The Value of Certification

With many professionals being certified in their respective fields (including HR or rewards) I wanted to share my thoughts on the value of certification. This comes from having been a Certified Compensation Professional (from WorldatWork) since 1990 and more recently, the Advanced Certificate in Training and Assessment which I received in 2014 from Singapore’s Institute for Adult Learning. I have been a WorldatWork certification faculty member for many years now, and I wish to endorse certification very strongly for those who are able to pursue it.

  1. Competence—first and foremost, certification from a respected body signifies possession of competencies (knowledge, skill and attitudes) needed for successful performance of a profession or specialization. People want to hire those who “can do” things, not just talk about doing things. A good certification program starts with assessment of learning needs, i.e. identification of the relevant competencies. Without this validation, a person may pass a test, proving they know (can do) something that is irrelevant to the real world.Example: I am developing Asia’s first regionally contextualized competency-based total rewards training and certification program and I have an industry panel plus several subject matter experts helping to validate the courses and exams, confirming that they in fact teach and assess the competencies actually needed on the job for regional rewards specialists, professionals and managers. I have an associate currently reviewing 100 actual comp and benefits job descriptions for actual openings in Asia, and cross-checking my competency framework against the job duties and qualifications.
  2. Confidence—second, certification gives a person confidence. We all get asked “do you know anything about x?” from time to time. Instead of saying “sorry, I’ve never done that” (or even worse, giving a false impression about our experience) we can say “actually, yes, I know a thing or two about x”. Busy decision makers (our bosses) love to hear that. That is an expression of confidence that comes from competence.I sometimes advise junior consultants “don’t let your confidence exceed your competence… at least not by too much!”
  3. Connection—certification links you instantly with others holding the same certification. A community is created among certified practitioners, though usually this is quite informal. Still there is a comraderie and sense of mutual respect.Local networks and associations take initiative and hard work. I was once VP of the Michigan-Ontario Compensation Association, and we held monthly meetings, invited speakers and had a great time networking during breakfast briefings. In this setting, I decided that one day I would like to be one of those speakers.
  4. Commitment—Finally, the process of attaining a certification is an achievement that demonstrates commitment to a goal. It proves you can find time for learning and continuous education. As Ghandi said, “Live like there’s no tomorrow, but learn like you will live forever.” And as my great-great-aunt Margaret used to say, “to stay young you have to keep growing new brain cells”. She passed away at the age of 105 and the above quoted advice was actually given to her by her primary school teacher in the late 1800’s. So I share it with you about 130 years later, just as I received it.Completing my ACTA certification in Singapore was not easy. I am very proud of it and it gives me all of the above. I am now embarking on business mandarin certification, though I suspect this may take several years with some risk I don’t make it to the end. Still, I want to take on the challenge.

Certification marks a level of competence, confidence, connection and commitment. And I can’t seem to think of anyone having these four attributes who has not done pretty well in their work and their lives.

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