The GRP certification in the Middle East : to take it or not to take it ?

The GRP certification in the Middle East to take it or not to take it

My reader Samir recently asked me to write something on World at Work certifications, and their value worldwide and specially in the Middle East.

Formerly known as the American Compensation Association, World at Work is the leading Total Rewards association in the world. They have 200,000 members, the majority of whom are based in the USA.

You can join online for free, but they also have a Premier membership (currently at 350 USD per year) which gives you access to more resources such as white papers, webinars, as well as discounts on books and certification trainings.

If you explore their website, you will see that obviously a good part of the information is very US-centric. However some fundamentals are the same across borders, and if you are working outside of the USA, you will still find value in joining.

The World at Work Society of Certified Professionals claims that “83% of companies prefer or require certification”.

That may be true… in the USA. Given the complexity of their benefits system (especially healthcare and pensions/long-term savings plans) as well as equity-based compensation, it is essential for C&B professionals there to demonstrate that they master at least theoretical knowledge of the environment.

However, in the Middle East, things are pretty different.

First, mandatory provisions for health cover and retirement may or may not exist depending on the country. One thing is for sure though : the market of top-up, complementary private providers and insurers is not as vibrant as in the USA.  Many local and regional companies still provide only the minimum required by law.

Second, HR practices are less sophisticated in this part of the world. HR is still often perceived as an administrative function rather than a full partner to the business. In my opinion, this perception comes from both sides :

  • a lack of understanding by senior management of what value HR can help deliver in the business. They have never seen it and that makes it difficult for them to envision and therefore expect this kind of result.
  • maybe a lack of proficiency from many HR professionals themselves in the region, and/or willingness to stand up. More on that in a previous post…

So – certification is rarely required in the Middle East in order to get a position in Compensation & Benefits.

However, if you a ready for a long-term commitment to study (8 modules, 3-days each) and have the financial support to pay for it, then consider getting a World at Work certification for an in-depth view of general C&B concepts.

The CCP (Certified Compensation Professional)  is too US-focused but the US modules are replaced with more international stuff in the GRP (Global Remuneration Professional) certification.

The GRP certification is the only globally recognised certification in C&B, mainly thanks to US multinationals who required their international teams to be certified as well and as a result often sponsored training sessions, in Europe at least.

I am putting all my team members through the GRP certification. My more senior team members have been doing pure C&B for over 10 years and have worked in world-class multinationals and abroad, so their experience is already quite good. Yet they find some value in the learning. Some modules are a bit more complex than others, and overall it will give you good theoretical knowledge and understanding of the basic concepts of Compensation & Benefits.

You can take the courses in-class or online. As far as I know, in the UAE, there is only one training centre delivering the in-person trainings for the 8 modules, with trainers of varied teaching/engaging skills if I am to believe the feedback from my team.

I have one main concern with the certification exams. Essentially the approach of testing through Multiple Choice Questions is quite american. I personally don’t believe that it demonstrates anything else than your ability to “learn by heart” – it certainly does not prove that you have understood the concepts and are now able to apply them to the actual situations you will encounter in your job.

So – don’t take it that if you get certified, you’ll magically have the answers to all the questions. And if you are a recruiter interviewing a GRP-certified Compensation professional, don’t skip the assessment and demonstration of actual skills and knowledge of the candidate.

On a personal level, I am not certified. But I have 19 years of C&B experience in multinationals, including some of the most sophisticated when it comes to innovative rewards programs. I have worked across multiple countries and industries. I have pure love for the world of Compensation & Benefits, and have learned, by myself, all my life.

Nothing can beat that…. but I remember the surprise of the Global Head of C&B at Microsoft a few years back when he found out that I had never taken the GRP. He blurted out : “But how do you have such deep knowledge of C&B if you didn’t take the certification ?”.

I smiled and said : “A personal quest to learn by reading and attending webinars, even late at night. The opportunity to work in great companies like ours where I have been exposed to advanced C&B programs and designs. The chance of having had 2 managers who were among the best Compensation professionals in EMEA, and who mentored and taught me. And the challenges and projects that were thrown at me during my career !”

No, I’m not certified. The concept of Compensation & Benefits as an HR speciality was not even taught when I was a student, over 20 years ago in France. But if I was to start today, and had chosen to specialise in this great field of Compensation & Benefits, then I would definitely take the certification.

The GRP is a great way to learn the concepts, network with other C&B pros if you take the in-person trainings, and get some professional recognition. Plus, in order to keep the certification, you need to earn credits regularly, which means that you will have to keep your knowledge current –  a great advantage for your development. It will give you the background necessary to build your career, and if you also have the common sense, communication skills and creativity needed to be a great Compensation pro, you will quickly build your credibility and be offered the opportunity to work on a vast array of incredibly diverse projects and topics. All the best !


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  1. Great article Sandrine.

    Another example of how your educational background can impact your ability to teach HR.

    I have 20+ years in C&B and as well as all areas of global HR. 15 years strictly in international (all outside of U.S.) HR as well as 2 overseas assignments. I have 2 Masters degrees. When I attended university there was no degree in HR nor any courses even as electives in HR.

    The sad thing is that I am not allowed to teach HR courses — much less international — because I don’t have the accreditation requirement of having 30 semester credits in HR — about 10 courses. So even though I have “beaucoup” knowedge —- I am not allowed to teach and provide young people the advantage of my learnings.

    C’est la vie!

    • Sorry I need to add something to my earlier post. I am not bragging — just want you to understand how silly the accreditation requirement is. I believe in the accreditation requirement —- you don’t want a plumber teaching HR because of his “life experience”. And certificates cannot make up for solid experience.

      But I have CCP, SWP, GPHR and HCS and have presented at worldwide conferences and written many professional articles including one professional journal.

      So I feel I have many tips to share with people wanting to enter the HR field.

      Again, c’est la vie.

      • Yes Jacque, systems don’t always make much sense… It’s a shame that you are not allowed to teach. But you do share your knowledge and experience already through your posts and conference appearances, and I’m sure that this has helped many people, so please don’t discount that !

        At least in France and Europe, teaching in higher education is open to professionals, in the form of electives, “options” for specialisation, or even coming for a day to meet students and talk about a very specific topic. These interventions are actually very much valued and ensure that education remains grounded in the reality of the field. I don’t mean to under-estimate the role of professors and trained teachers, but I believe that balance is good and helps prepare the next generation to the world they will face at work. There is (as far as I know), no accreditation required, the professor in charge of the overall program is in charge.

        And we also have a process called VAE or “Validation des Acquis de l’Experience”, which is a thorough examination of your work experience and grants partial or full credit towards a degree in your professional field. One of my HR friends took it and gained a master’s degree in HR after writing many essays based on her experience and covering each aspect of HR, taking classes for 2 electives, and passing a written and verbal test. It’s a great system that truly recognises that professional experience can be just as good, if not better, than studying full-time.
        More on the process here :

  2. Thanks for your comments. I had not thought of doing “guest appearances” as part of the regular curriculum in a degree program. Will check it out.
    Keep up the good work! And thanks for sharing my articles!

  3. Dear Sandrine,

    I am about to start my GRP certification and I am interested to know whether there is any training center that I may join for course/exam preparation. I read in your blog referencing only one center in UAE providing such training but the link is not working.

    Can you please let me know of the name of that center for me to explore this option?

    Thank You



    • Dear Sehar,
      Thanks a lot for letting me know. The company is called Link Management Consulting – Tel No.+971 2 6655 899 –
      You will have to check with them directly, as the GRP certification model is changing in 2015 and I do not know if Link Consult is accredited to deliver the new training – the link to the current (2014) certification model is :

    • Dear Sehar,

      I am interested in attaining the GRP certification and I am currently in UAE. Please let me know if you have completed the certification and how did you prepare for it and if the training centre mentioned above was good.

      Any other information/guidance will be highly appreciated.

      Thanks in Advance.


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