The SHRM Certification exam is the Society for Human Resource Management credentials that help you stand out as an expert in the Human Resources field which also makes you a valuable asset to your organization.
Having this certification will set you apart in the HR field showing that you not only know the facts and figures of this field but that you also know how to implement that knowledge into your workplace.
The SHRM Certification exam is a competency-based exam which means that you’ll have the opportunity to prove that you have the knowledge and skills that are necessary to work in the Human Resources field.
The SHRM exam gives on-the-job scenarios and realist work situations that you may encounter on a daily basis. The exam is also built on one Body of Knowledge that can be applied across various industries, geographic locations, career levels, and job responsibilities.
If you plan on taking the SHRM Certification exam to advance in your career, we’ve put together this free SHRM Certification course to help you do your best on the exam!
The SHRM Certification exam contains 160 questions that are to be answered within 4 hours. Out of the 160 questions, 95 are knowledge items and 65 are situational items.
Knowledge items are used to assess your understanding of factual information. The questions are focused on the two content areas of the SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge (SHRM BoCK).
These two areas of the SHRM BoCK are:
- Behavioral Competencies
- HR Expertise (HR Knowledge)
There are eight behavioral competencies which are grouped into three clusters:
These competencies describe the behaviors and attributes that are necessary for HR professionals to perform their job effectively.
The main components of the Leadership cluster include:
- Setting and implementing a vision and direction for the HR function
- Managing or leading organizational initiatives
- Influencing and supporting other organizational members and leaders
- Driving an ethical organizational environment
- Behaving in an ethical manner that promotes high standards of integrity and the organization’s values
There are two competencies in the Leadership cluster: Leadership & Navigation and Ethical Practice.
Leadership & Navigation is the knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics that are needed by professionals to organize and accomplish their HR goals as well as to create a vision and mission for HR that aligns with the direction and culture of their organization.
Leadership & Navigation is also leading and promoting organizational change, managing the implementation and execution of HR initiative as well as promoting the role of HR as a key business partner.
The foundational knowledge for the Leadership & Navigation cluster:
- Leadership theories
- People management techniques
- Motivation theories
- Influence and persuasion techniques
- Trust and relationship-building techniques
Leadership & Navigation is made up of four sub-competencies:
- Navigating the organization: Works within the parameters of the organization’s hierarchy, processes, systems, and policies.
- Vision: Defines and supports a coherent vision and long-term goals for HR that support the strategic direction of the organization.
- Managing HR initiatives: Executes the implementation and management of HR projects or initiatives that support HR and organizational objectives.
- Influence: Inspires colleagues to understand and pursue the strategic vision and goals of the HR and the organization.
Ethical Practice is the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics that are needed in order to maintain high levels of professional and personal integrity. It is also about how to act as an ethical agent who promotes core values, integrity and accountability through the organization.
The foundational knowledge for the Ethical Practice cluster:
- Ethical business principles and practices
- Anonymity, confidentiality, and privacy principles and policies
- Codes of conduct
Ethical Practice is made up of three sub-competencies:
- Personal integrity: Demonstrates high levels of integrity in personal relationships and behaviors
- Professional integrity: Demonstrates high levels of integrity in professional relationships and behaviors
- Ethical agent: Cultivates the organization’s ethical environment, and ensures that policies and practices reflect ethical values
The key components of the Interpersonal cluster include:
- Building and maintaining professional relationships
- Successfully managing conflict and negotiation
- Clearly and effectively communicating with stakeholders
- Operating within a diverse and global workforce
The Interpersonal cluster is broken down into three behavioral competencies:
- Relationship Management
- Global & Cultural Effectiveness
Relationship Management is the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics that are needed for an HR professional to create and maintain a network of professional contacts as well as to build and maintain those relationships. Relationship Management is also working as an effective member of a team and managing conflict while supporting the organization.
The key concepts of Relationship Management include:
- Types of conflict
- Conflict resolution styles
- Conflict resolution techniques
- Negotiation, tactics, strategies, and styles
The Relationship Management cluster includes five sub-competencies:
- Networking: Building a network of professional contacts both within and outside of the organization
- Relationship building: Building and maintaining relationships both within and outside of the organization
- Teamwork: Participating as an effective team member, and builds, promotes, and leads effective teams
- Conflict Management: Managing and resolving conflicts by identifying areas of common interest among the parties in conflict
- Negotiation: Reaches mutually acceptable agreements with negotiating parties within and outside of the organization
Communication is the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics that are needed to effectively craft and deliver concise and informative communications, to listen to and address the concerns of others as well as to transfer and translate information from one level of the organization to the other.
The key concepts for Communication are:
- Elements of communication
- General communication techniques
- Communication techniques for specialized situations
- Communications media
Communication is broken down into three sub-competencies:
- Delivering messages: Developing and delivering communications that are clear, persuasive and appropriate to the topic and situation.
- Exchanging organizational information: Effectively translating and communicating messages among organizational levels
- Listening: Understanding information that is provided by others
Global & Cultural Effectiveness the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics that are needed to value and consider the perspectives and backgrounds of all parties as well as to interact with others in a global context and to promote a diverse and inclusive workplace.
The key concepts for Global & Cultural Effectiveness include:
- Cultural intelligence
- Cultural norms, values, and dimensions
- Techniques for bridging individual differences and perceptions
- Best practices for managing globally diverse workforces
- Interactions and conflicts of professional and cultural values
Global & Cultural Effectiveness if broken down into three sub-competencies:
- Operating in a diverse workplace: Demonstrating openness and tolerance when working with people from different cultural traditions
- Operating in a global environment: Effectively manages globally influenced workplace requirements to achieve organizational goals
- Advocating for a diverse and inclusive workplace: Designs, implements and promotes organizational policies and practices to ensure diversity and inclusion in the workplace
The key concepts for the Business cluster are:
- Ensuring that HR contributes to the strategic direction of the organization
- Understanding the business and the environment in which it operates
- Designing and implementing business solutions to meet human capital needs
- Contributing to and leading change management initiatives
- Gathering and analyzing data to inform business decisions
The Business cluster contains three behavioral competencies:
- Business Acumen
- Critical Evaluation
Business Acumen is the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics that are needed to understand the organization’s operations, functions and external environment. It is also applying business tools and analyses that inform HR initiatives and operations that are consistent with the strategic direction of the organization.
The key concepts of the Business Acumen are:
- Business terms and concepts
- Analyzing and interpreting business documents
- Elements of a business case
- Business intelligence techniques and tools
- Financial analysis and methods for assessing business health
Business Acumen is broken down into three sub-competencies:
- Business and competitive awareness: Understand the organization’s operations, functions, products and services, and the competitive, economic, social and political environments in which the organization operates
- Business analysis: Applies business metrics, principles, and technologies to inform and address business needs.
- Strategic alignment: Aligns HR strategy communications, initiatives, and operations with the organization’s strategic direction
Consultation is the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics that are needed to work with organizational stakeholders in evaluating business challenges and identifying opportunities for the design, implementation, and evaluation of change initiatives. It is also about building ongoing support for HR solutions that meet the changing needs of customers and the business.
The main concepts for Consultation are:
- Organizational change management theories, models, and processes
- Consulting processes and models including the contributions of consulting to organizational systems and processes
- Effective consulting techniques
- Key components of successful client interactions
- Methods for design and delivery of HR service functions and processes
Consultation is broken down into five sub-competencies:
- Evaluating business challenges: Works with business partners and leaders to identify business challenges and opportunities for HR solutions
- Designing HR solutions: Works with business partners and leaders to design HR solutions and initiatives that meet business needs
- Implementing and supporting HR solutions: Works with business partners and leaders to implement and support HR solutions and initiatives
- Change management: Leads and supports maintenance of or changes in strategy, organization and/or operations
- Customer interaction: Provides high-quality customer service and contributes to a strong customer service culture
Critical Evaluation is the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics that are needed to collect and analyze qualitative and quantitative data as well as to interpret and promote findings that evaluate HR initiatives and inform business decisions and recommendations.
The key concepts for Critical Evaluation include:
- Survey and assessment tools
- Sources of data
- Basic concepts in statistics and measurement
- Interpretation of data and charts
- Using data to support a business case
Critical Evaluation is broken down into four sub-competencies:
- Data advocate: Understands and promotes the importance and utility of data
- Data gathering: Understands how to determine data utility, and identifies and gathers data to inform organizational decisions
- Evidence-based decision-making: Uses the results of data analysis to inform the best course of action
HR Expertise (HR Knowledge)
The technical HR Knowledge section covers the principles, practices, and functions of HR management. This section emphasizes the HR professional roles and integrates what you know and applying what you know into HR practice.
The HR Knowledge section is grouped into three knowledge domains:
The People Knowledge Domain covers how HR professionals relate to people. This domain is broken down into areas including:
- HR Strategic Planning
- Talent Acquisition
- Employee Engagement & Retention
- Learning & Development
- Total Rewards
HR Strategic Planning includes the necessary activities that are needed for developing, implementing and managing the direction that is required to achieve success for the organization and to create value for stakeholders.
The key concepts for HR Strategic Planning include:
- Approaches to project management and processes
- Concepts of systems thinking and components of an organization system
- Organizational mission, vision and values, and their relation to strategic management and planning
- Project planning, monitoring and reporting methods, and tools
- Project leadership, governance, and structures
- Role of strategic management and planning in creating and sustaining competitive advantage
- The strategic planning analysis framework
- Strategic planning process
- Systems theory and input-process-output models
Talent Acquisition includes the activities that are involved in building and maintaining a workforce that meets the needs of the organization.
The key concepts for Talent Acquisition include:
- Approaches to employee onboarding
- Approaches to sourcing
- Employment categories
- Job analysis and identification of job requirements
- Job offer contingencies
- Job offer negotiations
- Methods for creating and maintaining a positive employer value proposition and employment brand
- Methods for external and internal employee recruitment
- Methods for selection assessment
- Talent acquisition metrics
Employee Engagement & Retention is the activities that are aimed at retaining high-performing talent, solidifying and improving the relationship between employees and the organization, creating a thriving and energized workforce, and developing strategies to address performance expectations from employees at all levels.
The key concepts for Employee Engagement & Retention include:
- Approaches to developing and maintaining a positive organizational culture
- Approaches to recognition
- Creation, administration, analysis, and interpretation of employee attitude surveys
- Creation, planning, and management of employee engagement activities
- Employee lifecycle phases
- Employee retention concepts and best practices
- Influence of culture on organizational outcomes
- Interventions for improving job attitudes
- Job attitude theories and basic principles
- Job enrichment/enlargement principles and techniques
- Key components of, and best practices associated with, performance management systems
- Methods for assessing employee attitudes
- Principles of effective performance appraisal
- Retention and turnover metrics
- Types of organizational cultures
- Workplace flexibility programs
Learning & Development includes activities that enhance the knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics and competencies of the workforce in order to meet the organization’s business needs.
The key concepts of Learning & Development include:
- Approaches to coaching and mentoring
- Career development
- Developmental assessments
- Knowledge-sharing techniques and facilitation
- Learning and development approaches and techniques
- Learning and development program design and implementation
- Learning evaluation
- Learning theories
- Needs analysis types and techniques
- Organizational analysis
- Techniques for career development
Total Rewards is the design and implementation of compensation systems and benefit packages. These compensation systems and benefit packages are what employers use to attract and retain employees.
The key concepts of Total Rewards include:
- Approaches to gathering compensation- and benefits-related market and competitive intelligence
- Basic accounting and financial knowledge for managing payroll
- Compensation philosophies
- Compensation plans for common and special workforce groups
- Job evaluation for determining compensation and benefits
- Leave plans and approaches
- Other benefits
- Other compensation
- Pay practices and issues
- Remuneration and labor market data collection and interpretation
- Remuneration data analysis
- Retirement planning and benefits
- Total rewards metrics and benchmarks
The Organization Knowledge Domain relates to how HR professionals carry out their responsibilities effectively. They need to know how to create an effective HR that is aligned with their organizational strategy as well as how to promote positive relationships with employees.
The Organizational Knowledge Domain covers areas including:
- Structure of the HR Function
- Organizational Effectiveness & Development
- Workforce Management
- Employee & Labor Relations
- Technology Management
Structure of the HR Function is about the people, processes, theories, and activities involved in the delivery of HR-related services that create and drive organizational effectiveness.
The key concepts for the Structure of the HR Function include:
- Approaches to HR operational integration
- Approaches to HR function/service models
- Approaches to HR structural models
- Elements of the HR function
- HR-function metrics
- HR staff roles, responsibilities and functions
- Outsourcing of HR functions
The Organizational Effectiveness & Development section covers the overall structure and functionality of the organization and involves measurement of long- and short-term effectiveness and growth of people and processes. This section also covers the implementation of necessary organizational change initiatives.
The key concepts covered in Organizational Effectiveness & Development includes:
- Application of behavioral assessments
- Intergroup dynamics
- Intragroup dynamics
- Organizational design structures and approaches
- Organizational performance theories, structures, and approaches
Workforce Management includes HR practices and initiatives that allow the organization to meet its talent needs.
The key concepts that are covered under Workforce Management include:
- Analysis of labor supply and demand
- Approaches to restructuring
- Best practices and techniques for knowledge management, retention, and transfer
- Leadership development and planning
- Succession planning programs and techniques
- Techniques for organizational need-gap analysis
- Workforce planning approaches, techniques and analyses
Employee & Labor Relations includes anything that deals with the organization and its employees regarding the terms and conditions of employment.
The key concepts that are included in Employee & Labor Relations are:
- Approaches to retaliation prevention
- Approaches to union-organization relations
- Causes of and methods for preventing and addressing strikes, boycotts and work stoppages
- Disciplinary procedures and approaches
- Employment rights, standards, and concepts according to the International Labor Organization (ILO)
- Techniques for disciplinary investigations
- Techniques for grievance and complaint resolution
- Types and development of compliance and ethics programs
- Types and structures of organized labor
- Types of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and their advantages and disadvantages
- Unfair labor practices, according to the ILO
- Unionization approaches, methods, and management
Technology Management involves using existing, new and emerging technologies to support the HR function, and the development and implementation of policies and procedures governing the use of technologies in the workplace.
The key concepts found in Technology Management include:
- Approaches to electronic self-service for basic HR and people management functions
- Data and information management
- HRIS capabilities and use
- Policies and procedures for procurement
- Policies and practices for technology and social media use
- Software for recruiting and applicant tracking
The Workplace Knowledge Domain covers how HR knowledge is crucial and related to the workplace. This domain covers how HR professionals need to know how to manage organizational risks and threats to the safety and security of the employees. It also covers how to contribute to the well-being and betterment of the community.
The Workplace Knowledge Domain includes functional areas such as:
- HR in the Global Context
- Diversity & Inclusion
- Risk Management
- Corporate & Social Responsibility
- U.S. Employment Law & Regulations
HR in the Global Context focuses on the role of the HR professional in managing global workforces to achieve organizational objectives.
The key concepts for HR in the Global Context include:
- Best practices for international assignments
- Requirements for moving work
Diversity & Inclusion covers activities that create opportunities for the organization to leverage the unique backgrounds and characteristics of all employees.
The key concepts of Diversity & Inclusion include:
- Approaches to developing an inclusive workplace
- Approaches to managing a multi-generational/ aging workforce
- Demographic barriers to success
- Issues related to acceptance of diversity, including international differences
- Workplace accommodations
Risk Management includes the identification, assessment, and prioritization of risks as well as the application of resources to minimize, monitor and control the probability and impact of those risks.
The key concepts for Risk Management include:
- Approaches to a drug-free workplace
- Approaches to qualitative and quantitative risk assessment
- Business recovery and continuity-of-operations planning
- Emergency and disaster preparation and response planning
- Enterprise risk management processes and best practices and risk treatments
- Legal and regulatory compliance auditing and investigation techniques
- Quality assurance techniques and methods
- Risk sources and types
- Security concerns and prevention
- Workplace/occupational injury and illness prevention investigations and accommodations
Corporate Social Responsibility includes representing the organization’s commitment to operate in an ethical and sustainable manner by engaging in activities that promote and support philanthropy, transparency, sustainability, and ethically sound governance practices.
The key concepts covered under Corporate Social Responsibility include:
- Approaches to community inclusion and engagement
- Creating shared value
- Developing CSR-related volunteer programs
- Organizational philosophies and policies
- Principles of corporate citizenship and governance
- Steps for corporate philanthropy and charitable giving
The U.S. Employment Law & Regulations section refers to the laws and regulations in the United States regarding employment and the provisions that set the parameters and limitations for the HR functional area and for organizations overall.
There are six key concepts of the U.S. Employment Law & Regulations:
- Employee Relations
- Job Safety and Health
- Equal Employment Opportunity
- Leave and Benefits
- Miscellaneous Protection Laws