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Three Ways Associations Can Prioritize Credentials and Certificates

With people changing careers and needing new skills, certificate and credential programs are more important than ever. Two new reports from the Society for Human Resource Management Foundation suggest ways associations can ensure their credentials meet learner, employer, and employee needs.

With the job changes spurred by the pandemic and people rethinking their work, interest in alternative credentials and certifications (e.g., micro-credentialing, industry or professional certification, digital badging) has exploded. Two new reports from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offer a wealth of tidbits to associations offering such programs.

The Rise of Alternative Credentials in Hiring” and “Making Alternative Credentials Work: A New Strategy for HR Professionals” show where credentials and certifications are excelling and how credential creators, like associations, can show the value of certifications. Here is a look at three takeaways from the reports to consider:

Make Sure Your Credential Has Value

SHRM Foundation President Wendi Safstrom said she’s seen employers advertise jobs saying that a specific credential is preferred.

However, this is for highly valued credentials, and not all credentials are. For example, “Rise of Alternative Credentialing” found that 54 percent of HR professionals are not clear what skills are learned through some credentials, and 44 percent of executives and 39 percent of HR professionals believe quality among credentials is too varied.

Those stats are a good reminder that associations producing credentials and certifications need to be clear about both the skills individuals will learn and how they apply to the industry. Safstrom says it’s important to “tier [credentials] based on what kind of skill or experience the individual is actually gaining and being able to articulate the value of that.”

Additionally, it’s important for associations to ensure their programs contain current skills, which will make it appealing to both employers and employees. “Make sure your credential or certification is up to date for the times and it’s reflective of the knowledge base that’s needed today,” she said.

Highlight Credentials During the Hiring Process

SHRM noted that technology used to help manage the hiring process—applicant tracking systems (ATS)—often doesn’t properly account for credential information.

“Nearly half of HR professionals that we talked to said that their organization uses those automated ATS systems as pre-screeners to review resumes, but only a third of that group said their system recognizes alternative credentials,” Safstrom said.

Because many of the out-of-the box ATS solutions don’t track credentials, it’s important for employers to look for ones that allow them to do so. SHRM plans to encourage HR professionals to be more proactive in ensuring credentials are noted as candidates move through the hiring process.

Offer Credentials as an Employee Benefit

One final item that Safstrom mentioned is that employers are also covering the costs of obtaining credentials and certifications as perks to recruit and retain employees. Education benefits continue to be appreciated by staff, according to SHRM, and certificate and credential programs can fill that role.

This can be a marketing point for association credential or certificate programs, as they encourage employers to remind staff that education funds can be used for their programs.

“A great way to get people up to speed is to offer these kinds of learnings as an employee benefit,” Safstrom said. “It’s something that can not only be used with prospective employees, but it can also be used as a development tool and a way to demonstrate the company is investing in staff. It’s a great retention tool.”

How does your association show the value of its credentials and certifications? Share in the comments.

(DNY59/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a senior editor at Associations Now. She covers money and business. Email her with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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