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Internal Certifications: A Strategy for Employee Engagement in eLearning

Written By Shalini Merugu

Internal Certifications: A Strategy for Employee Engagement in eLearning

Some time back, I’d been involved in the development of a training solution for an organization that wanted to train its implementation engineers to expand their role and transition into an implementation consultant role. This required them to help their customers to take the right decisions around implementation and also train them on the use of one of the company’s tools and products, a Learning Management System.

The Challenge

While employees were totally skilled on the technical aspect of their job, the challenge was to get them to see how they could offer more than just their technical expertise on installing the product and move into a more consultative approach that enabled them to offer complete solutions on optimal use of the product, based on their customer’s unique business needs.

Initially, employees were overwhelmed by this new requirement and there was some degree of panic. An orientation to a consultative approach was clearly required – and required soon. Since most of the implementation experts were always on the move at some client site or the other, it really left them with no time to attend any elaborate ILT sessions. Besides, even those who were not travelling were based out of multiple geographical locations. To step up the pace of the transition to their new roles, the Learning design group offered a comprehensive course on a consulting approach. This course basically had to serve two needs – that of existing employees who were transitioning to the new role as well as new employees who would be taking up this role. It was decided not to make the course mandatory – as it would lessen the pressure of learning. However, it was important to pull in learners and get them to complete it.

The Solution

The course included a refresher on technical skills for less-experienced employees and included several job aids that enabled them to take their learning further. The course also introduced them to skills such as decision making around implantation that they needed, to be able to transition to their new role.

A sound instructional strategy was developed to meet the learning objectives. The design ensured that learners had a chance to explore existing learning materials already out there by building in suitable links to them at strategic points in the course. Learners could visit these external resources and come back to the course once they finished exploring the related reading or related podcasts. Quick job aids were also developed to help them through the entire consulting process. At every point where there was some decision making involved in implementation, a checklist was introduced to help them see what kind of questions they needed to ask their customers before going on to the next steps. Situations, implementation scenarios, and role plays were introduced and learners were immersed into typical real life examples covering all kinds of tough questions customers were likely to ask around implementation and deployment of the product.

The slightly disappointing results

Instructionally, the course was great and totally relevant to the learners’ learning needs. Employee motivation was high. Or so we thought. However, while many of them enrolled for the course, the dropout rate was pretty high as well.

Certifications: The turning point

One small tactic that helped turn the situation around was in introducing a certification on Consulting. This proved to be the most powerful technique to get employee buy-in. The certification was advertised in-house using various internal communications. The end result? Learners voluntarily enrolled for this course, course completion rates soon peaked, as did their performance in assessments – and learners proudly displayed the course certificate in their work stations. The management and training group was happy, the learners were happy, and their customers were happy (as there were fewer escalations). What tipped the scales was introducing internal certifications.

Have you ever used certifications to motivate employees to take up eLearning? Do you think offering certifications are an effective way to getting learners motivated for eLearning? Have you used them yourself? Do share your opinion – I’d love to hear from you!

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  • Ayelet

    I’m considering offering a certificate at the end of the course I’m developing. I assume that, for it to be worth anything, I need to use an independent certifying/accrediting organization and adhere to their standards. Is that true? These days people seem to earn badges for anything and everything. I want this to be a credible certificate of completion someone could include on his or her resume. Any thoughts?

  • That’s true Ayelet. Co-signed certifications by professional bodies are powerful motivators for learning and also add credibility to the course. Internal certificates also do work to a large extent if the organization offering the certificate is a leading player in their domain. What is the subject for which you are planning to offer a certificate?