CHCOs to develop HR certification program

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Chief Human Capital Officer’s Council wants to create a certification program for federal HR professionals. And one of the first steps to doing that is the launch of phase 2 of the HR University.

The goal of HR University, which OPM officially launched in February, is to provide a one-stop shop for all federal HR professionals. The site begins to standardize training and the career paths for federal HR workers.

Federal employees can find a host of different services from more than 30 courses, of which some are free and some cost money, to the core competencies in specific HR areas to self assessment tests to figure out the career path that is best for the employee.

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“The meat of the website is under the HR career maps,” said Julie Brill, OPM’s manager for training and executive development in the Employee Services office. “We developed career path information and career guide information for each of the specialty areas and some potential other career paths that people take from the full performance level such as executive resources or policy experts in the agencies.”

Brill said whether an employee is in the early part of their career, mid-career or at a senior level, they can find the skills and abilities needed to advance through the different HR functions in a standard and OPM-approved approach.

The platform also provides general and specific OPM-approved training courses for HR employees.

The council and the Office of Personnel Management rolled out the new platform more widely to vendors and others in the federal community Wednesday at the Partnership for Public Service in Washington.

The administration is taking on the professionalization and standardization of several functions across the government. OPM and the Office of Management and Budget are working on a career path for program and project managers. OPM and the Chief Information Officer’s Council also issued core competencies for cybersecurity professionals last month.

Kathryn Medina, the executive director of the CHCO Council, said part of the way for the council to professionalize HR workers is through standard training courses. And that is where vendors come in and why the council rolled out the site more broadly.

“We invited vendors so they could all hear the same information at the same time so everybody got a fair playing field and they all understood how we are moving forward,” Medina said. “We have some technical issues to work out within OPM, but we wanted to put it out there so they have a starting point.”

Medina said about 40 vendors showed up to get a glimpse of how HR University will work.

She said the HR University builds on OPM’s e-training e-government initiative. Under that program, agencies could buy learning management systems and learning content management systems from approved vendors. OPM awarded a $225 million multiple award contract to 50 vendors in 2005.

“We went to the same team that did the GoLearn platform, and said we want to develop the HR-U but want to make sure agencies running their LMS systems can plug into this so they have the benefit of using the HR-U and they are not losing anything,” Medina said. “We are using the same setup so if the agreement is signed between the agency and OPM that we will have that relationship from HRU to their agency the same way that they have it from GoLearn to their agency.”

Medina said as OPM and the council have been collecting courses to populate the HR University’s listings, they have found that many courses are vendor provided.

“We are moving from government only course offerings into looking at what we have and what we have been able to share, and the way we have been able to maximize our resources throughout government and then identifying where there are the gaps and where we still need courses, and where those courses will come from,” she said. “We are working within OPM and the working group to develop the process by which we will be open for business and open to allowing vendors to provide course that meet our criteria that will be vetted by OPM and featured and access through the HR University.”

The 30-to-40 courses currently available are a mix of free and fee-for-service. The council continues to collect agency courses to add to the site.

Employees must register to take courses, and the HR University tracks their training over time.

All of this leads to the final phase of the HR University-developing a certification program for human resources professionals.

Medina said there are several models in the private sector, but the council wants to bring together experts to determine what a federal certification would look like.

“When we talked about why we haven’t been able to do HR University over the course of the past 10 years that was sort of one of the things we talked about, not putting the cart before the horse, making sure we have this foundation and we can build on it from there,” she said. “We want your thoughts and feedback on how to build the site itself. We want cooperation not just from agencies who are providing course work, but from vendors as well to provide more content. We want your thoughts and ideas for building a certification program for the federal government.”

The Defense Department is moving toward certification of its HR professionals.

Johnny McLean, DoD’s chief of field advisory services, said the military has certificate programs, but not official certification. DoD is trying to consider all the pieces of what certification would mean.

McLean and other HR managers at the event say the HR University was built the CHCOs for the HR community and that is why it will be successful.

“We all know the role of the HR specialist is changing. It’s changing from process oriented to formulating strategies,” McLean said. “HR professionals are achieving organizationwide goals and serving as active contributors to the business team. The HR University tool helps to address the need for the employee, helps them understand what is required of them in this new changing environment.”

Medina said the council will continue to ask the HR community for input and suggestions to make the university better.

“The most critical thing is to continue build it based on the needs,” she said. “We have survey sheets. We have feedback on the website. We will be out in the field over the summer at different venues, [Federal Executive Boards] , getting feedback and really just tailoring the website to meet the needs of the HR community.”

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