It seems that certifications are under attack. In the past several months I’ve heard that corporations are no longer interested in having their employees obtain any certifications. This rant is not limited to the PMP®. Indeed, it is said that companies are now solely interested in skills training. On one level this makes sense. Why should a company care whether their employees are certified project managers, business analysts or Scrum Masters so long as they are able to perform those functions? What good are certifications, anyway?
At RMC Learning Solutions, we are beginning to see this line of thought play out. There has been a reduction in sales of exam prep courses to our corporate clients while sales of our fundamentals courses in all areas are seeing an increase. When we ask these clients if they want to get their employees certified, some of them say that they don’t see the value of certification. There are several reasons why this line of thinking is, frankly, wrong.
First off, someone must see the value of certification. While sales of certification prep courses to our corporate clients have declined, we have seen a marked increase in sales of our prep materials and prep courses for all the certifications that we teach. This presents a bit of puzzle because, while public classes are often paid for by the student with their own funds, many are reimbursed for our certification training by their employers – some of whom are the very companies that told us they didn’t see the value of certification. So what gives? We asked the students.
John (not his real name) is a developer at a software company (can’t say which one). He’s relatively new in his career, been out of school two years. John is actually in an MBA program but decided to take our CAPM® Exam Prep class, to study to become a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®. We asked John why he wanted to get his CAPM®.
As a developer, John works almost exclusively on projects. Placement on a project team is competitive. As a developer John naturally wants to work on the most interesting and visible projects. The more of those projects he can work on, the better his chances are of getting promoted or at least larger salary increases. Even though John is not a project manager at this point in his career, having a working knowledge of the terminology and practices associated with project management is helpful in performing his work.
The natural question for us was, so why not just take a basic PM course. Why bother with the certification? John’s response was interesting.
Because selection is competitive, project managers look for things like the CAPM® to separate them from other applicants. Because John is new to a large organization and not well known yet, the credential is helpful in making the first cut, to even get a shot at being on a project team.
Then there’s Mary. She is a certified project manager, a Project Management Professional (PMP)®, in fact, she is wanting to become a PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® so is taking our PMI-ACP® Exam Prep class. Mary had gotten her PMP® years ago. In fact she was taught by Rita Mulcahy, the founder or RMC Learning Solutions, then passed the PMP® exam with flying colors on her first try (admittedly we’re blowing our own horn). Mary is a longtime fan of RMC Learning Solutions. We asked Mary to comment on the statement that: “companies don’t care whether their employees obtain certifications so long as they can do the work.”
Her response was: “Well, they should.” Mary’s comments relating to the PMP® focused mostly on new hires. “Say you’re looking to hire a project manager. You get a large stack of resumes. They all show experience, describe the projects the applicants worked on and their responsibilities on those projects. You can’t interview everyone, and let’s face it, a lot of these resumes sound impressive.”She went on to describe the time she wasted interviewing applicants who had impressive resumes but had no clue what they were talking about or even what real project management was.
She found that applicants who had their PMP® were more likely to be actual project managers or at least had the minimum competence level necessary to perform project management work. It did not take long before she started rejecting applicants who did not have their PMP® out of hand. They never got to interview. As far as she was concerned, the PMP® became a job requirement to be a project manager. Her conclusion was that “yes, for the organization, skills are more important than the credential, however, in the hiring process, the PMP® credential allows her to save time by interviewing only qualified candidates.” So it was more a perquisite for the employee than a value to the company. “True,” she said. “But if you want to keep your high performing employees, you need to do things like that.”
We asked why she was taking the PMI-ACP® Exam Prep class. “Same reason,” she said. “Agile is becoming more and more important in the workplace. I need to stay current in best practices or be left behind. Having this credential tells the world that I’m still on top of my game and it tells my company that I’m committed to being the best I can be.”
So, from what we are seeing, there is still strong demand for certification and it does have value. Companies that feel to realize this are shortchanging their employees and, in the long run, themselves.
“CAPM”, “PMP”, “PMI-ACP” are marks of Project Management Institute, Inc.
An Attorney and Published Author with a career spanning 20 years.