The Core Subject Areas on the PHR/SPHR Exams - dummies

The Core Subject Areas on the PHR/SPHR Exams

By Sandra M. Reed

Both the PHR and the SPHR exams share functional areas in terms of content, but you need to know what to do with this information in order for it to serve you. Similar to the test questions, you must be able to apply the knowledge to be successful. The exams have six functional areas, in addition to the core knowledge requirements.

This discussion provides a brief overview of what you can expect about the core knowledge and functional areas of the PHR and SPHR exams.

SPHR test questions are highly scenario-based and require the ability to integrate information from all of these functional areas in your analysis.

Functional area 01 — Business Management and Strategy

If you’re taking the SPHR exam, your main focus should be Business Management and Strategy. If you’re a PHR candidate, don’t ignore this subject. Study this functional area from the perspective of strategy. For example, explore how operations can contribute to an organization’s strategic plan or how industry changes affect a company’s ability to compete.

Functional area 02 — Workforce Planning and Employment

The functional area of Workforce Planning and Employment carries quite the punch on both exams, making up more than 30 questions on both tests. Although heavily oriented toward recruiting, selection, and labor law compliance, it also delves into the application of “employees are assets” business practice. Be prepared to discover about recruitment strategies, job descriptions, and more as you navigate this exam area.

Functional area 03 — Human Resource Development

Human Resource Development is about more than just training workers. Tied closely to organizational development, it expands upon the idea that training and performance management will help organizations meet both current and future needs. Among the exam objectives expect to see HR behaviors such as executive coaching, career development, and organizational theories/application.

Functional area 04 — Compensation and Benefits

Labor costs are often the top expense for organizations, so executing this function well is the focus of Compensation and Benefits. Successful exam takers must be able to develop, implement, and evaluate the effectiveness of employer compensation and benefits plans while staying compliant with the vast area of labor law related to this topic. Studying this exam area can teach you about cash and noncash compensation methods, budgeting and accounting practices for payroll, and for SPHR candidates, a good dose of executive compensation plans and challenges.

Functional area 05 — Employee and Labor Relations

Not just union management anymore, this functional area has evolved to the management of all relationships in the workplace. Coming at the content from that perspective can enable to you to identify factors that determine whether a relationship is good or bad, which includes gathering feedback from workers and addressing their complaints when necessary. The flip side of that coin is embracing their hard work through recognition and special events, keeping them involved and harnessing their talent for maximum effect.

Functional area 06 — Risk Management

Knowing that this functional area long ago was titled Workplace Safety and Health should help you understand what is at the core of Risk Management. This exam content is highly oriented toward identifying and addressing risks to the human, physical, and financial assets of a business. With workplace violence, cyber attacks, and a global customer base, this exam content is filled with the need for plans and policies to address 21st-century issues.