Credentialing: Setting standards and inspiring development

George Rogers on the importance of qualifications for the coaching community.

Human resources, as well as learning and development, once were skill sets known only to hiring managers. Today, these professions are widely understood and highly regarded, due in part to the credentialing programmes offered by many different organisations throughout the world. 

In the US the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) programme helped establish a systematised approach that signified mastery of core skills in these professions. Now, hiring managers expect the SHRM credential to ensure candidates have the qualifications for these important positions on their teams.

Across many industries, hiring managers and job-hunters share a common challenge: How to confirm with confidence that a professional’s experience meets an industry’s core competencies and best practices. A credentialing programme, similar to the one created by SHRM, offers an unassailable solution.

In many industries, qualifications are widely accepted as evidence of an individual’s knowledge and ability to work effectively in that field. Without credentials, employers are left guessing if an applicant is fit for a role requiring specialised qualifications.

But not all credentialing programmes are created equal. When deciding to build such a programme, an organisation must define a clear purpose, be intentional, and understand how the qualifications can be beneficial both to the organisation and the professional.

Developing a meaningful credentialimg programme starts with a vision of what the qualification will offer individual professionals, hiring managers, and the industry at large

As part of a recently released 2020 Global Coaching Study, an overwhelming majority – more than 80% – of coaches worldwide indicated that their personal and organisational clients expect coaches to be credentialed.

For any organisation considering a new credentialing programme, these best practices are key:

Defining your why

Before an organisation begins developing a credentialing programme, an important first step is to define the purpose the credential will serve: What will it mean for a professional to hold this qualification? Will it help them build trust with clients? Does it demonstrate a commitment to being accountable to agreed-upon best practices?

In what ways does it challenge them to keep building skills as their tenure in the field grows? A credentialing programme can do any or all of these things if the programme is created with these priorities in mind.

Once the priorities are defined, the organisation can determine the qualification’s foundation by defining the skills, education, knowledge and training a professional must demonstrate to earn the programme’s designation. From this, they can build the structure to elevate professionals to these standards.


Finally, credentialing requires an assessment of expertise that is fair, valid and reliable. These attributes ensure that the qualification accurately measures a professional’s capabilities and knowledge in a way that is meaningful and consistent.

The use of coaches serving as subject matter experts is critical in identifying what the programme should entail and offer insight into the skills and knowledge required of those seeking the qualification.

A comprehensive credential programme should include well defined eligibility criteria, rigorous assessment of knowledge and skills, and requirements for continuing professional development. 

Tracking professional development

Once a programme is established, monitoring professionals’ credential status can help to prioritise and advance their ongoing development. Investing in employees’ skills not only benefits the individual’s growth, but also the employer’s, since both will use those skills to achieve organisational goals.

A good credential programme will offer employees other incentives as well, such as enhanced potential for promotions, recognition from peers, a feeling of accomplishment and monetary benefits as enhanced skills lead to increased salaries.

It’s important to recognise that professional development is not linear and does not happen at the same pace for everyone. Having a structure that monitors professional development can help to identify individuals’ strengths and weaknesses and determine how to facilitate further achievement.

Start building your credentialing programme

Developing a meaningful programme starts with a vision of what the qualification will offer individual professionals, hiring managers, and the industry at large. Once these priorities are defined, turn your attention to identifying the required knowledge and skills, and then creating the assessment processes that effectively measure the necessary skill sets.

Ultimately, credentialing programmes can help hiring managers and professionals signal a common foundation for industry practice. It also can do much more, for example, preparing new generations of professionals, inspiring industry veterans to continue to stretch themselves, and uniting an entire industry around an agreed-upon set of principles and practices.

Qualifications can also be seen as a measure of quality for clients providing reassurance they are in the most capable hands.

If these sound like qualities that would enhance your organisation’s team or broader profession, creating a credentialing programme could bring significant value, as well as set your organisation apart as an industry leader.


About the author

George Rogers is the Director of Quality Assurance for Credentialing and Accreditation at International Coaching Federation.


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