What’s in a certificate?

I have a personal bucket list and I have a workplace bucket list. One of the things on that list was to design and roll out a large scale management development programme from start to end. Not very exciting I know, but this is a blog focused on learning and organisational development type activities. This type of activity ranks pretty high for us internal practitioner types.

What did the programme look like in scale?
– 12 cohorts of 15 people
– 7 workshops
– 8 e-learning modules
– series of coaching workshops
– 7 months to complete it all

So in effect, we were putting 180 managers through this programme in an intense period of learning activity, and all at the same time. No. Mean. Feat. In the end about 115 were actively part of the programme.

It was far from easy, and there were a lot of challenges that cropped up along the way. People couldn’t stick to the cohort they were part of, and couldn’t attend the dates of sessions. People forgot they had it booked. People underestimated how long it took to get to different venues. People left the e-learning to the last minute. People were off sick. People were on leave. People were going on leave. People just returned from leave.

And although it was a sheep dip approach, a lot of people committed fully to the programme and stayed the course. They made the sessions. They participated in the learning. They networked internally with other managers. They found support amongst others they didn’t know they had. They were learning about business functions and business operations. They were having dialogue with our directors. They were giving feedback on what’s stopping them from being great. They were giving feedback on how to manage performance. They were challenging the learning they received. They were applying the learning.

Our original plan said it was going to take 7 months for everyone to complete their learning. It actually took about 9 months. I learned a lot over this time about how to keep the group engaged in the programme. How to communicate with senior managers about progress. How to support time away from the services they all provide. How to manage requests of all sorts with the learning journey. How to use our LMS better and better to support their learning.

And how did we finish? We held a graduation for everyone who completed all the learning they were required to. This was such a cool event – and it was hardly special in its design. Just simple, short and sweet. It was a two hour affair at an external venue. Senior managers and directors were invited to attend in support of their managers. Lunch was provided and we had some drinks after. We focused the graduation on getting the group to think about what next, and that was the question we put to them. Their responses were most excellent, and we can take a lot of that and make it happen. And here was the thing which surprised me no end.

Early in the programme we had requests for the programme to be endorsed or accredited in some way. My bias told me that certification isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. How. Wrong. I. Was.

It took some time, but the Chartered Management Institute endorsed the programme, and I was glad they were able to recognise us in this way. We were able to add that to the certificates we handed out to all the graduates, with a small gift, and I was simply humbled by people’s reaction to that. If we did nothing else in the graduation, and just did that, it would have been a success. Those certificates had meaning to people. It recognised them for their efforts they had made. It was a badge of honour of having completed such a comprehensive learning programme. It was recognition of the investment made into their personal development.

And, mostly, people felt proud. I had never, in a million years, expected that reaction.

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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

4 thoughts on “What’s in a certificate?”

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience and learning on this. I would have been inclined to agree that the most valuable learning and development comes from interaction with others and doing things rather than having the badge or the certificate awarded from a formal programme. However, certainly in sectors I know about, a lot of store is now set on measurement by accreditation gained, boxes ticked etc. These act as the evidence that someone or an organization has achieved a certain level of quality or a standard. This is very handy for bidding for work, doing quality assurance checklists, short listing etc. without needing to ask for other evidence.
    So I completely understand why your delegates were so happy to have their hard work and commitment formally accredited by CMI.

  2. Really interesting post Sukh resonated with me, I did something similar for 100+ managers a couple of years ago. We did build in certification from the start and That still feels like the right thing, less senior managers really appreciated the opportunity to have something tangible to demonstrate their achievements. But it was the element that caused the biggest headaches too logistically & I wish we’d had our tailored programme endorsed rather than trying to shoehorn an existing award syllabus into our model. We live and learn!

  3. My comment was cut short (or rather cut and paste errors by the author!) I meant to finish with:
    Maybe the question of the value of such programmes needs to be asked in 2 ways:
    1. What did you value the most for your own personal experiential learning and development?
    2. What do you think will be of most value for you on a CV? Commercially? When your organization is quality assuring the calibre of its management to demonstrate this to an external audience?

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