Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Do qualifications matter?

I'm in the midst of an interesting day's interviewing. So far, I've been fixing up interviews with the female finance director of a truck company and one of CNBC's anchors here in the UK. I've also interviewed an HRD with 40 years' experience in the NHS and will soon be interviewing a current Health Service HRD. I'll finish my round of interviews by speaking to Walt Cunningham, the last surviving member of the first Apollo mission - Apollo 7, which launched, coincidentally, almost 40 years ago.

Meanwhile I've interviewed the CEO of a District council and will soon be interviewing the Deputy CEO of a Moscow-based investment bank about how their ACA qualifications (to become Chartered Accountants) have influenced their careers.

Both have eschewed traditional finance roles and have built strong commercial careers but have built from the basis of a strong professional qualification.

This is something that internal communication has never had - and something I've been driving for throughout my career.

For IC to be taken seriously within business and to have status alongside marketing, HR, and other complementary business skills, we need accredited professional development underpinned by rigorous examination - we need a CIPD/CIM specifically for Internal Communications. Until then, we will always be seen as a sub-function of some other discipline.

There's a poll running on the CIB website asking 'How important is a professional qualification in internal communications to you?' At the time of writing, it's depressing to note that only 7.9% see it as vital, while almost a quarter rate it as not important.

If we are to raise standards and orientate IC so that it is a valuable and valued business function, CEOs should be demanding professional qualifications from their communicators; HRDs should be recruiting on the basis of these qualifications and communicators should be differentiating themselves from the pack by excelling in an accredited environment.

The big problem at the moment is that the qualifications don't yet exist. I've got a BAIE Certificate in Industrial Editing and a BACB Diploma in business communications from the early 90s - but the qualifications don't exist any more and were far too focused on business journalism anyway.

Today's communicator needs to have a commercial understanding of business; an understanding of a balance sheet and how to interpret business strategy; an eye of the market around them and a knowledge of what motivates employees to achieve for their organisation. The core skills around making words and images work are a give; they're the start point not the end point for a n internal communications career today.

CiB is changing and evolving, but if it wants to be the organisation for IC professionals, it has to grab the accredited development mantle, and grab it fast - and it has to build an understanding among its members of why professional qualifications need to become a 'must have' not a 'nice to have' for the industry.

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