The Opinion Page
News and comments about the issues facing today's SCM and Inventory Management professionals.
A number of my students have been working very hard lately to earn a professional accreditation in freight forwarding.
I am pleased to report that they all succeeded wildly in their final exam. I was very happy for them. It has been a long, difficult journey for them. They earned it. They are now allowed to put certain letters after their name on business correspondence. They may now be called "people who know what they are doing!"
Such an accreditation is valuable. It affirms their mastery of a certain level of acknowledged best practices and an esteemed Body of Knowledge. It helps them to gain competitive advantage in the job market. It helps them to earn higher pay than their less-qualified colleagues. It sets them up for better opportunities at career advancement.
Let's pretend that I am a hiring manager in the field of Operations Management. Reviewing a stack of resumes for a job opening that I have posted for my firm, I get excited when I see a number of candidates who have included the letters CPIM or CSCP after their names at the header of their resume. These CV's are put in my "A" pile.
Upon closer scrutiny, I find that some of the candidates have put a qualifier after their claim to professional certification, In the body of the resume; they include the words "in progress" or "expected" after CPIM or CSCP. I confess that I might experience what we used to term "lunch bag letdown."
Have I been misled? Is this a breach of ethics?
On the one hand, I have initially been led to believe that the candidate is a person who has demonstrated mastery of the OM Body of Knowledge by successfully completing all examinations and course material as required to achieve certification. This is by virtue of the fact that the candidate has presented himself as "Fred Smith, CPIM." On the other, the candidate wriggles himself off the ethical hook by including the "in progress" disclaimer deeper in the resume.
How would you feel as a hiring manager? Would you pursue the candidate's application further? Or would you think - as I might - that the candidate is bending the rules just a little and I might be tempted to put the resume into "File 13."
Not long ago, I accepted a new assignment. I was reviewing the CV's of my new staff, and noticed that one of the operatives on the team - who had been hired a couple of years before me - had claimed on his resume that he was "APICS Certified." It helped him win his job. The previous hiring manager, not being an APICS person, accepted that individual at his word, and failed to exercise "due diligence."
Being an APICS person, I thought that I had happily found a colleague. I rather innocently asked the operative about his "APICS-Certified" credentials, He responded that he had been an APICS member once for a year, and had attended the Basics of SCM exam preparation course. Exam? No, he hadn't written one of those. But he had a certificate to prove that he had attended that Basics course. Here I was faced with an individual who was "certified" simply because he said that he was "certified." Interesting.
Bending the truth, or even telling an outright lie about your certification is one thing. But here is an issue that clouds the ethical picture a little bit more.
Many professional organizations are now demanding that certified members re-certify every few years. These are often called "maintenance" programs, and required that the certified individual work in the disciple, remain a member of the association that certified him or her, keep up with current trends and developments, and in one way or another "give back." to the profession.
Often, maintenance programs will come with a price tag. Not everyone likes to shell out $100 every 5 years or so to keep their certification "current." So, they don't. And yet, some of those same individuals continue to claim that they are - for example - CPIM. "I passed all the exams," they might say, "and I volunteered for years. I just do not think it is right for the association to ask for more money. It is simply a cash grab."
I met another person a couple of years ago who claimed to be CPIM. It was on his business card. He also claimed to be an active member of CAPIC. (At one time, CAPIC was Canada's version of APICS, and a subsidiary of the parent association. Many years ago, it was absorbed into the broader APICS organization.) When I met this chap, CAPIC had not existed for over a decade, and when I advised him of this he told me to my face that I did not know what I was talking about. And I happened to be the Past President of the local APICS Chapter at the time. Nope. He was right, I was wrong. He was an active "in-the-loop" member of a non-existent organization, because he said so.
I see a lot of this these days. People who claim certification, or give the false impression that they are "certified," when in fact they may only be members, or have made it only part-way through their studies. If someone says he is some thing - a professional, a pilot, a doctor, a first-responder, a nurse, an engineer, a lawyer, an electrician, a mechanic - does that make it so? I suppose in some peoples' worlds, it does.
It seems to me that - if only for the sale of my students who have just earned their new credentials - that we are obliged to do what we can to protect the value of those credentials. Current trends to bend the rules concern me. Should we, as professionals, be concerned? If yes, how should we enforce appropriate protocols?
John Skelton is the Principal Consultant and founder of Strategic Inventory Management.