PHR / SPHR Exam For Dummies
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The PHR/SPHR exam content is less murky then you may think. The Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) has established the exam components in a very systematic way. Your ability to take what HRCI is telling you and apply it to exam conditions is directly correlated to a pass or fail. For this reason, it behooves you to train yourself to the exam objectives and core knowledge requirements. For that, you need to know what they are.

Business Management and Strategy

This functional area of Business Management and Strategy (BMS) relates to having working knowledge of general business principles. It includes the development of the mission, vision, and values; the process of strategic planning; the creation of business plans; and the knowledge of the roles of different business units and structures. It also places heavy emphasis on metrics. The HRCI knowledge items for BMS are

  • 01 The organization's mission, vision, values, business goals, objectives, plans, and processes.

  • 02 Legislative and regulatory processes

  • 03 Strategic planning process, design, implementation, and evaluation

  • 04 Management functions, including planning, organizing, directing, and controlling

  • 05 Corporate governance procedures and compliance; for example, Sarbanes-Oxley Act

  • 06 Due diligence processes; for example, M & A and divestitures (SPHR only)

  • 07 Transition techniques for corporate restructuring, M & A, offshoring, and divestitures (SPHR only)

  • 08 Elements of a cost-benefit analysis during the life cycle of the business (such as scenarios for growth, including expected, economic stressed, and worst-case conditions) and the impact to net worth/earnings for short-, mid-, and long-term horizons

  • 09 Business concepts; for example, competitive advantage, organizational branding, business case development, corporate responsibility

Workforce Planning and Employment

Approximately 9 of the 16 knowledge objectives in Workforce Planning and Employment (WPE) relate to the recruiting and selection process. WPE makes up 24 percent of the PHR exam, so it's wise to spend a good bit of your study time on recruiting and selection. Other elements include the unwinding of employment, forecasting labor, and assessing talent for business re-organization or growth. The HRCI knowledge items for WPE are

  • 11 Applicable federal laws and regulations related to workforce planning and employment activities; for example, Title VII, ADA, EEOC Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures, Immigration Reform and Control Act

  • 12 Methods to assess past and future staffing effectiveness; for example, costs per hire, selection ratios, adverse impact

  • 13 Recruitment sources for targeting passive, semi-active, and active candidates; for example, employee referral and social networking/social media

  • 14 Recruitment strategies

  • 15 Staffing alternatives; for example; outsourcing, job sharing, and phased retirement

  • 16 Planning techniques; for example, succession planning and forecasting

  • 17 Reliability and validity of selection tests/tools/ methods

  • 18 Use and interpretation of selection tests; for example, psychological/personality, cognitive, motor/physical assessments, performance, and assessment center

  • 19 Interviewing techniques; for example, behavioral, situational, and panel

  • 20 Impact of compensation and benefits on recruitment and retention

  • 21 International HR and implications of global workforce for workforce planning and employment (SPHR only)

  • 22 Voluntary and involuntary terminations, downsizing, restructuring, and outplacement strategies and practices

  • 23 Internal workforce assessment techniques; for example, skills testing, skills inventory, and workforce demographic analysis

  • 24 Employment policies, practices, and procedures; for example, orientation, on-boarding, and retention

  • 25 Employer marketing and branding techniques

  • 26 Negotiation skills and techniques

Human Resource Development

After employment has been launched in the workforce planning stage, it becomes necessary for HR practitioners to develop and retain the employees. Human Resource Development (HRD) communicate the need for career development, management, and executive coaching, and in the case of SPHR candidates, a solid understanding of global issues and training metrics. The HRCI knowledge items for HRD are

  • 27 Applicable federal laws and regulations related to human resources development activities; for example, Title VII, ADA, and Title 17 (Copyright law)

  • 28 Career development and leadership development theories and applications; for example, succession planning and dual career ladders

  • 29 Organizational development (OD) theories and applications

  • 30 Training program development techniques to create general and specialized training programs

  • 31 Facilitation techniques, instructional methods, and program delivery mechanisms

  • 32 Task/process analysis

  • 33 Performance appraisal methods; for example, instruments and ranking and rating scales

  • 34 Performance management methods; for example, goal setting, relationship to compensation, and job placements/promotions

  • 35 Applicable global issues; for example, international law, culture, local management approaches/practices, and societal norms (SPHR only)

  • 36 Techniques to assess training program effectiveness, including use of applicable metrics; for example, participant surveys, and pre- and post-testing)

  • 37 Mentoring and executive coaching

Compensation and Benefits

In Compensation and Benefits (CAB), candidates are asked to understand concepts related to pay practices and structures. It's not just about base pay either. Knowledge of variable pay plans, non-cash compensation, and employee benefits is necessary to successful navigate this area. The HRCI knowledge items for CAB are

  • 38 Applicable federal laws and regulations related to compensation, benefits, and tax; for example, FLSA, ERISA, FMLA, and USERRA

  • 39 Compensation and benefits strategies

  • 40 Budgeting and accounting practices related to compensation and benefits

  • 41 Job evaluation methods

  • 42 Job pricing and pay structures

  • 43 External labor markets and/or economic factors

  • 44 Pay programs; for example, variable and merit

  • 45 Executive compensation methods (SPHR only)

  • 46 Noncash compensation methods; for example, equity programs and noncash rewards

  • 47 Benefits programs; for example, health and welfare, retirement, and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

  • 48 International compensation laws and practices; for example, expatriate compensation, entitlements, and choice of law codes (SPHR only)

  • 49 Fiduciary responsibilities related to compensation and benefits

Employee and Labor Relations

Striving for balance between employees and their employers, and in some cases, the union, is the information you need to understand for the Employee and Labor Relations (ELR) content area. Immerse yourself in relationship management in the form of retention strategies, union practices, and management of the separation process. The HRCI knowledge items for ELR are

  • 50 Applicable federal laws affecting employment in union and nonunion environments, such as laws regarding antidiscrimination policies, sexual harassment, labor relations, and privacy; for example, WARN Act, Title VII, and NLRA

  • 51 Techniques and tools for facilitating positive employee relations; for example, employee surveys, dispute/conflict resolution, and labor/management cooperative strategies

  • 52 Employee involvement strategies; for example, employee management committees, self-directed work teams, and staff meetings

  • 53 Individual employment rights issues and practices; for example, employment at will, negligent hiring, and defamation

  • 54 Workplace behavior issues/practices; for example, absenteeism and performance improvement

  • 55 Unfair labor practices

  • 56 The collective bargaining process, strategies, and concepts; for example, contract negotiation, costing, and administration

  • 57 Legal disciplinary procedures

  • 58 Positive employee relations strategies and nonmonetary rewards

  • 59 Techniques for conducting unbiased investigations

  • 60 Legal termination procedures

Risk Management

Spend your study time wisely in the Risk Management (RM) content area, because it's a low percentage of content for both the PHR and SPHR exams. Go deep in the labor laws, such as OSHA, ADA, ADAAA, and HIPAA, because they're cross-functional. Make sure and take an expanded view of these concepts with information on workplace violence, injury and illness prevention programs (IIPP), and substance abuse in the workplace. The HRCI knowledge items for RM are

  • 61 Applicable federal laws and regulations related to workplace health, safety, security, and privacy; for example, OSHA, Drug-Free Workplace Act, ADA, ADAAA, HIPAA, and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act

  • 62 Occupational injury and illness prevention (safety) and compensation programs

  • 63 Investigation procedures of workplace safety, health, and security enforcement agencies

  • 64 Return-to-work procedures; for example, interactive dialog, job modification, and accommodations

  • 65 Workplace safety risks; for example, trip hazards, and blood-borne pathogens

  • 66 Workplace security risks; for example, theft, corporate espionage, and sabotage

  • 67 Potential violent behavior and workplace violence conditions

  • 68 General health and safety practices; for example, evacuation, hazard communication, and ergonomic evaluations

  • 69 Organizational incident and emergency response plans

  • 70 Internal investigation, monitoring, and surveillance techniques

  • 71 Employer/employee rights related to substance abuse

  • 72 Business continuity and disaster recovery plans; for example, data storage and backup, alternative work locations, and procedures

  • 73 Data integrity techniques and technology; for example, data sharing, password usage, and social engineering

  • 74 Technology and applications; for example, social media, monitoring software, and biometrics

  • 75 Financial management practices; for example, procurement policies, credit card policies and guidelines, and expense policies

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Sandra M. Reed, SPHR, is the owner of EpocHResources, a consulting firm specializing in the unique HR needs of small businesses. She has authored learning modules and case studies for the Society for Human Resource Management. She is the co-author of PHR/SPHR: Professional in Human Resources Certification Study Guide, 4E, by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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