professionals

The WorldatWork Society of Certified Professionals designations were included as examples of specialist HR designations. The WorldatWork Society of Certified Professionals designation require passing exams on a number of topics.  Formal academic training is not required to sit any of the exams.  Candidates with high-school diploma or even less could be granted the designation.

What about the outcome-based logic?

In its essence, the ‘outcome-based’ approach reflects the idea that ‘it is not how you get there that matters, it is whether you get there that matters.’ In other words, it really doesn’t matter how individuals acquire the requisite competence as long as they do.  If one can measure the competence to do HR, there is no need to require individuals to have complete specific coursework.  From the ‘outcome-based’ perspective, requiring both the process (e.g., coursework) and the outcome (demonstration of requisite knowledge of the field) is redundant.

The outcome-based approach is sometimes seen as a no-nonsense bottom line approach. Although the outcome-based approach does not state that it is possible to become competent without formal training, there seems to be a tacit assumption that this is the case.

This author is not aware of any licensed or regulated profession that has adopted a thoroughgoing outcome-based approach.

For one, there is a practical Catch-22 for licensed professions. In licensed professions, it is not possible to acquire professional competencies entirely on-the-job.  By the time fledgling professionals are learning on-the-job, they have already passed a number of hurdles including formal training.  There are two needs: (1) the need to provide developing professionals with learning experience and (2) the need to keep the public safe.  In licensed professions, developing professionals are only allowed to acquire ‘real’ experience rather late in the process, after significant amounts of training.  It is only in voluntary occupations, that individuals can practice their occupation without any specific training.

There is also a logical challenge to the model outlined by Greenwood (1957).   If Greenwood (1957) is correct, it would simply not be possible to become a competent professional without the solid grounding in theory.

All of this can be reconciled if we think of Human Resources management as in transition from a trade to a profession. For instance, many of the certification processes currently in place in HR are based on the trade model (although the word profession is used).  Both are possible, it really depends on what we would like to see for the HR trade/profession.  It is a matter of choice.  We can chose to see Human Resources management as a trade.  Here, formal training in HR is de-emphasized and becoming an HR professional is more a matter of on-the-job learning.  On the other hand, we could choose to see Human Resources Management as a profession.  Here, formal training in HR would be more rigourous and compulsory.  On-the-job learning would still be important, but this would only be available to those who have the formal academic foundation in HR.

The outcome-based approach works now because current practice in HR is not strongly tied to theory. Presently, it is possible to be successful in HR without a solid grounding in theory.  But if HR were to change and become more firmly grounded in theory, this might not be the case in, say, 20 years’ time.

Right now, Human Resources management has features of both a trade and a profession. There is no doubt that this this is holding Human Resources back in the eyes of those who would want to see Human Resources management as a true profession.  Who can take claims that Human Resources management is a profession seriously when individuals with no more than a high-school diploma can get an HR designation?

 

Competency Drift

By Claude Balthazard, Ph.D., C.Psych., CHRL
Vice-President, Regulatory Affairs and Registrar at HRPA

Competence is important but it is not enough—it is not enough to provide safe and effective services to the public and clients and it is not enough for HR professionals to be, and be seen as, true professionals. To be clear, this is not to say that competence is not important—it is; the point is that competence is not enough. A good place to start fleshing out the argument is with a model put forth by George Miller, an expert in the assessment of clinical competence in the medical education context, some time ago.

Miller was reflecting on the assessment of clinical competence in the context of medical education. Although Miller was thinking in terms of assessment, his model also represents steps in the acquisition of professional competence, and he introduces a new idea at the top—that competence is not enough.

Now Miller’s terminology needs some explanation, so let’s quickly work through the levels of his model. The first level refers to what an individual knows. This level is about knowledge, referring to basic facts, the kind that are often assessed by multiple-choice tests. The next level Miller refers to as know how. It refers to knowing how to use the knowledge which comprised the first level. This could be described as process knowledge—how to analyse and interpret information, reach conclusions, and develop action plans. The next step Miller calls show’s how—the ability to demonstrate one’s know-how. Finally, Miller’s fourth level is does—what the individual will actually do in real life outside of the assessment context.

Miller

The work of Zubin Austin, PhD., Professor at the University of Toronto, is helpful in understanding the gap between being able to demonstrate competence when required to do so and actually demonstrating competence in a day-to-day context. Dr. Austin coined the phrase ‘competency drift’ to refer to what sometimes happens to professionals.

What if we were to define competency not as “the quality of being adequately or well-qualified physically or intellectually” but instead defined it as “demonstration that you are firing on all pistons, giving it your all?”

Austin’s main idea is that there are many professionals who are “adequately or well-qualified physically or intellectually” but who are not “firing on all pistons, and giving it their all” on a day-in, day-out basis.

There are many things that may be going on. Professionals with experience may begin to lose their edge, they may become a bit lazy or complacent about their competence, and they may suffer from burnout or become jaded and cynical. Although some of the factors that contribute to widening the gap between competence and what a professional actually does on an everyday basis are related to length of tenure as a professional, other factors may be present from day one.

In Austin’s view, the opposite of competence is not incompetence but disengagement. According to Austin, there are many causes of professional disengagement:

  • Day-to-day professional practice is tough…and getting tougher
  • Decreasing professional autonomy
  • Increasing demands for output leading to burnout and fatigue
  • Increasing litigiousness on the part of those impacted by the decisions made by professionals
  • Generally, there has been a decline in the trust and respect for professionals amongst the general public

If there was a single word to refer to what it takes to overcome professional disengagement, it would be professionalism—but not the everyday popular notion of professionalism but professional-strength professionalism.

Professional-strength professionalism

Right off the bat, we need to put out there that there is a difference between how the term professionalism is used in everyday discourse and how it is used in the professions. In everyday discourse the term professionalism refers to behaviours that one would expect of professionals—courteous, reliable, respectful, honest, responsible and competent. In the context of professional regulation, the concept of professionalism is deeper and more than just a nice to have. Professional-strength professionalism is an essential aspect of protection of the public.

“Neither economic incentives, nor technology, nor administrative control has proved an effective surrogate for the commitment to integrity evoked in the ideal of professionalism.”

Sullivan, 1995

“But ultimately, public protection depends on the culture of self-responsibility and accountability that goes with professionalism. And if the regulatory process loses some of its ability to support the professionalism on which public protection depends, that’s a problem.”

William Lahey, 2011

Two differences come to mind between the popular meaning of professionalism and the professional-strength professionalism proposed here—the popular meaning of professionalism focuses on behaviours whereas the regulatory-strength meaning of professionalism focuses on fundamental values, and intrinsic motivation such as a fundamental commitment to integrity.

This provides a new definition of professionalism—professionalism is what enables professionals to ‘fire on all pistons, and give it their all’ in the practice of their profession every day and over time. Professionalism is what keeps the gap between competence and what a professional will do on an everyday basis to a minimum.

Now it is not as if there is a lot of research on the difference between HR professionals who lose their professional edge as opposed to those who are able to maintain it despite it all. However, it is highly unlikely that HR professionals are immune to competency drift—so we will likely need to extrapolate from other professions. Dr. Austin noted that the following professionals were at greatest risk for competency drift:

  • Older practitioners (>25 years post-graduation),
  • Practitioners who work in sole proprietorships; and
  • Internationally educated professionals

It would appear, then, that the presence of a professional peer group is an important factor in sustaining professionalism and mitigating competency drift.

What does this all mean for HR professionals?

Being a self-regulated profession means that as a profession and as individual professionals, Human Resources needs to recognize and manage issues such as competency drift. This is part of our obligation to the public. Interestingly, of all the complaints against HR professionals filed with the Association, very few have to do with incompetence. Overwhelmingly, complaints relate to issues where the professional knew better and would have been able to describe the right course of action if they had to. In other words, at least in relation to professional complaints, failures of professionalism would appear to be more important than failures of competence.

One of the costs of self-regulation is perpetual vigilance in regards to those factors that relate to the quality of professional services delivered by members, both at the Association and the individual professional level.