Struggle for Employer-Funded Certification

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I recently wrote about how employees can convince their boss to pay for certification. Many of the people who read my article contacted me to let me know that sometimes the problem is not so much the employee convincing the boss, but the boss convincing his superiors, particularly in these tough economic times. Let’s dive into this side of the debate.

If you are an IT manager, how can you justify certification for your company? One of the ever-increasing challenges for someone in your position who is interested in investing in certification and training for your employees is the growing resistance inside the corporate world to embrace certification as a crucial initiative. In the heady days of the ’90s, when there was a chronic IT skill shortage, certification was often perceived as being used by employees as a bargaining chip to increase salaries or to trade out to other organizations for higher salaries or seniority.

The reality is that in the vast majority of cases, this was not what actually happened. But as I have said before, perception is reality, and most managers cannot escape the fact that the world has changed. The pendulum has swung in many IT occupations to the point where there are multiple candidates to fill a role. Organizations have retaliated based on perceptions that grew in the boom period and are now increasingly reluctant to invest in certification for their employees.

Certification actually provides many tangible and intangible benefits that warrant the investment. As indicated in most research on the benefits of certification, some of the advantages that an organization can gain include:



  • Increased productivity, with tasks completed quicker.
  • Competitive advantage and higher level of service.
  • Access to vendor information support—both time- and cost-effective.
  • Many believe that offering certification and training as a benefit actually helps attract and retain staff.
  • Provides the ability to sell a bigger and broader solution, or the ability to implement a more valuable solution.
  • Credibility for internal and external customers.


These are just a few of the many benefits that organizations that invest in training and certifications have identified. According to the findings of the “2001 Training & Certification Study” compiled by Gartner Inc. and issued by CompTIA and Prometric, managers feel that the benefits of certification heavily outweigh the drawbacks by three to one. Many other facts and findings can be uncovered to justify the benefits of certification.

So if you are one of those managers who believe that an investment in training and certification is valuable to your employees, your organization and your customers, here are some tips to help justify the investment on a go-forward basis:



  • Know your facts. Use information readily available from organizations such as CompTIA, Prometric, VUE and others to clearly understand the benefits other organizations have gained from an investment in training and certification.
  • Involve your employees. Talk to them about your organization’s fear or reluctance to make the investment and get creative about how to put their minds at rest.
  • Develop your own return on investment model to help justify the investment. Take the time to build your case and justify wherever possible with tangible, bottom-line benefits. If the concern is more centered on certification programs being too theoretical and lacking a practical experience component, build and document an on-the-job development plan to implement in tandem with the certification program.
  • Challenge the naysayers with facts and call their bluff. Fear and anxiety surrounding certification is typically subjective and emotional, and rarely based on fact. It may well be that past employees left after being certified, but was that really the reason they left?


It is undeniable that in these tough economic times many organizations have abandoned certification as an opportunity to invest in their employees. The reality remains that an investment in training and certification for your organization is valuable and will pay off for you in the long run. The key is to take the emotion out of the equation, build a solid, fact-driven case to justify the investment and get the higher-ups in your organization on board.

Martin Bean is the chief operating officer for New Horizons Computer Learning Centers Inc., the world’s largest computer training company.


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