How certifications are valuable training resources

The new year is just around the corner and many hotel training departments are considering what training programs they are going to offer in 2016. We will look at our companies’ analytical data including revenue, operational performance and guest feedback. A needs analysis will be completed and we will determine what core competencies need to be focused on to create training programs to fill the performance gaps.

One training resource you will want to consider is industry certifications. Certifications provided by industry-leading hospitality associations are developed on core competencies, industry standards and common nomenclature to determine an individual’s knowledge and skill level. When certifications are strategically placed in an employee’s learning plan, they provide a validation of their progress and an acknowledgement of their success.

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Certifications have been around for a long time. Some historians document their use as far back as the 13th century during the Roman Empire to ensure medical practices, and in the church to regulate educational religious content. In 1639, the first certification program was in the form of a medical licensure program instituted by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Certifications initially were introduced in the United States in the fields of teaching, law and medicine. Since that time, certification has grown in many different industries whose leaders have seen the value of maintaining core competencies and standards of learning for their professionals.

Certifications work well for a couple of reasons:

1. Individual commitment and goal setting. Two theories that are significant in certification are Maslow’s theory on the hierarchy of needs and the andragogy theory of adult learning by Knowles. In both theories, individuals determine their goals and their commitment to obtain them based on their needs and self-directed learning. This individual commitment and goal setting is why certifications work well in employee professional development and continuing education. The core competencies of the certification can be aligned with educational needs of the employee or the certification can be used as a verification of the capabilities of an employee in a specific role.

2. Continuing education. Ongoing continuing education is an important part of maintaining a learner’s knowledge base and keeping him or her active in the education process. Knowledge and technology are expanding exponentially; the information an individual may have learned in college or on the job is outdated quickly and additional knowledge must be continually added to stay current and effective. Society has accepted that members of professions must maintain the competence and quality of essential services provided to them. This is reflected in the hospitality industry as we are constantly updating or changing our hotels systems (property management, point of sale, Wi-Fi, learning management) to adapt to the changing technology and guest expectations.

And the best part? No need to recreate the wheel—utilize certifications from leading hospitality associations in your annual training plan for employee professional development. The advantages are many, including a broader industry perspective and influence in your training, a symbol of authenticity, safety and confidence. And certifications are portable and recognized throughout the industry by peers and colleagues.

Michael E. Nalley is the director, education, training & guest feedback for Best Western International. He is also the co-chair of the AHLEI Education and Certification Advisory Committee. He is an active member of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers.