The Great Reshuffle: The Certifications Opportunity You Need to Capitalize On

By Val Brotherton

The Great Resignation is only a small part of the employment story. We’re in the midst of The Great Reshuffle too. People aren’t just leaving jobs; they’re finding new ones. 

In this reshuffle, your association is in a prime position to offer certification programs to professionals working in and entering your industry. So if you haven’t yet, now is the time to get your team and technology ready to take advantage of this massive market growth potential.

Why Certifications Are More in Demand Than Ever

I find it really interesting that during the pandemic, enrollment in short-term credential classes increased by 70%.  That makes sense, in an uncertain economy, career security means reskilling and upskilling. Jobseekers see certifications as a differentiator in the talent marketplace. Those who lost dead-end jobs during the pandemic know certifications will open up better opportunities for them. Professionals switching careers or looking for advancement understand the value of having industry credentials on their resumes.

But, don’t forget that the demand for certifications is driven by employers too. In industries undergoing change, employers need staff who have the skills to keep their businesses profitable. Companies can’t do all this training themselves. They naturally look to your association to help them stay competitive as a business and as an employer.

What It Takes to Be the Premier Provider of Certifications in Your Industry

We all know that during the pandemic, habits and routines changed. Working, shopping, entertainment, education, socializing, you name it—everyone had their own digital transformation. Your association had to shift gears and speed up its digital transformation too, starting with the mindsets of staff and leaders. 

Think and Work Agilely 

I know one thing for sure, agile isn’t just for software developers. Debra BenAvram, FASAE, CAE, CEO of the Association for the Advancement of Blood and Biotherapies, spoke to Associations Now about a new certification program: “Now, if I don’t get that to market in an eight-month period, I may as well not even bother trying. We’re competing with the Amazons, Googles, and other groups like that, and we’ve got to compete. That’s what our members are expecting from us.” 

How long does it take for a program idea to go from conception to launch at your association? If you want to remain relevant in your market, you can’t afford to take months or years to launch new programs. Associations that pivoted quickly during the pandemic and experimented with new practices were rewarded with larger audiences, more engagement, and increased revenue. 

Agility requires having ideation and decision-making processes that allow you to act quickly despite not having all the answers. You also need configurable SaaS technology, like an AMS, that allows you to adapt to new scenarios. (Bonus points if the AMS has a built-in Certifications Management solution.)

Become the Professional Development Partner for Industry Employers

Who’s educating your industry’s workforce now? How much business do your competitors have? What’s preventing you from taking that market share back? 

When you make it easy for employers to do business with you, they will rely on your certification programs to help them fill skills gaps and retain employees. Establish an employer advisory council to help you identify in-demand competencies and compliance training needs, develop career pathways, and ensure your certificate and certification programs are teaching and validating the right skills and experience.

Develop credentialing programs for early-career professionals so they can quickly acquire the skills they need, prove their mastery of those competencies, and show prospective employers their commitment to ongoing growth. 

Differentiate Your Programs from the Competition by Focusing on the Learner Experience

With all the online competition, education is a commodity— too often, the lowest price wins. To rise above the rest, you must focus on the learning experience. What can you provide customers that they can’t get anywhere else? What need do they have that is going unfulfilled? 

Do market research to find information. Talk with people and watch what they do. Are they looking for more opportunities to connect and have conversations with others? Then build that into your programs. Experiment with ways to bring learners together more often. 

Tune-up Your Smart Marketing Machine 

There’s a lot of noise in your audience’s inboxes and social platforms, so your marketing campaigns must grab and hold their attention. Earn your audience’s attention by telling them what they need to hear in a way that makes them want to take action. What emotions can you activate? What will also appeal to their logical mind?

I recommend starting with the basics. Know what you want (goals), how you’re going to measure progress toward those goals (metrics), and then come up with persuasive, relevant, and helpful messages targeted at different audience segments. See which tactics meet your metrics and which don’t, then tweak and test again. 

If you don’t understand your target audience’s behavior, interests, and aspirations, none of this will work. Siloed data is of no use here. You need the full picture of a member or customer—one you can get if your AMS’ API makes it easy to integrate with other systems. 

Tap into the Experience and Network of Your Technology Partners

You usually only think about going to your technology partners when you have questions about your software, but your partners are focused on people and practices too. When thinking about experiments and new directions, your Customer Success Manager can help you figure out how to leverage your AMS to make these visions happen. 

Your tech partners have seen all kinds of programs at associations facing the same challenges and using the same technology. They can introduce you to counterparts in other organizations. I recommend starting a peer network to discuss challenges, share what’s working, and inspire each other to elevate your certification programs to the top of the market.

Don’t miss the window on establishing your association as a trusted provider of certification programs that stand out from the rest of the competition. If your AMS is not up to the job, it’s time for a technology reshuffle. 

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