More than ever before, federal agencies are facing aggressive objectives and shrinking budgets. In this environment, no agency can afford to employ someone whose capabilities are not precisely aligned with the mission. It is more important than ever to have insight into a prospective or current employee’s knowledge and skills.
People often profess to have the necessary skills for a given position, but it is challenging to confirm that they truly have the right qualifications and capabilities. By using competency-based certification programs, organizations can validate proficiency in the knowledge and skills required in a given profession. Widely recognized certifications include Project Management Professional, Professional in Human Resources and Certified Information Systems Security Professional.
These accreditations are often confused with certificate programs, which signify completion of a training course, but typically don’t require a person to demonstrate mastery of the professional domain. Certifications, however, involve ongoing requirements to ensure that skills are updated.
Creating a certification program is a great option for organizations looking to raise the caliber of employees’ technical expertise and ensure they meet standards. For a certification to be recognized outside the organization that grants it, it must be accredited. The Institute for Credentialing Excellence outlines the key components necessary for external accreditation.
External accreditation isn’t necessary if an organization intends to create a certification program for employee development and performance. By supporting professional development, organizations demonstrate a commitment to their employees, which in turn fosters loyalty and engagement.
Certifications help organizations ensure that employees have the right skills to meet today’s complex business challenges and that there is a pool of people ready to take on increased responsibilities. Consultants at PDRI, for example, worked with a government security agency that needed a structure and an approach to identifying and confirming employee capabilities for high-risk and high-profile cybersecurity work. The agency analyzed job requirements, skills gaps and available training. Using this information, officials developed two certification paths and exams to confirm that employees have mastered the necessary skills.
Not all organizations need to create their own certifications, but many can benefit from developing programs that are specific to their business. To implement a successful certification program, organizations should follow these key steps:
- Align certification approach to defined business need
- Conduct a detailed job analysis
- Identify prerequisites
- Select necessary training
- Develop an assessment
- Define administration and maintenance requirements
- Design a communication plan
Certification programs are an effective way to track the knowledge of existing staff and recruit top candidates for critical roles. By investing in certification programs, organizations can effectively validate that existing and potential employees have the required qualifications and capabilities to meet job and mission requirements.
Maya Yankelevich Garza is senior human capital consultant at PDRI, a CEB company.