If you are in charge of getting your company’s salespeople, buyers, planners or managers to become digital media certified, I have something to tell you, but it isn’t what you think.
Given the name of this blog series, and the fact that I have previously taught Learning & Development at IAB, it would be natural to assume that I am about to give you my “insider’s advantage” for helping your employees earn IAB Certification. But I cannot, because there is no easy way.
Becoming IAB Certified means taking a two-hour exam with a hundred multiple choice questions. Most of your employees probably have not had to take an exam like this in quite some time, and will have to study in a disciplined and rigorous manner in order to pass. Knowing this, how do you get your employees to want to do it, and how do you help yourself to help them?
The first thing they need to understand is what is in it for them. An IAB certification will give them four distinct advantages:
- They will become industry savvy rather than just product savvy.
- They will be able to better articulate what their organization is offering and why when speaking with clients.
- They will better understand what their customers do and why they are doing it.
- They will be able to address exactly what their customers need.
The outcome here is to not only provide general knowledge in order to approach their jobs from a more insightful and educated perspective, but to offer a crash course in the shapeshifting digital marketplace.
Once your employees commit to gaining IAB Certification, it will be up to you to encourage their efforts. If you are part of a large Learning & Development team or are a team of one, your job will be to support your colleagues through the whole process and help in any way you can. From my perspective as a former IAB trainer, and from my current role training digital sales professionals at Hearst Magazines, here are a few ways to guide your team over the major hurdles, and make the process easier.
Anticipate and Manage Fear
The biggest concern I hear is that no one likes to take tests or thinks they are good test-takers. The further a person is away from formal education, the more the fear of tests grows. You can minimize this fear and show your support by helping with prep materials and the test-taking process.
Give Them Time
The second biggest concern is time. Everyone has a job, a family, and a social life, so nobody thinks they have time to study. It helps to map out a course of action and to suggest ways to find more study time. It also helps to offer employees the chance to study on the job, because this reinforces that you and your colleagues are a team, and that your company is committed to education.
Make it a Group Effort
These days we tend to work in silos, but studying for the exam alone is a way to invite avoidance and procrastination. Studying with colleagues makes it feel like you are not on your own and builds a sense of comradery and responsibility. Encourage your employees to form study groups and to meet at and away from the office. Letting people meet offsite during work hours brings a great sense of freedom and makes preparing for the exam seem less like additional work they have been asked to do.
Use Every Resource
The job of an L&D department is to make sure its employees are given every opportunity to succeed. At Hearst Magazines, we have customized team-based prep materials including study guides, training videos and practice tests. But many organizations do not have a dedicated L&D department or robust prep materials. Whatever your work situation, you can always take advantage of the resources available from IAB, including industry studies, webinars, community programs and classes.
Many people I have trained over the years have come back after taking the test and said it was challenging. But no one has ever come back later and said that it was not worth it, or that it did not add to their ability to do their job better. And to me, that is the real insider’s advantage.