In the dynamic realm of human resources, today’s guest, Anthony Howard, stands out as a trailblazer who advocates for inclusivity and representation with unwavering dedication. With a journey from the south side of Chicago to entrepreneurship, Anthony’s path is marked by a relentless pursuit of purpose and a commitment to empowering others.

Anthony Howard shares profound insights into the HR landscape, from his transformative approach to education as the founder of HR Certified to his bold stance on diversity within the industry. Through candid conversations, Anthony sheds light on the challenges and triumphs he’s encountered, offering invaluable lessons on courageous leadership and the importance of driving meaningful change.

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SDL Media Team


  1. Why the diversity in the HR profession is essential?
  2. What are the challenges when discussing HR’s role in organizational culture?
  3. How is courageous agility defined and promoted in the context of HR leadership and representation?
  4. Where are opportunities for improvement seen in the HR profession, particularly regarding diversity and inclusion?
  5. How do strategic partnerships contribute to success, and why are they essential for entrepreneurship?

I believe there are certain objectives that [HR Certified] accomplishes that others do not, including SHRM.”

Anthony Howard

Founder & CEO, HR Certified, Inc.


[03:42] Anthony’s Story

[06:54] Driving Diversity in HR

[08:52] Empowering HR Professionals with The HR Certified

[12:36] Redefining HR Education and Empowerment

[16:25] Opening Doors to Diverse Talent

[21:11] The Power of Strategic Partnerships in HR

[22:48]  Signature Segment: Anthony’s entry into the LATTOYG Playbook: Empowering Others to Thrive

[25:22] Signature Segment: Anthony‘s LATTOYG Tactics of Choices: Leading with Courageous Agility


In the dynamic realm of human resources, today’s guest, Anthony Howard, stands out as a trailblazer who advocates for inclusivity and representation with unwavering dedication. With a journey from the south side of Chicago to entrepreneurship, Anthony’s path is marked by a relentless pursuit of purpose and a commitment to empowering others.

In this episode, we explore Anthony’s profound insights into the HR landscape, from his transformative approach to education as the founder of HR Certified to his bold stance on diversity within the industry. Through candid conversations, Anthony sheds light on the challenges and triumphs he’s encountered, offering invaluable lessons on courageous leadership and the importance of driving meaningful change.



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This podcast episode is sponsored by Shockingly Different Leadership (SDL), the leader in on-demand People, Talent Development & Organizational Effectiveness professional services that up-level leader capability and optimize workforces to do their best work.

SDL is the go-to firm companies trust when needing to:

  • supplement their in-house HR teams with contract or interim HR experts
  • implement leadership development programs that demonstrate an immediate ROI and impact on the business

Click the plus button on the tab to access the written transcript:

Episode 75 | Expanding Access to HR Certification to Underrepresented Groups with Anthony Howard

Anthony Howard  

I have a saying…HR is not HR everywhere. But if there is a fundamental belief that HR is a microcosm of the organization, it should be reflective of that with its employees, and its customers. And I’ve worked in environments in which our customers or the customers, is diverse. The people who work there are not included in HR.


Voiceover  00:03

Welcome to the “Lead at the Top of Your Game” podcast, where we equip you to more effectively lead your seat at any employer, business, or industry in which you choose to play. Each week, we help you sharpen your leadership acumen by cracking open the playbooks of dynamic leaders who are doing big things in their professional endeavors. And now, your host, leadership tactics, and organizational development expert, Karan Ferrell-Rhodes.


Karan Rhodes  00:37

Welcome back to the podcast everyone. And thanks for joining another episode designed to help you better lead at the top of your game. As you know, for season three, each month we’re featuring leaders who have fascinating roles in a particular profession or industry. And today’s episode is part of our special series featuring those leaders who are navigating the digital world. And now enjoy. Hey there, superstars, this is Karan, and welcome to another episode of the Lead at the Top of Your Game podcast. So on today’s show, I have got to share that I’m super excited to actually meet him and have him on the podcast. Because when I looked him up, we had almost 1000 connections to similar connections in LinkedIn. And I’m like, Who has that, that I don’t think I’ve met before. And we’re on the Forbes coaches council together. And I’m like, Okay, now I really need to know who this is. So we are very honored today to have on the show, Anthony P. Howard, who is the founder and CEO of HR certified, which is a consultancy that strives to increase the competence, marketability, and the value of underrepresented HR professionals in the marketplace. Now Anthony is a certification coach as well. And he helps HR professional at all levels, achieve their career growth goals through the power of certification. And as a certified HR professional myself, I know the critical role it has played in my career, both in corporate and in founding, shockingly different leadership. And so I’m super excited to have him also share with all of you, not only the importance of it, but the meaning behind him starting this business, and how it impacts tons of companies in the marketplace. So welcome to the podcast. Anthony.


Anthony Howard  02:33

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for having me. We forgot to also say that we’re also in the same state.


Karan Rhodes  02:41

That’s right, we’re also in the same state, too! I mean, I am just perplexing. You all that know me know that. I do a ton of networking, I reached out to a lot of people. And I tried my best to deepen relationships. So the fact that we have all this in common, and this is our first time actually, to my knowledge, speaking in depth, it’s just baffling to me. But I’m so so happy to have him and this will not be the last time we could believe you me!


Anthony Howard  03:08

Woo hoo! I’m here for it.


Karan Rhodes  03:10

You’re here for it! That sounds great. Well, Anthony, before we get deep into your business, and you know how you’re really making a big mark, actually, in a world of work, for much of as much as you feel comfortable. Would you just give us a sneak peek into your personal life?


Anthony Howard  03:28

Yeah, well, I always begin off with that I’m a grandmother’s child. I grew up on the south side of Chicago. And I also wanted to be an elementary school teacher. So I fell into HR early, after I realized that I actually didn’t want to be a teacher of the children. I wanted to just have an impact to the children. And now how life has just evolved to to now entrepreneur and business owner. A little bit about me is that I’ve always been naturally curious. I’m that one that go deeper. I read encyclopedia. You know, the encyclopedia set back in the day before Google


Karan Rhodes  04:10

I’m guilty of that too. I’m a nerd in that sense.


Anthony Howard  04:15

I read passages like when my grandmother was smoke, I would look up cancer in the encyclopedia and show her how her lungs could wind up looking, like, I was that person. Right? I’m also a gamer or I’m not as much of a gamer as I was my sister has taken it to a whole nother level. She’s an entrepreneur as well. And that kept us out of trouble. But I didn’t just play like button masher games I strategy games I played, the things the story that I needed to know what happened. So I say all of that is because I brought all of that, that the analytical skills, the technical skills, that natural curiosity into the profession and my, my passion for for teaching into all of that I stay in Atlanta now I am engaged of a partner. Thank you, partner of 10 years, I have three dogs. And it’s been a journey. Right? It there’s an impact to the family when entrepreneurship introduces itself. And you know, like I said, I love gaming, I’d love series like Game of Thrones, like, it’s so even to the point where, when it’s offseason, literally draft my friends to play Game of Thrones, the board game over at the house. So you know, it’s it’s one where I’m a nerd geek considered in that aspect. But those are complementary skills. Like there’s a study that says gamers are great leaders,


Karan Rhodes  05:44

They are Yes.


Anthony Howard  05:47

And really just lean lean into that. And my whole focus, and I’m sure we’ll talk about that is, you know, finding my purpose is the baseline of this.


Karan Rhodes  05:58

Oh, that is awesome. But thanks so much for sharing a bit about your personal life and passions around there. And congratulations, once again, on your engagement. That is amazing. Well, one of the things that, you know, really popped out for me as well, was your article on LinkedIn about how HR truly does have a diversity problem. And I’ve had my own whole career there. I’ve seen it, but it’s not really talked about a lot, especially for yourself as a male of color that is rare in HR than limb might imagine. And so can you share a little bit about, you know, why you use that fat, or how you use that back as a driving force and your business right or certified?


Anthony Howard  06:46

Yeah, I think one of the aspects about working in this profession is that there’s a passion that drives people to want to be in it. Mine has always been around creating inclusive workspaces. And so throughout my career, I think about those defining moments in which my diverse perspective changed the business decision to be more inclusive. And I think about the future of our workforce as being more diverse than ever before, multicultural, multigenerational. And so, I believe that the prism to meeting people where they are, is a diverse HR department, in an inclusive environment. And so that’s what really drives me and is the center of that, and also highlighting the benefits of making sure that if HR, I mean, one of the aspects of an HR have a say in HR is not HR everywhere. But if there is a fundamental belief that HR is a microcosm of the organization, it should be reflective of that with its employees, and its customers. And I’ve worked in environments in which our customers or the customers is diverse. The people who work there are not included in HR, yes. And just looking to change that dynamic. Because as we’re just moving into this new digital era, is going to be about really being able to meet people where they are where they specifically. And I believe that that’s coming in right in time, even though I stood for that during a time in which that opinion, and that approach wasn’t openly embrace


Karan Rhodes  08:24

That’s, right. That’s right. I remember that too, even when I started out years ago, years ago, but let me take a step back and let you share with the audience a bit about your firm itself. What do you all do? We started going into why it was meaningful, and that was on me. RST in this new year. But it can you share the audience a little bit more about your company and what you all do?


Anthony Howard  08:49

Yeah. So you know, again, my company’s name HR certified, that’s very intentional, because one of the things that is valued for the most part, not not comprehensively is the value of certification. And looking at it as in our industry, there’s just an expectation that you prove that not only you qualify, but you’re serious about this thing. That’s right. And certification does that if you go through that whole process it it does that. And then there’s another aspect about HR, which is there’s no SOP for the work. It is one in which you have to be as agile and resourceful as possible, to deal with the dynamic challenges that’s going to present themselves and whatever environment that you’re in. And it has been truly the game changer for me to not only make the pivot into HR, but to be successful in it where garlis of wherever I’ve been, and so with that, I use the HR certification process, or our organization uses it as a pathway in which other aspects that I didn’t receive and throughout my Career are there for the underrepresented. And that’s coaching, that’s been able to expand your network, as well as community to be able to bond with, and mesh with those that look like you that you may not have in your workplaces. And I believe that that that’s the difference between checkers of just getting the letters in chess that try and being able to be agile in this space and pivot. Because I just believe that this profession in general, is one of the key aspects is being able to master the art of the pivot.


Karan Rhodes  10:35

That’s right, and is so critical amongst that. And I always share with people that, you know, sometimes HR professionals need help, too. We’re always the resource people go to within a workforce, but they forget that we’re people too. And sometimes, you know, we need help as well. And the fact that, you know, those who are underrepresented have additional challenges on top of some of the normal challenges in our profession kind of complicates our profession even more, because it’s very high risk, we have to our job in HR is to reduce risk for companies as much as is possible, you know, keep the workforce engaged and productive and be a value add versus a pure cost center units through the company. And there’s a lot of dynamics that people who aren’t in HR just don’t, don’t get, right. So I think it’s fantastic than work that your team is doing, to bring or to uplevel the competence and provide support for a very segment that is in real need and in our community. So I give you kudos and give you flowers for that up front.


Anthony Howard  11:48

It’s really about enablement, enablement differently. And also, you know, being able to be comfortable enough to be able to understand what your unique identity is, because along the way, I lost mine, but I’ve regained it fully.


Karan Rhodes  12:06

So I’m gonna just ask you the question, I think I might know the answer, but I want to give you a chance to articulate it. If I did not know about HR certified before I would question Will. Why can’t someone just go to Sherm and get, you know, or become a member of our professional association? For those of you who don’t know is Sherm is the Society for Human Resource Management, which is an international organization professional association for HR professionals. What does HR certified offer that folks can’t always get in the Sherm offerings?


Anthony Howard  12:44

Yeah, you know, and I think that my approach in general in business is, of course, you have to analyze the landscape to see what’s what’s going on. But you really have to craft your own path. I believe that there are certain objectives that we accomplish that others do not include in Sherm. And one of those is a redirect. In not just passing the test, there’s just a lot of focus on strategies on how to pass that particular. Like, I’m gonna say algorithm Yeah, particular formula. And this is not the AC T, this is not the SATs. This is not the GMAT, this is not a one time event. No, this is the body of learning of knowledge towards that. And I think people get so caught up with how complex that the Sherm test is that they feel like the only way that they can decipher or decode this is to go to one source. And we’re here to say that HR, that there’s a body, there’s an HR core, that regardless of how you spin it, or what fancy words that you have with it, that it’s one that you can use, regardless of where you’re at. And that’s what we lean into is an HR core, there might be some bolts, that there’s no Well, number one, there’s no program that’s going to teach you everything. It’s not there’s nothing. But what you could be rest assured is that there’s an HR core that regardless of where you go, it will translate that is an aspect or an ability of HR, is that you have to have that skill to be able to interpret the different ways of saying the same thing. Right. And I’ve been a master of being able to synthesize a whole lot of information and make it simplistic. So that’s number one is that there’s not one source for HR information. That’s right, right. Number two, that don’t take it as a pass fail exercise. It is one that this isn’t this is a grant opportunity. And I’m exhibit a on how you can navigate I’ve navigate At these spaces, high tech industries, biotech BioPharm, without all without a bachelor’s degree, and I was able to take the learning experience and really make myself the most agile and that’s what I have infused into our HR masterclass program. And then the other aspects around it is the specific needs of the underrepresented. Now, I like to say that it’s not built around that. Right, it is built. And this is the again, this is my personal aspect is that it’s more about those with the whole purpose of HR sort of fast and break down the barriers of under-representation in the first place in the HR industry. And a lot of that is the lack of mentorship, the lack of intentional effort, and there’s always talk about the underrepresented but no one talks about it loudly. Yeah. And one disappointment that I do have is that I hear the president of Sherm talk about diversity, but I don’t hear him talk about it specifically to our industry. No one’s talking about it. Now they’re nine. And I believe that you’re really not it’s time to have an intentional conversation around it and not wrap it around status, money, power, authority, I agree. But around the right things


Karan Rhodes  16:25

So even do or most of your participants in your programs. Are they most of them HR professionals who want to grow or are there people in other job professions, like I’m just making it like marketing or something that want to increase their HR skills that attend as well? What’s your mix?


Anthony Howard  16:44

I’m glad that you, you mentioned that. So we have two flavors of the HR masterclass.


Karan Rhodes  16:48



Anthony Howard  16:48

Ah, one of them is for, you know, professionals that are already in it two or more years of experience.


Karan Rhodes  16:54



Anthony Howard  16:55

Then I’m really, really proud of the associate HR masterclass.


Karan Rhodes  16:59

Ah…tell me more.


Anthony Howard  17:00

And anybody, like no experience, two years or less can go through and get a version of the master class. So I’ve had every bus drivers, masseuse, cops, like I have Office administrators, office departments of ones, business leaders. And with it, I really, we take the power certification for the AP HR the associate PHR because it’s a knowledge based exam, right. But we all know that it’s more than about just knowing the stuff. That’s right. Right, right. So building your network as well as getting those other components of and matching them with those in our HR masterclass to be mentors. So is this absolutely awesome to be able to one that there’s a certification for those that have no experience, and to be very, very provide them with that type of support for them to be able to show up, I we also are also proud of extending scholarships into that program as well. Nice. So one of the accomplishments that we had last year was our HR looks like me campaign. And with it, we were able Well, first, it was bootstrapped. But now by swag HR looks like me or, and then we use the proceeds of that to fund our scholarship. And so we have right now, we have 12344 recipients, oh, a little late for have earned their a PHR. And it’s just awesome. Like, it’s to be able to extend the opportunities out. So there’s those two flavors, because that is in complement to our vision. Yeah, it’s absolutely essential.


Karan Rhodes  18:41

That’s right,


Anthony Howard  18:42

In increasing organic representation in this space.


Karan Rhodes  18:45

I love that. I love that. And you know, on another trend that’s happened in the workplace that I think will probably help HR certified and those interested in, in improving their, their, I guess, basic HR knowledge is the whole move from an 100% emphasis on degrees to more towards skills. And over the years, you know, there were a lot of people that had informational interviews with me and said, hey, you know, I’m in sales, but I really love people, I think I really want to go into HR. But how do I do that? You know, how do I move if I want to change careers. And back in the day, when I started, it was really tough because people were looking for degrees in HR management. But now, to your point, you know, if you focus on the body and knowledge, you can more easily than you could you know, 510 years ago, get into the field and be very successful in it. And as you said, you learn the details of how to execute HR really on the job. You know, he’s got the base amount of knowledge but I always say there’s never boring day because every day brings you new challenges, new spins, new angles, new things. Do you have to challenge our research? So that that that we’re becoming a more skills base society in the world of work, that should definitely help support a lot of things that HR certified is doing open up doors to more than under representative?


Anthony Howard  20:16

Yeah, that’s right. You know, I did a couple polls on I am an influencer online. And I love doing polls. And I asked the question, do you really need a degree to do this job? And the majority of HR professionals in my network said, No, you don’t. Now,


Karan Rhodes  20:32

You don’t I have the degrees, but you don’t necessarily need them. Yeah.


Anthony Howard  20:36

And I said that, not to discourage anyone that’s looking to pursue if you have that opportunity, but the reality is, the underrepresented normally don’t have access to be able to get a degree. And so if you really, really want to change the dynamics of that, you have to open up opportunities for those that don’t have the privilege to be able to gain that education that that degree, you’d knock out that diverse, you know, talent pool, by having that as a as a requirement. Again, I’m proud to say I’m that non traditional profile and exhibit A, do it,


Karan Rhodes  21:11

That you can doit definitely. And one thing I noticed about HR certified, you all have for those, you definitely need to check out their website, but you have a timeline of all the accomplishments, not all, but some of the highlights each year that you, you know, have done. And what I really was struck by was the number of partnerships you have, with a lot of established businesses, does that help extend your reach, or how has those partnerships work?


Anthony Howard  21:38

It’s absolutely critical. The thing is, and I think you are aware of this is that when you go out on your own, the reality is you cannot be on your own. Your success is not contingent upon just you, I really thought that with my knowledge and my experiences that I’ll be able to come in and have literally, the logos speak for itself. And oh, that I learned very quickly, that’s not the case, you have to have those that believe in you, you have to develop those partnerships, those strategic relationships, because that’s, that is the sauce of what’s going to really propel you to the next level. That’s right. And I will say I enter this phase of my life and of, of leader of this business, in gratitude, I don’t think I even realized the impacts that I was making throughout the course of my career, that was planting the seeds for the things that are happening to manifest now as a reason why it’s so important to nurture those relationships, regardless of where you are, because you just never know never never know. When you cross that bridge again,


Karan Rhodes  22:46

I know you’re so right. And I’m glad you recognize that early on in your career, because I didn’t realize it until closer to I was moving out of corporate people said, you know, you don’t realize the gift that you’re given by, you know, helping others and partnering with others and things like that. And it just didn’t hit me because it was second nature. But I’m so glad you got that, you know, reality now with you know, and I’m just curious for you, Anthony, what does it take for you to lead at the top of your game? What things have to be in place for you to operate at your best?


Anthony Howard  23:20

Yeah. And I believe that that’s also the reason why I moved into being an entrepreneur, right? Because, again, my saying is HR is not HR everywhere. And I realized, I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I didn’t know it. And depending on the environment, there are certain environments that don’t welcome that. That’s right. And so for me it to do my best and show up, always go by I am purpose driven and value space, I show up in the way in spaces, I add value to the spaces that I am in versus adapting to them. Right. So for me, I have a theme, right? The theme, my theme last year was you know, really just putting in the seasons like can I do it literally was a thing. Now, I didn’t know that that was the thing. It was it was I was proving trying to prove to me and everybody else that that this is a thing right right. Now the theme of this year is called eto and power the others. Oh, I love that I want to be able to see others thrive and succeed. So my accomplishments this year, is how much I can raise how much I can give back because I believe that this has been an entrepreneur like I was on a bullet train last year. And I’m still on this journey of learning to but as a proponent of being a forever learner and a passion for it and the benefits that come from it. I want to be able to see others to be able to do the same empower the others, my team, my partners, those that are in our eco space That’s my mark bar 2024.


Karan Rhodes  25:02

I love that. And I have no doubt that you’re gonna make great efforts towards that too, and have great achievements to see at the year end. Well, I know we’re running up on time, but I can’t let you out because one of our favorite things to do with our guests is to ask your opinion on which of the leadership tactics on execution that I write about in my book really resonated with you. And you were so kind enough to share that leading with courageous agility really popped out for you. And for your listeners who may not have read the book yet. Shame, shame, shame, go get it if you haven’t. But leading with courageous agility is all about having the courage and fortitude to do what you think is right, even if the feature is unclear, uncertain, but just, you know, kind of having that courage to still go forward and do what you think is right, based on your personal beliefs and values. And so, and they were just curious on why that went, in particular resonated with you.


Anthony Howard  26:00

I believe, as HR professionals, we all have to have it, but I believe as an underrepresented person in the space that I had to tap into it even further. I’ve lost opportunities I’ve I’ve been fired from opportunities, I have declined opportunities, due to that ability of just is about doing the right thing. in HR, corporate, the culture, the organization deploys HR differently. It spans from being extremely tactical, to being extremely strategic, to being weaponized to it being used the right way. And with that, our mission and our vision is to increase representation. And it does require courageous agility to say that the industry is underrepresented, that we have a diversity problem, and is one a core element, that’s going to be key in meeting our next generation where it’s at. Right. So being able to have those conversations in a way that joins people and not divide them is it takes just that.


Karan Rhodes  27:14

It sure does. You’re so right. It sure does. And what I want the listeners to know that and I know a lot of you out there, feel this way, because I’ve spoken to quite a few of you. If you have a desire to uplevel your acumen in some of the main skill areas of people strategy, or HR and employee relations, I definitely need you to get to HR certified site or reach out to Anthony directly. Let him to talk to you about their programs, I’m sure they’ll give you a ton of more information. Because this is a safe space for you to gain this body and knowledge with empathy and understanding. And with a cohort of people that you’re all learning together. This is a way to help move your career and basic knowledge forward so that you’re more competitive when you’re going up for roles a bigger scope and responsibility. Now we’re going to have all of the information about Anthony and HR certified in the show notes. But anything I want to allow a few seconds to give you voice to share with everyone where to best find you and reach out to you.


Anthony Howard  28:27

Yes, so definitely. You can find me on LinkedIn, Anthony P. Howard. Very important. Yes, you can reach us on our website at And we’re proud to be five stars on Google as researchers, you’ll be in great hands.


Karan Rhodes  28:44

Awesome, awesome. Well, we just want to thank you, Anthony for the gift of your time and knowledge and sharing your story with our audience members and being on the podcast.


Anthony Howard  28:55

Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.


Karan Rhodes  28:56

Awesome. And thank you to listeners for the gift of your time. And joining them listen to another episode of the leader the top of your game podcast. As you know, I only ask that you subscribe and share the podcast with just one friend because by doing so, we can help expand our reach to help others just like you to lead at the top of your game. Thanks again for listening and see you next week. Bye. And that’s our show for today. Thank you for listening to the lead at the top of your game podcast, where we help you lead your seat at any employer, business, or industry in which you choose to play. You can check out the show notes, additional episodes, and bonus resources, and also submit guest recommendations on our website at You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn by searching for the name Karan Rhodes with Karan being spelled K a r a n. And if you like the show, the greatest gift you can give would be to subscribe and leave a rating on your podcast platform of choice. This podcast has been a production of Shockingly Different Leadership, a global consultancy which helps organizations execute their people, talent development, and organizational effectiveness initiatives on an on-demand, project, or contract basis. Huge thanks to our production and editing team for a job well done. Goodbye for now.

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