THE CHALLENGE OF VALIDATING A DESIGNATIONíS WORTH IN THE LONG TERM
One of the main objectives of a professional association is to provide members with the opportunity to become professionally recognized as a specialist within their field. Certain professions are regulated by government and they specify particular courses of study and development in order to become certified to practice within those professions. But if you work in a non-regulated profession you have to rely on professional organizations and associations to set standards of excellence and ensure that non-regulated professionals meet or exceed these standards.
Most professional organizations accomplish this through a rigorous program of professional accreditation that not only helps management and human resource experts attain credits and recognition but also allows them to grow and thrive in their careers. But once a manager or human resource professional meets the organizationís standards and criteria and receives accreditation, how do they maintain that status and continue to grow in their areas of expertise?
One way that many professional associations are trying to deal with the maintenance of these standards is through what is known as recertification. Recertification is not new for many Canadian unregulated professions and many professions have a rigourous retraining regimen that requires their members to reapply and re-tested on a yearly or biennial basis. This, however, is still a relatively new phenomenon for managers and human resource professionals and most organizations that represent these groups are trying to develop a mechanism that allows their membership to continue to meet their certification standards.
Every organization has the right to establish their own mechanisms and requirements to allow their members to maintain and recertify their professional credentials. That has resulted in a variety of different options that are available to different association members depending on the requirements set by their certifying organization. This might include continuing education like workshops, conferences and seminars. It could also allow for credits for volunteer activities or mentoring junior professionals to come into their profession.
Other organizations place a premium on formal training or accepting specific work related projects or teaching at a college or technical institute. These might include secondments to another organization or special assignments within their home organization or business. There are also organizations that provide credit towards recertification for publishing articles or conducting research into some specific aspect of their chosen field of work.
Finally, organizations differ as well in terms of how they test or re-test the professionals within their groups. Some of them have a yearly recertification test that members are required to pass in order to maintain their certification and others re-test their members every two or three years. Some organizations have no testing regimen at all and rely on members to self report their activities in order to keep their membership status and designation.
In my view I believe that the maintenance of professional standards is a crucial element for both an association and the members involved. But I also think that professional organizations should make any recertification process as efficient and inexpensive as possible. Members have already worked and paid for their original certification process and an organization should help facilitate their maintaining that status with as little difficulty as possible. There should also be accommodations for professionals who work in smaller locations as well as big cities as all national organizations have members spread from coast to coast to cost. This could include allowing members to maintain or upgrade their certification through distance learning and self study programs.
I also think that any organization that uses recertification as an opportunity to charge their members a lot of money in order to maintain their professional status through external training and development is making a big mistake. So too are associations that set requirements that often mean too much time and travel for todayís busy professionals.
In our view we want IPM association members to keep abreast of the latest developments in their field without having to pay a lot of money to prove that they are continuing to grow as professionals in their field. Any recertification program that we institute would have to be relatively low cost, involve a minimum of travel and disruption to work schedules, and be self-directed versus any kind of examination process. I would like the focus to be on building credits through continuing education that should be on-line wherever possible and in encouraging volunteer contributions by our members within their workplaces and the broader community.
We have not yet decided how we want to deal with recertification in our IPM associations but it appears to be a looming issue that sooner or later we have to come to grips with. As we are having those internal discussions I wanted to share our initial thinking with IPM members and to get your feedback and suggestions before we move forward.