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TEKsystems Survey: Organizations Exposed to Certification Inflation

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Perceived Certification Value Varies by Discipline; Leaders and Professionals Agree That Companies Should Pay for Certifications

TEKsystems®, a leading provider of IT staffing solutions, IT talent management expertise and IT services, today released the findings of a survey that explores the validity, perceived value and compensation impact of technology certifications. More than 300 IT leaders (i.e., chief information officers, IT vice presidents, IT directors, IT hiring managers) and 900 IT professionals were polled.

Key findings from the survey were:

Organizations Exposed to Certification Inflation

Almost half of IT leaders rarely—if at all—verify candidates’ certifications; IT professionals lax on accuracy

IT Leaders

Always/Often

Sometimes

Rarely/Never

How often do you verify workers certifications?

26%

25%

49%

IT Professionals

Always/Often

Sometimes

Rarely/Never

How often are certifications accurately reflected on your resume?

52%

41%

7%

  • TEKsystems’ Take: Only 26 percent of IT leaders always/often verify certifications, with just 52 percent of IT professionals indicating they always/often represent their certifications accurately on their resumes. Together, these findings point to a staggeringly high percentage of organizations potentially exposed to “certification inflation” during the vetting process. Additionally, feedback indicates that IT professionals may embellish, or “inflate”, their certifications in order to sidestep the automated electronic resume filtering process. This may include omitting certification expiration or “self-certifying” their capabilities based upon work experience, believing their technical proficiency will be adequate for the position. IT leaders who don’t verify a new hire’s certifications expose their organizations to unnecessary risk and inefficiency. With the average time to fill a requirement currently greater than 50 days, hiring an individual who cannot perform as advertised forces organizations to rededicate time and resources towards finding a solution to a preventable problem.
Certification Value Influenced by Time in Market and Rate of Change

IT leaders and professionals in sync on certification value; security far outdistances other areas

Competency areas where certifications provide the most value (Stack rank top three)

Ranking

Competency area

% of IT leaders ranking No. 1–3

Competency area

% of IT professionals ranking No. 1–3

1

Security

45%

Security

43%

2

Programming/development

22%

Project management

22%

3

Project management

21%

Programming/development

21%

4

Software engineering

10%

Software engineering

14%

5

Data analytics

7%

Data analytics

12%

6

Cloud

7%

Cloud

10%

  • TEKsystems’ Take: With options ranging from emerging to established vendor and third-party backed disciplines, certification in competency areas that have had been around longer, are less subject to change and are more widely adopted are viewed by both IT leaders and professionals as having greater value. Both groups indicated nearly identical value rankings across disciplines, with security far outdistancing any other competency. Certification in areas such as data analytics and cloud computing, though seen as offering great value, are still maturing and being influenced by a greater rate of change. At its baseline, it appears the value of a certification is built upon the foundation of how valuable the core discipline is to the overall organization.
Certifications Lessen in Importance for Existing Employees

Leaders view certification as most important while hiring, yet IT professionals see them as the key to career growth

ITL: How important are technical certifications when making personnel decisions

Important

Neither important nor unimportant

Not important

Hiring

62%

17%

21%

Developing

59%

21%

20%

Promoting

48%

25%

27%

Responses

Long-term Career Growth

Current Compensation increase

Hiring Potential

Time Requirement

Cost

IT Professionals: What is the most important factor in deciding to pursue a certification?

40%

18%

16%

14%

12%

  • TEKsystems’ Take: One of the most concerning findings is the disconnect between leaders and professionals in regards to which phase of their career certifications provide the most value. Only 16 percent of professionals pursue certifications based on improving their hiring potential, yet IT leaders view certification as playing the most important role in the hiring stage. Additionally, IT leaders see certifications lessening in importance over time, while professionals see improving long-term career growth as the most important factor in pursuing a certification. A point of concern is that additional certifications may extend current expertise and increase job security in current roles, but not necessarily lend themselves to career advancement opportunities.
Certifications are Separate from Salary Considerations

Majority of IT leaders and professionals agree employers should pay for certifications

Employers should be expected to pay for technical certifications

Agree

Neither agree nor disagree

Disagree

IT Leaders

65%

23%

12%

IT Professionals

74%

19%

7%

Employees should take less compensation if an organization provides free certification

Agree

Neither agree nor disagree

Disagree

IT Leaders

19%

22%

59%

IT Professionals

34%

29%

37%

Responses

Always/Often

Sometimes

Rarely/Never

IT Leaders: How often are certifications factored into an employee's salary

30%

39%

31%

IT Professionals: How often do you factor certifications into your salary compensation level?

50%

25%

25%

  • TEKsystems’ Take: The majority of both IT leaders (65 percent) and professionals (74 percent) believe the organization should pay for certifications, while less than one-fifth (19 percent) of IT leaders believe company-sponsored certifications should affect salary. Consistent with this belief is that less than one-third (31 percent) of leaders factor certifications into salary compensation – a reflection that IT leaders view the value of certification to be interwoven with job performance. Conversely, 50 percent of professionals believe that the number of individual certifications should be taken into account in overall salary compensation, reflecting a “collectors” mentality.

“This research highlights areas of agreement and disconnect regarding certifications. The perceived value and impact of certifications vary greatly and clearly points out the importance that accreditation and verification can play,” said TEKsystems Research Manager Jason Hayman. “First, organizations need to be more diligent in actually verifying certifications in order to avoid getting trapped in a certification shell game. Additionally, IT professionals need to understand that the value of certifications does not end with the accreditation itself, but in their ability as employees to bring that knowledge and expertise to bear on their job responsibilities. Given that a third of IT professionals surveyed have indicated a willingness to trade compensation for certification, they should also be aware that organizations increasingly consider paying for the certifications of their employees as a cost of doing business and that this is much less of a zero sum scenario than it used to be.”

TEKsystems’ Jason Hayman is available for additional commentary. For more information about the survey, or to schedule an interview, please contact Nathan Bowen at nabowen@TEKsystems.com.

About TEKsystems

People are at the heart of every successful business initiative. At TEKsystems, we understand people. Every year we deploy more than 80,000 IT professionals at 6,000 client sites across North America, Europe and Asia. Our deep insights into IT human capital management enable us to help our clients achieve their business goals–while optimizing their IT workforce strategies. We provide IT staffing solutions, IT talent management expertise and IT services to help our clients plan, build and run their critical business initiatives. Through our range of quality-focused delivery models, we meet our clients where they are, and take them where they want to go, the way they want to get there.