Do you think you can begin a certification program without a recertification strategy?
Committing to a certification program also means committing to a recertification or maintenance program unless your program is designed to certify candidates only once in their lifetime. Few organizations, however, certify candidates for life without at least requiring some sort of skills maintenance.
Putting off defining your recertification strategy until after your initial program’s launch may seem tempting but that is really too late. Your recertification strategy must already be underway to retain audience participation in your program. In certain industries, candidates expect to have to recertify and are skeptical of any program that doesn’t have recertification requirements. They may choose a competing program over yours because its sponsor appears to have made a long-term commitment to certification. Why? A certification serves as a marketing vehicle for both provider and recipients in some industries. Recertification helps a program remain visible and provides evidence that an organization is continuing to invest in the credential and helping maintain its value in the marketplace.
Two years flies by when you’re developing a certification program. More often than not, the prevailing attitude is “we have plenty of time,” and recertification is considered as an afterthought. If you don’t think about it your audience will and they’ll be asking before you have a moment to breathe after your first announce your program. Ideally I’m sure you’d like to be ahead of your audience in anticipating their needs and concerns.
There’s no magic number to the timeline for recertification. Certain industries and professions seem to have standards. For example, requiring recertification every two years is typical in the computer industry, and three to five years is typical in education and healthcare. Many organizations gravitate to norms for their industry or profession. In establishing recertification requirements it’s important to analyze whether the skills or technology change frequently. Some refer to this as shelf-life.
Some organizations adopt a maintenance plan rather than recertification. A maintenance plan allows certified individuals to keep their certification or license as long as they comply with additional requirements within a specified timeframe. For example, nurses and teachers must have continuing education credits to maintain their credentials.
Keeping candidates’ interests in mind is just as important for recertification as it is for your original program. Why should candidates want to continue to recertify with your program? What is their interest? Where is your support for discounts or other incentives? What is the plan to push the messages to those who need to recertify? Will the updated requirements simply be posted on your organization’s Web site or will there be a specific push to update partners and individuals?
In communicating with candidates, it’s important to address all their potential concerns about the recertification program:
• Why should a candidate recertify?
• What are the benefits of recertification?
• What will a candidate receive for recertification? (The collateral should be different than for the original certification and provide an incentive.)
• How does recertification affect business-partner accreditation agreements?
• Will the database automatically trigger a certification announcement to be sent to candidates when they achieve recertification?
• How will fulfillment (of the “stuff” one receives upon recertification, such as certificates, logo sheets, jacket, and ID badges) be triggered?
Determine your decertification strategy as part of your recertification planning. Will the program decertify candidates if they fail to meet the established recertification criteria? Does your organization have the resources needed to audit those who fail to meet the criteria, to ensure they are no longer representing themselves as certified? Monitoring
access to benefits and limiting those benefits may be all (or more than) your organization can reasonably do; for example, ensuring the candidate no longer has access to a technical Web site or a newsletter.
The Spectrum of Recertification It might be helpful to think of recertification as a spectrum of solutions (just like the last blog on the Spectrum of Testing). The Spectrum of Recertification graphic helps my clients view recertification options along a continuum, a spectrum where certain selections are best for some things and not feasible for others. We’re able to see the range of solutions and make adjustments to bring the desired result into clearer focus.
The graphic is intended to be used to provide an array of options and not intended to be all inclusive. There’s no expectation that you’d draw a straight line as you move through each level.
Work your spectrum conversation from the bottom up.
- Level of Exam – What’s the level of the exams in question, low-stakes or high-stakes? It matters because of the gravity and the impact of the subsequent decisions.
- Content Shelf-Life – What is the change in the content in the curricula and exams? The range is from no change in knowledge to big change in knowledge due to compliance and regulation in your industry or due to technological advancements. Many offer exams that focus on the gap or change in knowledge from the original exam.
- Recertification Requirements – What are the actual recertification requirements? I urge you to stay away from making candidates take the exact same test. It really frustrates them and turns them off to your program. The range of options here include: Provide a renewal fee to your org, attend a conference or training, letters of recommendation, check credits achieved, candidates must teach or provide service hours, provide test items, take a fitness exam by a Dr., perform a task – for example provide documented hours for driving or flying. What would you add to your list?
- Value to Audience – What’s the value to your audience in attaining the recertification? Is it just a nice to have or is it a need to have requirement for maintaining their job or advancement? Are there lives at risk and it is imperative to provide a recertification?
- Implementation – Implementing the recertification should be your last level of concern. The range here is from live and in-person to proctored or remote options. You should discuss any new problems in the areas proctoring and security and advanced options like biometrics which may change you to alter a decision from a previous level.
In addition to the Spectrum of Recertification I’d include a discussion of: Consequences (and Decert), Notification, Fees and Admin Costs to your recertification strategy list. [A more comprehensive graphic covering all certification program considerations is in the book Certify Like Your Business Depends On It.]
So do you think you can begin a certification program without a recertification strategy?