How to Encourage Your Employees to Earn Certifications

Continuous education has never been more critical. Filling skills gaps is one of HR’s top priorities for 2020, and learning is key. For HR practitioners themselves, this often translates to a push towards certification. Getting your team certified provides a comprehensive foundation for skills development —  and gives you a great opportunity to model what that looks like for the rest of your workforce.

Individual professional development underscores practice, so it deserves a top spot in your team members’ day-to-day lives. But it can sometimes be a struggle to prioritize it with all of the other demands that your people are juggling. Here are three ways you can encourage them to make that investment.

Draw Connections to Performance

Certification demonstrates HR knowledge, so employees have to learn to earn the credential. Help your employees see how that knowledge supports comprehensive HR practice and boosts their daily performance. “Being certified brings confidence and sureness to your day-to-day role,” says Ruth Hartgen, director of HR at HRCI. “You have to recertify every three years, so your knowledge never stagnates.”

Collaborate with your employees to select the right certification that supports their career goals and personal growth. “Show how certification helps them progress within the organization,” Hartgen suggests. Employees who have recently certified are a great source of encouragement. Have them share how certification has enhanced their daily performance, enriched their practice and helped them achieve their goals.

Provide Meaningful Financial Support

Often, employees want to obtain a certification, but don’t have the financial resources they need to move forward on their own. Financial support is critical to a culture of learning and employee development. “As an organization, you can ensure employee buy-in by financially supporting their professional development,” Hartgen says. “Setting aside money in the annual budget and understanding employee’s career goals in advance is key.” 

Support employees by preparing a list of resources they can turn to for studying and recertification credits. “An employer doesn’t always have to have a very large budget for this,” Hartgen says. “It often comes down to knowing what resources are available.” If multiple employees are certifying at once, encourage them to establish study groups and share their learning and resources. 

If it’s in your budget, leverage financial incentives or bonuses to encourage buy-in and help reimburse certification costs.

Recognize People’s Progress 

Certification is more than a professional duty -- It’s also a personal achievement. Earning a certification requires devoting personal time and resources to study and committing to a lot of hard work. Give your employees the recognition they deserve as they master the milestones along the way. 

“Employees want to be recognized for taking the time and effort to study for and earn important certifications,” Hartgen says. Support their growth by recognizing and rewarding their progress. Get other employees involved. Certification often has a domino effect — when one employee begins the journey, others follow. Peer-to-peer recognition — and healthy competition — can strengthen an employee’s motivation.