Monday, May 11, 2009

On accreditation

The last two companies I worked for encouraged informal learning and independent study. I mention those as two separate things with good reason.

Informal learning can involve reading a self-help book, reading and commenting on blog posts, joining special interest groups online, etc.

Independent study can be quite formal, you might be studying for your bachelor's degree in your spare time, for example.

Independent study may result in an accreditation. A certificate of some sort, which you can frame and hang on your wall. It's also a lot easier to quantify in a CV when you're applying for a job. The thing is, though, that knowing that a person has completed the requirements for XYZ degree doesn't really tell you anything very much about that person's ability in the workplace.

Jessie (my half-Akita dog) and I are coming to the end of our current series of obedience classes. We have been invited to re-enrol, with a view to reaching a point where Jessie can do her bronze certificate, followed by her silver then her gold.

Let's consider. We would get a certificate, which we could hang on the wall above her bed. Would that make her a better pet? Would she be more obedient? How obedient do we actually want/need her to be?

At the moment, she comes when she is called. She sits, stands, rolls over, gives a paw, waits (for a bit), stays (also for a bit) and goes to her bed when told.

What the bronze certificate test would not reveal is that she is also devious.

  • She steals things off the kitchen counter, including sharp knives - how she has managed to escape serious injury is beyond me!
  • She lies on the couch in the lounge, until she hears anyone coming, then she leaps off and acts utterly innocent, blissfully unaware that the throw retains what we refer to as her hoof-prints, and the cushions are covered in her hair.
  • She also - and this slays me - pretends to pee. If I take her outside and tell her to 'hurry up', she will squat for a moment and then sit there, grinning and wagging and waiting to be let back into the house.
My point is that the test assesses what a certain group of people have decided is appropriate for this level of obedience. It does not determine what sort of pet she is. It does not establish how obedient she is on other issues.

We want a pet dog that will fit in with our family.

I wonder to what extent the accreditations demanded by recruiters are relevant to the job role the applicant would perform, and the way they would fit in to the team. Must have a first degree. Must be CIPD accredited. Must this. Must that.

I totally understand that the initial slection process is carried out by HR professionals who do not have enough insight into every single job to be able to assess whether a person is likely to be able to handle it based on what they have chosen to share in their CV. So they identify a few key indicators, among which may be some or other form of accreditation. But to what extent are those pieces of paper a reliable indicator? And to what extent are they just like a bronze obedience certificate above the dog's bed?

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