When should the road lead to certification for associations or companies?
I’m thrilled that Doug Harward asked me to kick-off this certification blog for training buyers and suppliers. The certification marketplace is generally divided into; providers of certifications (co.’s, orgs, & associations) , vendors that support certification development, governors of certifications, and consumers of certifications. This blog focuses on all of them with the exception of direct consumers of certifications.
Since this is my first blog for TrainingIndustry.com let me tell you a bit about how I got on my road to certification.
I developed evaluation as a sub-specialty within my instructional design background, which then lead to certification. I was supporting the Worldwide Technical Support Training group within DEC in the mid 90’s and they wanted to create a certification program. From there I continued on to provide partner certification, program management for the Nortel Networks certification program and then consulting on certification & test design to HP, Fidelity and many other companies worldwide. Since I saw many of the same issues repeated, in 2002 I published a book on how to build certification programs. Now ten years and many consulting projects later, my second book on certification, Certify Like Your Business Depends On It, provides a tool to help programs visualize their strategy.
Deciding to create a certification program is a major decision, as big as any other major training intervention, and more-so in some cases. Creating such a program draws on cross-functional resources, requires significant funding, and affects the organization’s reputation and relationship with customers and partners. There are both emotional and logical reasons that drive program creation.
Consider creating a certification program if:
• There’s a measurable business need to formally validate the individuals’ knowledge or skill in a particular product/content area
• Determining the minimum performance capability of an individual is critical to the job (e.g., safety, health, environment, etc.)
• Tests available from other organizations don’t measure the same level of performance on the same content/products
If after meeting and planning your certification you see any of the following warning signs, you should carefully weigh your certification decision:
- The content (product) is unstable and changes rapidly. (or you can’t target a cutoff date)
- Management is not fully committed to funding the program.
- Management expects the program to be completed in less than 4 months.
- Management is not fully endorsing the program.
- (i.e. willing to meet on the subject, write and vocalize support, free-up SMEs and funding)
- Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) will not be assigned to the program.
- (i.e. you need commitments from SMEs and their managers to get the test and training materials completed)
- SMEs are not supported for providing input.
- (i.e. if not allowed the time to participate or actively and visibly rewarded in some way.)
- There’s not a clear program manager to drive the program.
- There are no rules for program inclusion. (i.e. grandfathering in buddies is expected)
- Certification development is not your core competency and you don’t plan on getting any external help.
- There’s no documented marketing strategy for the program.
- There’s not a documented recertification strategy.
- There’s not a clear documented overall strategy for the program.
Any one of the above is a warning signal that your certification decision will not be an easy road to follow.
When do you think the road should lead to certification?