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  • Top Three Questions from Senior Managers Considering Certification

The top three questions that I’ve heard most from senior managers considering certification are related to cost, time and risk.

Cost

Asking how much “it” (certification) costs without any idea as to what you want to accomplish, is like asking how much it costs to build a house. It depends greatly on what type of a house you want to build. How big do you want it? What do you want for features?

All houses have basic structural components but they can vary widely in cost based on the materials, labor and location. Additionally, all houses need a blueprint — a plan identifying what type of house you’re building and the measurements. No one should attempt to build a house without a blueprint and a development plan, and no one should attempt to build a certification program without a strategic plan and a development plan, either. It’s hard giving you a price if you don’t know what you want to build. As a result, you need to draw out the big picture of the certification program you’re building.

Time

Many managers think it’ll just take a few days for subject matter experts to toss over a few test questions, put them online and they’ll be well on their way to launching their certification program.

They hadn’t fully considered what makes certification different than regular testing. And, they’re surprised when they find out the level of rigor it takes to develop a psychometrically sound and legally defensible program. If you don’t really want to invest in creating certification the right way, then it’s not really the solution for you. There is a process to certification program/test development and it does take time. You can cut down the time for development by dedicating subject matter experts (SMEs) to the process but this is rarely the case. Usually, SMEs have certification development added to their regular workload, not in place of it.

Risk

Managers need to know the legal risks for implementing certification. They have a gut sense that it may mean something but they’re not sure what this entails. Some senior managers want to use certification as their major tool to eliminate employees not passing the new certification test. Certification shouldn’t be used in place of good management feedback and consistent /documented performance reviews. There are legal risks to developing a certification program that was not developed to standards established by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964, and are administered under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Employees can challenge a certification program. Anyone undertaking development of a certification program should take time to identify the steps required to be in compliance with U.S. EEOC Guidelines. If your company/organization is not based in the U.S. then you’d be wise to investigate the equivalent of labor laws in your country.

At a minimum review the following:

Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (1978)

U.S. Department of Labor

   - Testing and Assessment: A Guide to Good Practices for Workforce Investment Professionals (2007)

   - Testing and Assessment: An Employer’s Guide to Good Practices (2000)

Senior managers considering certification as a solution would find greater value in asking broader questions such as:

Is certification the right solution for our partners/employees/customers?

Will the investment in certification solve our performance problems?

Do our customers/partners want/need certification?

What’s our strategic plan?

What are all of the resource requirements needed to get certification up and running the right way?

What will it take to sustain a certification program?

Managers would benefit from thinking of their certification program as its own startup company. They may be more inclined to think of themselves as being in the business of certification rather than a one-off event and solving for resources for a short and long-term strategic solution.

About the Author

Tracey M. Flynn

Tracey M. Flynn is the principal of Performetrics , providing training and certification design solutions. She’s the author of two books on certification; Certify Like Your Business Depends On It and Unlocking the Power of Certification, How to Build Effective Programs.  She has 25 years of experience in a variety of community and corporate education roles and industries. She has taught instructional design at the Graduate School of Education for the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and in many corporate settings.  She takes a performance consultant’s approach to the business  of certification. She can be reached at TraceyFlynn@Performetrics.Biz

She invites your unique perspective, “let’s link up and blog about all things certification for buyers and suppliers.”

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