The ASPA (American Society of Personnel Administration) was created in the late 1940’s  when it became evident that the


“Don’t forget your roots!”

“people” piece of the business was developing into a separate job function. This organization operated on a volunteer basis for almost 20 years before taking a more formal step defining “Personnel/Industrial Relations” as a profession.

The results? Five “qualifiers” to establish HR/Personnel as a profession:

  • HR would require full-time practice.
  • A common body of knowledge (BOK, get used to this term) must be defined; courses of study at educational institutions parallel the BOK
  • To represent HR as a separate voice, a professional organization would be established.
  • A certification process would be required for HR professionals.
  • A code of ethics must be established for HR professionals.

So the ASPA would define the BOK and certification program to validate and evaluate the competency levels of practitioners in their profession. A special task force (that term never fails to raise my eyebrow) was formed to do just that.

The ASPA Accreditation Institute (AAI) was established in 1975 – the first six functional areas defined by the AAI as the original BOK for Human Resources professionals:

  • Employment, Placement, and Personnel
  • Training & Development
  • Compensation & Benefits
  • Health, Safety, and Security
  • Employee & Labor Relations
  • Personnel Research

Now, the ASPA is called “SHRM,” and the AAI is called “HRCI.” The six areas making up the first “BOK” for HR has also changed throughout the years, adapting as the profession has adapted.  Validation studies have been conducted several times over the last 35+ years to ensure an accurate reflection of the needs of the profession. Most of the areas have remained similar, if not identical, to the original BOK. There were, however, a few significant changes…

  1. In 2001, “Strategic Management” was officially unveiled as a functional area in Human Resources, replacing Personnel Research.
  2. In 2006, “Total Rewards” replaced “Compensation & Benefits” ~ seemingly a change in nomenclature only.
  3. In 2006, “Risk Management” replaced “Health, Safety, and Security”

One final note to set the stage for the coming weeks….the original intent was for each of the Functional Areas to have a Specialist Certification process for those seeking professional designation as a Subject-Matter-Expert. For reasons not fully understood, that plan was scrapped in favor of the Generalist designations we see today.

The Professional in Human Resources (PHR), and the Sr. Professional in Human Resources (SPHR.)

More to come…..

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); like this post? Try this one, this one, or even this one….go ahead, don’t be a weenie.