We at Cisco are committed to your career growth and satisfaction through technical training and certification. It’s what we do, after all, and so that charter pushes us to continually ask ourselves, “Do certifications make a difference? What is their value out in the industry?”

One way we get our answer is to periodically survey technology managers for their opinions and insights about certifications. In the summer of 2016, Cisco once again partnered with the survey firm Illuminas and polled 300 U.S.-based senior technology managers and business decision makers, all of whom had responsibility for managing and hiring certified technology workers. In addition, the survey respondents needed to be familiar with multiple technical certification programs, not just Cisco’s.

The 2016 survey explored a number of pressing questions with the managers and decision makers, including the following:

  1. Where does the certified technology worker have the greatest impact?
  2. Where can we see measurable gains? What are those specific gains?
  3. What role do certifications play in the hiring process?
  4. How are Cisco certifications valued by organizations and managers?
  5. Which areas of training and certification will be most important in the future?
  6. Where are training budgets focused today? How will they change going forward?


Survey Says ...

In answer to question #1, “Where does the certified technology worker have the greatest impact?,” we see that the 300 technology leaders surveyed view the benefits of employee certification as revolving around the general areas of effectiveness, efficiency, and employee engagement. (Note: If you are finding the print in the charts below a bit hard to read, simply click directly on them, and a larger version will appear for you.)


“Boost employee engagement and retention” (#4 overall in the chart above) might come as a surprise to some, but for millennial workers (the largest workforce age group today), learning and development is indeed often cited as the strongest motivator in terms of engagement.

But how about when we asked survey respondents to get more specific about these areas of impact and try to quantify their value (question #2 above)? Here’s what we see:


In each area in the chart above, Cisco is asking the survey respondent to estimate how much better performing a certified employee is than a noncertified one. What the chart is revealing, for example, is that compared to noncertified staff, the certified technology worker is viewed, on average, as completing tasks 31 percent faster, making 29 percent fewer errors, and reducing the cost of projects by 29 percent.

The next chart from the survey sheds some light on question #3, “What role do certifications play in the hiring process?”


Here we see that while certifications are not mandatory for all job roles, they are a differentiator in comparing and assessing candidates for all but a few technology managers and decision makers.

Question #4 above zeroes in on Cisco, “How are Cisco certifications valued by organizations and managers?” The following chart lays out that story:


You can see that in six of the dimensions presented above, organizations with Cisco certified employees scored significantly higher than those without. It is important to note that even though this study was developed by Cisco, the technology managers for the survey were not chosen because they had a bias toward Cisco.

The following chart sheds some light on question #5, “Which areas of training and certification will be most important in the future?” The chart divides the priorities into technical and business training priorities:


In the technical training column, one priority that stood out most strongly among the organizations with Cisco certification holders was cybersecurity. And in the business training column, customer experience management and digital business analysis and transformation figured prominently among organizations with technology workers holding Cisco certifications. These results are most likely a reflection of Cisco’s strong focus in these arenas.

Lastly, our “value of certification” survey asked this pair of questions: “Where are training budgets focused today? How will they change going forward?” In the following chart, we can see shifting priorities for six major technology learning and development areas:


Security shows the biggest planned-for increase by the technology managers and business decision makers polled. As you can see, infrastructure and big data/analytics are also coming on strong.

Don’t stop your reading with this blog post. Cisco has created a whole white paper, “The Impact and Importance of Technical Certifications: The Management View,” based on this latest Illuminas survey. It offers a lot more detail, and is affirmation that, yes, certification does indeed still matter to today’s technology managers and leaders.

Says the white paper, “As digital transformation takes greater hold within an organization, technology and business become one. In this digital environment, technology managers are to be judged by the business outcomes resulting from the technology, talent, and teams under their direction. As every technology manager from C-level executive down to first-level manager will assert, the technology is the easy part. The talent—developing, motivating, engaging, finding, hiring, retaining, and organizing—is the hard part. Here, technical certifications can help provide much-needed relief to technology managers looking to get the best from their talent.”

Download the white paper here. And properly invigorated, have a new look at all of your certification options here.


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Gary Pfitzer is a content manager at Learning@Cisco, focused on bringing various aspects of today's IT journey to light through business papers, blogging, customer success stories, and other writing.