When you visit a doctor’s office, they have their medical school diploma hanging on the wall. If they’re a specialist, they’ll also include their certification in the specific field, like sports medicine, cardiology, or neurology. The framed documents are evidence that they have the knowledge to address a patient’s concerns.
The same is true for automobile mechanics. At repair shops, mechanics proudly display the certifications they’ve earned (especially when the company services high-end vehicles). Owners want to know that their $75,000 car is being worked on by a mechanic certified on that model.
Similar opportunities exist for the mailing industry. There are certifications for front-line employees, supervisors, and managers. They’re offered by the US Postal Service (USPS) and professional associations.
When we conduct operational reviews for companies, we always include a section on education, training, and certification. During the report presentation, we emphasize the importance of certification at all levels. We stress that in addition to being professionals, the department should be able to present evidence of professionalism.
Of course, it’s not just the certificate hanging on the wall, or the letters that follow a name. The process of achieving certification is where a person gains the most. Completing the online course, attending in-person training and putting in the hours of self-study to prepare for the exams. That is where the hard work is accomplished; that is where the knowledge is acquired.
Outbound mail operations – whether production facilities or office settings metering mail – are the last touchpoint before the piece is sent to the customer. These employees have the opportunity to detect poor design elements, improper addressing, and other mistakes. Just one event can pay for the testing fee for the company or department.
A Real-Life Example
A client asked us to help their employees prepare for the USPS Mail Design Professional (MDP) certification. Every employee went through the training – the manager, the supervisors, the operators, and the clerks (including the clerks who delivered and picked up mail around the company). Everyone passed.
One day, one of the mail clerks noticed a large stack of flat envelopes ready to be metered. The department had checked “First-Class Mail” on the workorder. From her MDP training, the clerk knew that the weight of the piece would require Priority Mail postage. She also knew that all the pieces were identical.
She brought the work to the mail center and spoke to her supervisor. They contacted a manager in the department and confirmed that the pieces were identical. The supervisor explained the option of using USPS Marketing Mail. When the manager heard the price difference, they agreed to the change. There were hundreds of pieces, meaning hundreds of dollars in savings.
Often, the rewards for achieving certification aren’t immediate – for the individual or the company. Nor should they be. Education isn’t a “one and done” activity. It’s a lifelong commitment to personal and professional development. It’s not about what one will get from something today, but how it may impact you tomorrow. Or a “tomorrow” that is years away. We need to invest in the future – our own and our employees.
As managers, we must prepare employees for the jobs they hold, and for jobs they may aspire to hold. Being a clerk or a machine operator is important but may not always feel that way. Achieving industry recognition for their knowledge can be a tremendous morale boost.
Obtaining a certification may prompt a person to seek out other challenges. It may mean expanding their job responsibilities and growing in their position. Or they may decide to apply for a supervisory role. In some cases, it may lead to them leaving the company in search of new opportunities. Helping someone grow may mean letting them move on – and that’s okay.
When I achieved my first professional certification, it had minimal impact on my job. My boss said, “Congratulations,” and sprung for a cake to be shared with my coworkers. No bonus, no raise.
However, several years later, I was applying for a higher position at another company. Instead of supervising five people, I would be leading 50 people, with two managers reporting to me. It was a big leap. An advantage I had over other candidates – the job description stated that applicants should have an industry certification. I had the certification. I got the job. And that job led me to starting my own company.
Certification is evidence of professionalism, and it’s something for which every professional should strive. Consider the following opportunities for certification for yourself and your employees:
US Postal Service
Completing the Mail Design Professional (MDP) training and achieving the MDP certification will provide a good foundation for all employees. This training is designed to help all operational staff understand postal regulations for proper addressing, and formatting mail pieces for accurate postal processing. Training is offered at the USPS facility in Oklahoma, through local Postal Customer Councils (PCC), and is also available online (http://www.nced.com/bma) as a self-study course.
The Certified Direct Mail Professional (CDMP) is designed to develop and strengthen core skills to build and maintain a successful Direct Mail business. Key topics include omni marketing, mailing list management, mail piece creation, response rates, and technology.
The Executive Mail Center Manager (EMCM) course is to enhance professionalism in mail center management. This course will give participants the guidance necessary to boost productivity, increase efficiency, maximize the use of technology, and enhance results for their department and company.
Mail Systems Management Association
The Certified Mail and Distribution Systems Manager (CMDSM) program recognizes professional achievement. This accreditation process requires that an individual be evaluated, tested, and certified on a body of technical knowledge and management skills necessary for performance in the industry. Applicants can apply online at https://www.msmanational.org/Certification.
MSMA also offers a certification for the “supplier” side of the industry. The Certified Mail & Distribution Systems Supplier (CMDSS) Certification incorporates supplier themes as they relate to doing business in the mailing industry.
In-Plant Printing and Mailing Association
For members that work in mail, IPMA offers the Certified Mail Manager - https://ipma.org/certified-mail-manager. Candidates must submit an application with required supporting documentation, including three letters of recommendation. The examination is administered online at IPMA’s annual conference or at an educational testing facility.
Mark M. Fallon is President & CEO of The Berkshire Company, a consulting firm specializing in mail and document processing strategies. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his blogs at www.berkshire-company.com/the-berkshire-company-blog or www.markfallon.com/blog
This article originally ran in the September/October, 2021 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.