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One of the trends I've observed over the past several years is that while we receive a steady stream of applications from candidates with ample work experience, far too few have earned IT industry certifications. While experience is certainly important, certifications are too. First, certifications are a great way for employees to prove themselves against recognized standards. Additionally, certifications show that candidates are coachable, flexible in learning, and that they are keeping themselves up to date with their jobs. For example, rather than merely demonstrating that a candidate has worked at the same job doing the same tasks for the past several years, IT industry certifications allow candidates to show milestones of growth during that time.
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Create a customized certification plan for your employees
Over the years, our company has learned the value of using IT certification training for new hires to get them exposed to the nomenclature of our industry, confirm their willingness and ability to learn, and to help them validate their experience. One industry certification that is particularly important to us is the CompTIA A+ certification. We use this as a foundational training for all new employees because it is comprehensive, vendor-neutral and it validates candidates' understanding of the most common hardware and software technologies in business.
And, while everyone starts with this same basic training, we tailor our training program to fit each employee's -- and our company's -- needs.
For example, when it comes to a technician, we may determine that after completing CompTIA A+ certification, the next best step would be CompTIA Network+ certification followed by Microsoft Technology Associate training and then Microsoft Certified Associate training. For another technician, we may recommend CompTIA Security + training followed by Cisco Certified Network Associate Security training and Cisco Certified Network Professional Security training.
We invest approximately $250 per employee per quarter, in training and certification-related activities. It doesn't take a lot to make a big difference, and a little each day adds up over time.
Incentives, pitfalls and certification-related fears
One of the reasons some employers avoid IT industry certification training is due to the fear that their employees will rack up a bunch of training -- paid for by their company -- and then leave. We used to have that same worry at our company, but we no longer do, and here's why: First, the fact is that very few employees stay with the same company throughout their entire work careers. Yet, we've found that creating a training culture fosters a positive work environment with higher morale and closer teamwork, and this has contributed to a lower turnover at our company. Next, we've also noticed that new applicants often mention that one of the reasons they are interested in working at our company is that they are aware that we offer training.
When you think about it, do you really want to create a work environment composed of employees who are content to come to work each day and never improve themselves?
Another fear is that employees who earn certifications will expect more pay. Yes, they absolutely will. But, that is not a bad thing. IT certification training is a win-win. As employees earn more certifications, they enable you to offer a greater number of valuable services to your clients. For example, consider the difference between an IT company that only sells computers and very basic networking and server services and a company that can set up a hybrid cloud environment, migrate email and other business apps to the cloud, deploy converged networks and virtualization technologies, and perform penetration tests and network audits. Companies in the latter category are naturally going to generate more revenue per customer, which they can then use to justify higher employee compensations.
Start small, keep it simple
One other piece of advice is that you should never start new employees out with expensive out-of-town certification training. Start small and allow employees to demonstrate their commitment and capabilities. This will also help them, and you, to avoid burnout.
The reality is that there is no single silver bullet for success in IT. You need several components to achieve year-over-year growth and success. But, if IT industry certifications are something your company hasn't placed a high value on in the past, this is definitely an area you should start focusing on right away.
About the author
Amy Kardel is co-founder and director at Clever Ducks, an IT services company based in San Luis Obispo (SLO), California founded in 1992. She also is a business leader in Rotary, the Downtown Association and the SLO Chamber of Commerce, and she serves on the board of directors for CompTIA.
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