You’ve decided that a professional certification will help you improve your performance on the job and boost your career. How do you convince your boss or your company that they should support your pursuit of the certification, in both money and time? A variation of this question was asked by several people who attended my December 2019 ATD webcast, Taking Charge of Your Professional Development.
Companies receive several benefits from certified employees. For example, in its post “4 Reasons a Professional Certification Benefits the Entire Company,” Robert Half points to happier employees—employees who also stick around longer. Further, “certified employees learn from their training the importance of adhering to certain professional standards.” Certification also aids employers, according to the post, by giving clients greater confidence in the business, and boosts productivity.
Individuals who go through the rigor of becoming certified understand the many benefits of lifelong learning, something that many companies also are beginning to understand and appreciate, especially in the increasingly fast-paced world of work. The EvoLLLution.com article, “The Shared Value Of Lifelong Learning for Professionals and Employers,” details the increased likelihood of having internal candidates to promote. Also, when employees develop new skills and—especially for young employees—zero in on an area of specialization, they become more confident; as the article notes, “confident employees deliver better service to internal and external customers.” I also wrote about many of these benefits in my issue of TD at Work, “Develop You Career With a Professional Certification.”
However, despite these data, some companies, and some bosses, still don’t understand the value of a professional certification. If you want to convince your boss or your company that they should support this, you need to be ready to show the value it will bring to your company. Don’t talk about the value the certification will provide you, talk about the value the company will receive from the skills and best practices you will learn in the certification preparation process.
Supporting an employee who is preparing for a certification exam is an investment. What will the company get for that investment? Senior management needs to understand the value to the company and your customers before they will support staff who are willing to work toward earning a relevant certification.
Before you talk to your boss or HR, review your company’s core and future goals and objectives and determine where you fit into these goals. Are you directly responsible for any of them, or is it your role to support others in the organization who are responsible for the goals? Typically, learning and development is a support function. If you take specific training that leads to certification, how will this knowledge help your company meet those goals? How would you be able to better support those responsible for the goals? Be specific.
Let’s say your company has an objective to grow the business in a new market segment. How would your certification tie to that goal? If you are in L&D, will your certification help you find more efficient ways to tie the training your company does to those employees working on the objectives? Could you create learning opportunities more quickly, or create learning opportunities that are more engaging, with lessons that will stick better? You’re already good at your job, but you want to be better. The certification should help you provide more value to your employer and their customers.
Occasionally you will hear, “But what if we train you and you leave?” Do not, I repeat, do not respond with the old quip, “But what if you don’t train me and I stay?” That won’t get you where you need to be. A better answer is, “Research has shown companies that train their employees have greater loyalty and less turnover.“ You won’t have trouble finding articles to back up that statement. For example, the ATD Research report, Lifelong Learning: The Path to Personal and Organizational Performance, notes that lifelong learning is a higher priority in top companies, and encouraging employees to continue to develop leads to improved employee engagement levels, improved overall organizational performance, and improved ability to retain talent.
The credential-holding body will undoubtedly have case studies and testimonials that will demonstrate how the certification helped other companies. If you can find something relevant there, bring it along when you make your pitch.
If you want support, focus on how the company benefits, not on how you benefit. Good luck!
Learn more on how you can become ATD CI Certified.