Certification as a Talent Management Strategy

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by Matissa N. Sammons, MA, CCHP

Corrections is a unique environment from a staffing perspective because it’s not a place that can easily absorb staffing shortages, nor is that a safe idea. You might need to sometimes fill a position with a warm body, but what price are you willing to pay for someone ill-equipped for the job? The cost to replace employees can cripple a tight budget. The answer is talent management.

Talent management increases workplace productivity by improving processes for attracting, developing, retaining and utilizing people with the required skills and aptitude. More simply, it is how you select, manage and reward people. CCHP certification should be a part of that strategy.

Certification is a process by which one takes an exam to demonstrate mastery of NCCHC’s Standards. This knowledge is important because the Standards guides health professionals in delivering quality care in a correctional environment. At its core, the Standards promotes quality of care equivalent to that in the community, which is also (generally) the legally accepted minimum level of care.

Candidate Selection
What knowledge, skills and abilities are most important when attracting top talent? Generally, for a health care position, it is important that a candidate possesses knowledge and techniques needed to treat injuries and diseases, active learning and critical thinking skills, oral comprehension and deductive and inductive reasoning.

What about the corrections-related aspect that is an important part of health care delivery? One option is to make correctional health experience a requirement, but that does not guarantee the knowledge base you are looking for, and it might exclude otherwise well-qualified candidates. Training on the job is an option, but you must expect and accept that mistakes will be made.

A better way to prescreen potential candidates is by indicating that “CCHP is preferred.” It’s an effective way to weed out the applicant pool, and to save training dollars and time later. Most importantly, you’ll be hiring someone who has already demonstrated professional commitment to the field in making the investment to become certified.

Professional Development
Continuing education is necessary for professional development and a requirement for professional licensure as well as continuing CCHP certification. This education can take many forms: academic courses, CCHP certification, attending educational conferences, facility in-services and more. Development needs should be discussed and agreed upon by the employee and the immediate supervisor and relevant to the scope of work performed, but also to the employee’s personal and professional goals.

Employers are improving when it comes to including CCHP certification as part of continuing development, according to a recent survey. Of 565 CCHPs who responded, 34% reported receiving paid time off to take the CCHP exam and 40% received reimbursement for exam fees. For continuing education such as an NCCHC conference, 38% received paid time off to attend and 36% received reimbursement. This is a step in the right direction, but what about the remaining 60% to 66% of certified staff?

Employee Appraisal
Performance appraisals are usually conducted once per year, but serve two different purposes: administrative and development (pay and promotions). Employee development should be an ongoing process where the employee and supervisor meet quarterly to review and evaluate performance objectives. The administrative process should align performance objectives with commensurate pay.

What performance indicators are being set for your staff? If they include important objectives like learning the standards, writing policies and procedures or learning relevant legal principles, then one performance indicator that suggests these goals have been met is whether the employee has achieved CCHP certification. When an employee is able to perceive a relationship between performance objectives and rewards, desired behaviors become reinforced.

Unfortunately, few CCHPs reported alignment between achieving certification and pay. Only 7.9% reported advancement or promotion, 7.4% reported a salary increase and 1.3% a one-time bonus. Compared to the personal rewards and accomplishment felt by CCHPs, employers have a long way to go with rewarding CCHPs for their efforts and the value they add to operations, which benefit everyone, including the employer.


Matissa N. Sammons, MA, CCHP, is NCCHC's vice president of certification.