Certifications as a Tool for Your Team

    Author: Dan Young, CCIE, PMP and VP of Operations at StormWind

Managers spend a good deal of their time looking for methods to motivate and optimize their team. IT managers can accomplish both goals by offering certification pathways to their teams. There are certainly pros and cons of IT certifications. You certainly are already aware of issues such as “paper certified individuals” and those certain individuals purely focused on certifications as a way to take shortcuts to success. That said, they are still a tremendously valuable tool that a manager can use. I’d like to speak specifically to those overlooked positives of IT certifications from the perspective of team dynamics.

#1 Confidence: Certifications are a tremendous confidence boost for those that need it. Your team will resist your efforts to take the team in a new direction or move forward if they are lack confidence in what they are currently doing. Have you ever received unexpected pushback when you asked your team for what seems to you a simple request? It may be because your team is already struggling from the mental burden of what they are doing right now. Confidence will diminish that struggle.

#2 Engagement: Do you have any team members that underperform based on their skills? Employees that aren’t engaged, especially the high performers need to stay engaged. If they aren’t pushing themselves, you are going to have a hard time overcoming that inertia when you make a serious ask of your team. It will be easier to get them to dig deep when they are engaged. Imagine a cybersecurity professional that got a few key certifications a few years back. If they are resting on those aging certifications, they are like a boulder that is at rest. Give them a certification to reach for, and they may overcome their inertia all on their own.

#3 Reward: Rewarding team members can pay dividends straight back to you, their manager. An employee that sees you investing in them will be more likely to invest back in your team’s efforts. Certifications are immensely powerful as a reward to an individual who values them. Be careful to not set the bar too high though, since asking someone to get a certification that isn’t reasonable will undoubtedly backfire.

Consider taking a look at your team and using the abundance of certifications as a way to make your job easier and your team more effective. As a manager myself, I can say that it is good to leave no stone unturned when it comes to getting the most out of your team.