The Value of the Certificate Presentation Ceremony

Safety training courses when facilitated correctly and with an enthusiastic instructor (enthusiastic in preparation and organization……….not jumping up and down like an over-dramatic motivational speaker) can have a huge positive motivating effect on the employee. After a decade and thousands of employees and managers that I have trained all over this country, I have learned a couple of lessons, also.

Employees want to have a good and learned experience in these training courses. They want to participate and they want to show their knowledge and what they have learned in the course when they are tested, too. They take pride in what they are doing and what they can demonstrate that they have learned something relevant.  They don’t always show this pride on the surface but it is still there and they have no compunction, when the opportunity presents itself to them, to show their managers and peers that they are capable and competent.

One of the best ways to get what I call “motivational mileage” out of your safety training courses is to conduct a quick and semi formal presentation of the employee’s certificate of completion of the course.  I ask for a roster of attendees in advance from my business contact, if possible, and make up the certificates and wallet cards (my certificates and wallet cards are inexpensive but really look great) and have on hand at the end of the course. I then present the certificates and shake the hand of the attendee and congratulate them on completing the course and participating in the course.

Now some may say that this is a bit “cheesey” and silly or even unnecessary for these types of mandated courses. I beg to disagree, however, and I am not a “cheerleader” type at all.  As a current training practitioner, however,  I understand that many workers these days are hungry for deserved recognition of their workplace achievements.  This type of recognition is valuable and without including monetary incentives, or pizza lunches as the symbol of recognizing the employee. Since the safety course must be completed for compliance reasons and the participants/employees must attend the training session, the training costs are incurred for regardless.  Therefore, the conditions are there to capitalize honestly on the achievement of the worker by demonstrating that you have recognized their efforts to complete the course.

Formal or even “semi-formal” employee recognition is a main point I try to make in my train-the-trainer courses because of what I have experienced and witnessed in the past. I would hand out the certificates as an afterthought and the attendees would be very emphatic to inform me when I misspelled their name or hadn’t gotten their name on the roster and, therefore, did not have a certificate created for them when the other attendees received their certificates.   In fact, some were openly hurt and distraught by this.  In several cases, I have seen participants dial up “grandma” and tell her how they just got “certified” and how happy and proud they were about it. I’m not making this up, folks. One gentlemen asked me what he scored on the final test of the course and when I told him he scored very well at 95%, he smiled and asked if he could get a copy of the front cover of the multipage test. I asked him what he wanted it for and he replied that he wanted to hang it on his refrigerator for his children to see………..not making that one up, either. In a few cases, I even got hugged from attendees after they received their certificate………..totally shocked me according to my staff! 

These incidents and many more, in fact, demonstrated to me that many companies are shorting themselves when they don’t show any recognition for employees who attend and complete these courses, successfully.   Yes, the safety course is normally not graduate level material and much of it is common sense and knowledge obtained as a practitioner on the job. However, even though you may not relate or may not see it yourself, the employee is serious about achievement and takes the recognition as one of the things that keeps him coming to work every day.   Frederick Herzberg’s two factor theory of motivation would categorize this certificate ceremony a “motivator” when it comes to motivational theory.  According to Herzberg, compensation, benefits, working conditions are the “hygiene factors” but not the motivators. Hygiene factors keep a worker from feeling dissatisfied and generally unhappy with their employment situation but they do not positively motivate the worker to improve or work harder or longer. The intrinsic values of recognition and a few other factors are what make the worker want to achieve, learn and develop themselves to be more productive and offer more value.  Some organizations are diligent in recognizing their employees in this manner. They do so very diligently and specifically and the outcome for them has produced a safety culture of achievement and self-sustaining safety prevention success.

Moreover, the pride instilled by this type of culture motivates workers at these companies to not allow an untrained or unauthorized worker to operate or conduct tasks that require completion of the safety course.  This is an excellent outcome because many industrial accidents occur each year involving untrained and unauthorized persons (truck drivers, visitors, contractors, temporary workers and office workers) working near and operating potentially dangerous equipment.  The insightful companies issue stickers on hard hats or ID tags or wallet cards that indicate the employee’s qualifications including their achievements in safety courses.  The employees at these companies have no hesitation for reporting or even stopping an otherwise unqualified worker or person from putting themselves and others in danger.  Needless to say, such companies have excellent safety performance records, year over year, which normally coincides with consistent high marks in production and operations, too.   

Funny how that works, isn’t it?

In summary, if you are looking for something to drive a positive change in your approach and delivery of safety training courses, try planning a short 5 minute ceremony including the department manager or even plant manager or his surrogate, if possible, at the end of the course when distributing the certificates.  Have the manager shake each hand and congratulate them.  (I’ll bet the manager will get a huge positive “rush” in doing this, too.)  Unless you are dealing with robots, I can guarantee, you will start to see a whole new culture appear and one that encourages employee safety while turning attitudes to a positive perception of the safety training session. Lastly, don’t worry about issuing these certifications and the employee taking it somewhere as a qualification to get another job.  The wallet cards and wall certificates that we issue, for example, include the name and logo of the employer on the wallet card and certificate and any other employer should understand that your cards have no significance at another place of employment……………in other words, they are not transferable.

Good luck and have fun with this!!!
Dennis Diamond President