“All organizations can develop certification.
But not all should!” ~ Mickie Rops, CAE, Credentialing Expert
Some organizations think creating a certification program is the sure way to solve some of its problems. Sometime it is a valid way to solve industry-related challenges. Sometimes, it is like using a screwdriver to hammer nails. It just doesn’t fit the problem.
Identifying Certification Goals
Rops advocates that before starting a credentialing program, an organization needs to identify its certification target and goals.
To create those goals, she suggests prioritizing organizational and stakeholder challenges. Then identify how certification will address that challenge with a goal statement.
Three Goals That Are Not Appropriate For Certification Programs
In her book, Considering Certification, Rops identifies three goals that are not appropriate for certification programs.
1. To create a new revenue stream.
Many nonprofit trade associations are looking for additional revenue streams. They often turn to credentialing programs for revenue and as a way to create golden handcuffs for its customers.
One measure of success of a certification program is generating revenue. But it should not be the primary goal.
If making additional money is at the top of an organization’s list, the leaders should pursue other strategies besides certification.
Sometimes, certification programs require additional subsidies for several years, if not forever. Frequently, programs take five years or more before they become sustainable. Some require ongoing assistance like marketing and staff time in order to survive.
Any successful program needs to address a market need. There needs to be a demand and value for it.
The same holds true for a certification program. There should be a demand and value for it.
2. To increase attendance at association education events.
Some association executives firmly believe that offering continuing education and creating a certification program will stop decreasing conference attendance. They think it will turn education programs around.
Often, developing a certification program with required courses so that members will attend a conference usually backfires. It’s a bad idea.
Why? Certification programs are voluntary.
Trying to fix a bad conference experience by mandating continuing education is using the wrong tool to solve a challenge. Instead, just improve the conference experience!
3. To do it better than a competing organization.
Many nonprofit associations think that their programs and services are better than their competitors. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it isn’t.
Trying to compete with another organization and offer a better certification program is not a good reason to start one. Sure, an organization can create a better and more successful program than a competitor. Yet that’s not an appropriate reason to start one.
The Key To Successful Certification Programs
The key to a successful certification program is to consider what you are trying to accomplish and then determine if certification is an effective strategy to accomplish it. It will probably take more time to strategically plan and implement an effective program thank you think. It’ is definitely a way to avoid a costly mistake!
What are some appropriate reasons to begin a certification program? How can employees help leadership avoid making a costly mistake with considering starting a certification program?