5 Management Theories to Review for Your HR Certification Exams

management theories for HR certification exam

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When you study for your SHRM-CP, PHR, SPHR and SHRM-SCP exams, you’ll find a lot of information on leadership and management theories. With so much information to review, I find that often times leadership and management theories get pushed aside and are often challenging for students who are taking their HR certification exams. I cover these theories and more in my courses Ace the HR Exam and our SHRM Certification Prep course. My goal is to provide you with different ways to learn, understand, and absorb the basic theories and informaiton so that come exam day you can recall the information quickly allowing you to ace your HR certification exam. 


Five Management and Leadership Theories on the SPHR, PHR, SHRM-SCP and SHRM-CP Exams 


While the questions and application may differ on the exams, there are core theories to study that can help you be confident about your knowledge when you sit down to take your exam. Here, we’ve identified the five primary management theories that are certain to be on your certification exam.


The Delphi Technique 

The Delphi Technique is a decision-making or forecasting activity that relies on a group of experts to reach a consensus.

The Delphi method is a forecasting process framework based on the results of multiple rounds of questionnaires sent to a panel of experts. Several rounds of questionnaires are sent out to the group of experts, and the anonymous responses are aggregated and shared with the group after each round. The experts are allowed to adjust their answers in subsequent rounds, based on how they interpret the “group response” that has been provided to them. Since multiple rounds of questions are asked and the panel is told what the group thinks as a whole, the Delphi method seeks to reach the correct response through consensus.


McGregor’s X and Y Theory

McGregor’s X and Y Theory of management is a valid basic principle from which to develop positive management style and techniques.

In 1960, Douglas McGregor formulated Theory X and Theory Y, suggesting two aspects of human behavior at work, or in other words, two different views of individuals (employees): one of which is negative, called as Theory X and the other is positive, so called as Theory Y. According to McGregor, the perception of managers on the nature of individuals is based on various assumptions. 

The key difference between Theory X and Theory Y is that Theory X assumes that employees dislike work; they want to avoid it and do not want to take responsibility and Theory Y assumes that employees are self-motivated, and flourish on responsibility.

McClelland’s Human Motivation Theory

McClelland’s Human Motivation Theory, also known as Three Needs Theory, is a motivational model that attempts to explain how the needs for achievement, power, and affiliation affect the actions of people from a managerial context.

This theory was developed in the 1960s and McClelland points out that regardless of our age, sex, race or culture, all of us possess one of these needs and are driven by it. McClelland put forth that the specific needs of an individual are acquired and shaped over time through the experiences he has had in life. McClelland’s theory can help you to identify the dominant motivators of people.

– People who are motivated by power want to lead a successful team and be recognized for the effort.

– People with a high need for achievement will do best when given projects where they can succeed through their own efforts.

– People with a high need for affiliation may not be good top managers but are generally happier, and can be highly successful in non-leadership roles.


The ADDIE Model

The ADDIE Model is the generic process traditionally used by instructional designers and training developers. It is a well-known and standard instructional design model that is conducive to any type of learning.

It is imperative that employee learning objectives and programs closely align with and support organizational strategic goals. A systematic and complete process is used to determine needs, develop training, and evaluate outcomes. 

ADDIE stands for:

– A = Analysis (of needs)

D = Design

– D = Development

– I = Implementation

– E = Evaluation

Project Management Process

Project Management Process allows for the HR action plan to be implemented through normal operations and through specific initiatives managed as time-limited projects. 

Be aware that a similar process should be used in other functional areas throughout the organization. Project management can vary in complexity. Many smaller projects can be manually budgeted and scheduled. Projects that involve large teams (sometimes sub-teams working in different functions or cross-functional teams) may have multiple phases and deliverables and very large budgets and may require a professional project manager. Some organizations can provide project managers as a resource to project leaders. In traditional project management, most initiatives have three stages: planning, executing, and closing.

These are five of our often overlooked management theories that are likely on your HRCI and SHRM certification exams. We cover these and a host of other terms and management concepts as part of our HR certification prep course, Ace the HR Exam course and SHRM Certification Prep course. These offer a hybrid learning model with on-demand learning and live study sessions and learning helping to elevate your study efforts and ace your HR certification exams. 

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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