“Personal certificates claim to offer reliable proof of individual knowledge, skills and competencies.” This quote comes from a web site offering expert advice on the web. I believe most people in the computer industry would agree that it’s valuable to present a practice-related certificate showing that the holder is an expert in a specific subject, proven by a recognized examination. General certificates that mainly convey theoretical knowledge (e.g., “IT consultant” or “IT manager”) might not convey the same value in hiring and promotion.
But if a professional certification is significant, to what extent should HR managers pay attention to certificates presented by job applicants and staff, first for personnel selection and on then for personnel development? A recent posting on this blog, Help Careers Take Off: Certifications and Hiring by Yusei Kariya, introduces this topic. My article expands on the benefits of certification for HR.
For recruitment, the benefits of certification for HR and managers are easy to see: A certification clearly demonstrates the job candidate’s professional skills in the respective field. In addition, it is also easier to compare competing applicants on the basis of certificates, since they represent defined and standardized knowledge.
But what about personnel development? Employees want to expand their knowledge and career opportunities, there is no question about that. Employees also always have good ideas themselves about the direction they want to take and how their employer can support them with the resources of time and money. During this discussion, the topic of certification comes into sharper focus for the relationship between employee and employer:
For the employee, the advantage of certification is clear: It increases their value as an employee, they have the advantage when applying for a job of being able to easily prove their skills and abilities in a standardized way, it offers the opportunity to stand out from other applicants or colleagues, and certificates even form the basis for another, possibly higher position within the company and higher compensation.
Especially in many European countries, degrees and certificates are an important basis for employee selection. Unlike the U.S., where good and detailed references still furnish an advantage to people looking for a job, within the EU and especially in Germany a large number of credentials and certificates are important, even if their importance has diminished during the past ten years.
The previouslymentioned advantage for the employee is actually a potential danger for the respective employer, because the highly credentialed employee could become the focus of poaching attempts. Even so, employees’ certifications offer several advantages to their employer:
The employee is motivated to take a specific certificate training program, if it is recommended and granted to them, because these trainings are usually in the upper price segment and private registration would require a large expenditure of time and money.
Furthermore, the company can be sure that the employee is not just spending five days in a fancy hotel or conference center in an attractive city or holiday resort, but is learning something meaningful and is committed to the task at hand, because an examination is required at the end and must be passed in order to obtain the certificate.
Certified employees also help to safeguard against penalties for computer failures and security breaches, because certifications usually satisfy regulatory guidelines proving that the required qualifications were in place.This is important not only in IT but also in many other industries that are certified according to certain standards, and where certifications can provide unquestionedf proof of competency in regular external audits. Thus, certificates also become an integral part of quality management.
After that brief digression, let’s return to the question of whether certificates are suitable as a tool for personnel development.
In my opinion, the answer is obvious. I see a win-win situation in granting certificate training without question. As highlighted earlier, some companies are afraid that their employees might leave because certificates make them interesting for other companies. But this fear neglects the many other factors that play a role in a decision to quit and change jobs, outside of the professional qualifications proven by certificates.
Conversely, a certificate is immensely important as a personnel development tool because, in addition to the core factors of leadership, appreciation, clarity of the task, personal degree of freedom in performing the task, and general “job hygiene factors” (salary, vacation, benefits, etc.), certification training offers a unique opportunity to bind the employee to the company.and enhance employee motivation. Someone who can be sure of all these core factors in his job sees, in a certificate training program granted by the employer, not just the personal gain for the employee’s professional activity but the totality of the personal and corporate benefits described above. This appeal definitely increases personal identification with the company.
The importance of certificates in the area of personnel development is therefore a double-edged sword. But used cautiously, the positive aspects of certificates ultimately remain in the foreground for all sides.