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​Employee Certification

​Employee Certification

Posted by Rick Wren on May 8th 2021

Employee Certification

“Can I have a raise?”

It’s hard for a boss to be ready for that question. It comes when you have 30 other things on your mind and all of a sudden you have to switch gears, make some decisions, and delicately discuss this with a worker who built up a considerable amount of courage to come to you with this serious request.

Do they deserve it? Do they deserve it more than their coworkers? Does it make sense financially and do you have the opportunity for them to advance in your organization?

I have a solution and I’m going to share it with you: IT’S NOT YOUR DECISION. It’s theirs. Put the opportunity for advancement squarely on the shoulders of the employee.

Hear me out.

One of the best things I ever did in my business was to create an employee certification program. Simply put, it’s a series of steps and accomplishments that a worker must complete and then, once finished, they get a raise and a promotion. Simple.

1-Star employee: “Can I have a raise?”
Me: “How many steps do you have left on your certification process?”

Simple response to a very tough question. All of a sudden the pressure is off.

This process takes out all hints of favoritism and preference. The worker knows exactly what needs to be done and what is left.

We have a Five Star certification program:

1-Star = Employee
2-Star = Junior Field Technician
3-Star = Senior Field Technician

4-Star = Crew Leader
5-Star = Senior Crew Leader

When a person walks through the door as a brand new hire, never having cleaned windows before, they are a 1-Star Employee. They get the starting wage and begin their training/probationary period. After that, it’s all up to them.In the program I have set up some exams on the various pieces of equipment we use, one on safety, a minimum number of days in a row that they need to show up presentable, in uniform, on time, etc.It’s actually not very difficult and I’ve had crewmembers advance to 2-Star in as little as 30 days. Of course I’ve seen some who don’t put forth the effort and are still 1-Star at 6 months. That’s a really big indication that there’s an issue. Perhaps the employee needs training, coaching, or there’s something going on in their own life that’s taking their focus away. It can be an opportunity to show them that you care and want them to advance. It could also be that this person just isn’t a fit for your company.

Once we implemented the Star system, we noticed something else that turned out to be a game changer as far as scheduling goes and that was in predicting how long a job was going to take. We found that a job that took a Senior Crew Leader (5 Stars) and a brand new employee (1 Star) 8 hours to complete would also take a Crew Leader (4 Stars) and a Junior Field Tech (2 Stars) the same 8 hours. The number of stars put onto a job, no matter how they were distributed made the time of completion predictable.6 Stars was 6 Stars no matter if it was a 5-Star and a 1-Star or two 3-Stars.I didn’t expect that.

In my certification program I’ve incorporated customer service training, mandatory reading of a couple of classic business and sales books, and a requirement to innovate. I’ve set goals for doing accurate estimates and even a couple of written reports for the more senior positions. Every accomplishment is marked and I’ll spend a few minutes discussing with the person what they learned and how it’s an important skill for our business.

I said that this takes the pressure off you as the boss, but it doesn’t take the responsibility away. There are several things you must now do to ensure the success of your program and to satisfy the drive of your workers.

First, you must provide training. Several mornings a week, I’ll spend time with the crew talking about safety and equipment and customer service: all things they need to know to advance in their certification steps. It’s also a great reminder for the more senior employees. A refresher, if you will. I also remind crew leaders of where their techs are and what skills and requirements they have so they can help their team succeed.

Another big responsibility you have is providing opportunity. If someone makes all the steps to become a 4-Star Crew Leader, then you had better have the spot for them all picked out. It’s up to you to make sure there is enough work, equipment, and vehicles to satisfy your motivated team. I would think it would be demoralizing to get to that point and to be told, “You’ll have to wait until we have enough work or another crew leader leaves.”I’ve heard of that happening and I think it is a failure of leadership.

If you adopt a program like employee certification and you follow it, you’ll see a morale increase and your crew will be more like a team than ever. They really want to help each other get better and faster. They start placing value in their coworkers as everyone is going along the same journey and they all know what everyone else is making because it’s right there next to the stars on the certification program.

Most importantly though, is that what they learn and accomplish can translate to other aspects of their lives. Finishing things, learning about safety, communication, and sales are skills that people use to succeed in their relationships, hobbies, and in other jobs in the future. It’s important to me that everyone who works here becomes a better person and looks back on their time with us as a springboard to better things, both within our company and outside as well.


I’m here if you have questions.

- Rick Wren