Human resource management has evolved into so much more than its “compliance police” stereotype. But every growing company's HR team must still have the expertise and experience required for a company to comply with challenging workforce laws and regulations.

"Understanding the nuances of employment legal requirements is no small task. There are state and federal employment laws, and industry-specific regulations to contend with. State laws vary so dramatically that California is like its own country", jokes Barbara Tiano, GPHR, an HR executive for The Human Capital Group, with 30-plus years of experience helping businesses design compliant HR programs.

Tiano has hired talent in Singapore, Germany, the U.K. and throughout the U.S. She credits the prep work and classes that were required to achieve her Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) certification with helping her understand global employment laws and best practices.

The GPHR is a fully accredited certification from the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) that, when earned, validates a practitioner’s in multinational HR expertise. It covers not only legal issues, but also how to build and execute global HR strategies that can support international growth.

Tiano first pursued certification in 2012, when she was working for a large global company. “It was important to me that I had an understanding of the complexities of the global market and that I could demonstrate that to my team,” she says.

Ongoing Learning Is Critical

Continuous learning by HR teams is essential for mitigating business risks, which is why Tiano keeps up with her HRCI recertification requirements. That requires her to renew her certification every three years by completing professional development activities that award recertification credits. Such activities provide additional assurances to businesses that HR leaders are up-to-date on emerging workplace laws, HR trends, talent management and general business practices.

Certification also teaches people how to do things ethically -- not just legally. For example, oversight of employee terminations is a necessary component of HR. Professionals need to be abreast of relevant laws, but they should also know how to conduct this process with transparency and respect.

"On the hiring side, certification covers how to find and attract talent, as well as how to get candidates as excited about your business as you are about them. In this way, HR professionals are like salespeople for the company", Tiano explains.

Tiano is currently building a team for her new business, Human Capital Group, which provides HR support for federal government contractors and commercial businesses in the Washington, D.C. market. Given how critical it is to have a team of competent professionals, she says she wouldn’t consider hiring someone who isn’t HRCI-certified or at least has a plan for pursuing certification.

HR: Much More Than Compliance

Tiano stresses that HR is about so much more than compliance and risk management. The business world’s expectations of HR are expanding, but it is still up to HR professionals to prove their value.

“Practitioners who just say no to everything without understanding the business’s goals set us back,” Tiano cautions. “An HR professional should find a way to get to a ‘yes,’ and to achieve the business goal legally, ethically and with the least risk.”

That takes experience, strategy and a commitment to continued learning. For Tiano, and so many other HR leaders, HRCI certification is a means of staying abreast of industry issues. It is also a designation that signifies their expertise to peers, employers and the industry at large.

Ideally, HR professionals have the practice-based skills and commitment to excellence that companies need to both achieve key business goals and remain compliant.

“If someone on the executive team wants something done, I can do it with the least risk possible and in the most legal and ethical way, because I understand the nuisances of the law as well as the company’s agenda,” Tiano says.