Who'd a thunk it? Praising an employee for a job well done requires certification? Yes. Here's why. With a thinning workforce due to imminent retirees and more and more virtual companies upping the competitive ante, employees expect to be valued, appreciated, and recognized. And bosses continue to look for ways to distinguish among employees and job applicants. Certification alerts employers that you have solid foundational skills needed for effective performance and a commitment to staying current in this rapidly changing world. And since certification is voluntary, it represents not only compliance with established standards, but also highlights your personal commitment to quality, professionalism, and advanced job responsibility.
Looking at the field of recognition, a recent research study found recognition programs account for 2.7 percent of payroll. According to the 2006 U.S. census, payroll costs were $3 trillion. That means organizations spent $81 billion on recognition. That's a lot of recognition. So who do you suppose organizations want to hire to run their recognition systems? The answer is a Certified Recognition Professional (CRP).
The Department of Labor indicates there are 820,000 people in the field of HR in the U.S. As of May 2008, there were only 84 Certified Recognition Professionals worldwide—.01 percent of the HR population—according to not-for-profit trade association Recognition Professionals International (RPI), the only company to offer CRP courses and the only association dedicated solely to the advancement of recognition in all workplaces. RPI is an approved provider of continuing education and training, authorized by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).
How did the CRP designation come about? In late 2003, an education sub-team led by RPI Past President Theresa Howell (Tesoro Companies, Inc.) conducted several focus groups and a job analysis to identify key responsibilities necessary to operate in the realm of employee recognition. These studies formed the basis of the assessment phase, which ultimately resulted in RPI’s development of the Certified Recognition Professional (CRP) designation and courses.
Certification course(s) should be demanding and testing intensive. Certification of individuals within a given field should be exclusive, and attendees should receive continuing education credits for their successful participation in each course. This is the case for CRP certification. To earn CRP designation, candidates must:
1. Complete four facilitator-led courses. Each course runs six hours.
2. Attend the full classroom instructional time.
3. Complete and pass the required testing for each of the four courses by 80 percent. Testing follows immediately after each course.
One final step is to review participant outcomes. Based on Level 3 evaluation input from CRP participants, below are some of actions accomplished as a direct result of the course material:
- Define a recognition strategy that is aligned with the business strategy
- Identify gaps and set action plans to close those gaps
- Create more buy-in by establishing cross-functional recognition teams
- Define baseline, interim, and annual measurements
- Identify specific, descriptive behaviors to recognize
- Set goals for each of the three recognition dimensions: formal, informal, and day-to-day
Taking actionable steps such as these have allowed CRP participants and graduates to create value within their respective organizations. According to RPI Education Director Rita Maehling, CRP courses build a common language and framework into the curriculum based on RPI's seven Best Practice Standards:
- Recognition Strategy
- Management Responsibility
- Recognition Program Measurement
- Communication Plan
- Recognition Training
- Recognition Events and Celebrations
- Program Change and Flexibility
"Participants learn through these standards and actual best practice examples what it takes to design and manage a successful employee recognition system, whether you are in a large multinational organization, a government agency, a small not-for-profit, or a service provider," Maehling explains.
RPI 2008 Best Practice: Best Overall Recognition Program recipient Cargill, Inc. maintains a strong recognition culture in all of its business units. Cargil's Three Dimensional Approach Day-to-Day video testimonials demonstrate the variety of recognition within the units, frequency, and significance to employees. Such daily recognition includes: Bingo, You Are a Star, High Five, thank you cards and e-mails, time off, and "On-the-Spot." A strong emphasis is placed on informal recognition programs also. These include volunteerism, milestones, get well cards, baby gifts, annual employee appreciation events, and "In-the-Spotlight." The value of common courtesy and respect for every employee is highlighted at the annual recognition conference. In the last 25 years, Cargill has implemented an assortment of award programs to align with the company's corporate business goals. The series of Circle of Champions and Chairman’s Awards align with Cargill's objective for high performance, customer focus, innovation, leadership, business excellence, environmental health, and safety. Functional awards include IT, CFO, Best Plant, HR Excellence, Inventors, Enriching Communities (Volunteer), and Peak Achievement for Leadership Awards.
Management teams have learned through experience strategic and consistent use of recognition, reward, and praise throughout an organization is instrumental in reducing turnover, increasing productivity, and creating a positive work environment. A paycheck is not reward enough for employees. When employees feel they serve a purpose and are being noticed for doing a good job, they will embrace the organization's mission, goals, and values; work above their standards; take fewer sick days; and be willing to put forth the extra effort for the company. As an added bonus, retaining good, loyal people elevates customer service and sales, and companies identified for their recognition practices attract a better recruiting pool. Compare Fortune magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work For" with "America's Best Managed Companies" by Forbes magazine. Many of these are one in the same, and their return on investment speaks for itself.
Christi L. Gibson is executive director of Recognition Professionals International (www.recognition.org), which offers recognition certification programs to corporate executives and business managers. She is also a monthly online columnist for INCENTIVE magazine (read her column at www.incentivemag.com). She can be reached via e-mail at Christi@recognition.org.