Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Can certification DECREASE salaries? (part one)

This is a follow-up to a post that I wrote following a webinar that examined product management. The webinar, delivered by Therese Padilla of the Association of International Product Marketing & Management (AIPMM), covered a lot of territory, but briefly touched on the issue of product management certification. As I noted in the earlier post, Trevor Rotzein asked if there was any statistical evidence supporting a positive return on investment (ROI) for product management certification.

When discussing the topic, I noted that it's important to distinguish the ROI that you're examining. There is the ROI for a product manager that pays for certification, and there's the ROI for an organization that pays to get its product managers certified. At the time, I assumed (based upon personal experience) that certification provides a positive ROI for a product manager, but that it was unclear whether an organization could realize (or even identify) benefits from certified product managers.

David Locke (@davidwlocke) provided a comment that got my mental wheels turning. Here are portions of Locke's comment:

A PM certification will be the keyword that HR latches on to. So eventually, all PMs will be certified.

This type of behavior is not surprising. The main job of HR is to whittle down a stack of hundreds or thousands of applications to something more reasonable, and the best way to do that is to set minimum criteria for the job. Don't have a college degree? Don't have five years' experience? Don't have a PM certification? Well, that narrows down the pile of resumes.

Ideally, one could argue that the minimum job criteria are critical to the job, and that it makes sense to disqualify people who don't meet the minimum criteria.

Back to Locke.

In the meantime, some very good PMs will not find work absent the keyword.

The hope, of course, is that you've chosen the right minimum job criteria. And an argument can be made that a "very good PM" who isn't certified may not be so good after all. One of Padilla's four points about certification is that certification indicates proof of commitment - if I don't bother to get certified, does that indicate that I don't really care about my job? That I don't adapt to changing circumstances?

So, eventually certification takes hold and becomes a minimum requirement for a product management job. Locke then made a statement that threw me...

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