No, no one becomes a Compensation Manager in 2 days !

No, no one becomes a Compensation Manager in 2 days

Today’s Career Corner is a rant about the so-called “certifications” that are offered in the region on the topic of Compensation & Benefits and Performance Management. I had already planned to write about certifications, but what I received in my LinkedIn inbox 2 days ago made me jump and I decided to post my reaction to it instead of the planned, exhaustive arguments I was thinking about.

So what made me react so strongly ?

One of the regional training organisations sent me a marketing message to attend their “Certified Compensation & Benefits Manager program”. It is a 2-day workshop that promises to teach delegates to

  • “Understand the role of government regulation and social security in compensation globally
  • Understand the 6 components of a compensation system
  • Understand the 8 steps of how to build effective variable pay systems
  • Learn how to build a point plan and a job grading system to create internal equity
  • Understand how globalization, sociological and demographic changes effects compensation
  • Understand how to create different levels of salary benchmarks
  • Understand how the Hay Plan is built
  • Understand mandated and cafeteria benefit systems
  • Learn how reward planning can be used to cut compensation costs
  • Learn how to build high impact compensation systems in a recession”

What ? In 2 days ????? These people claim that they can teach anyone to deliver all these high value activities in just 2 days ?

I have been working in the Compensation & Benefits field for15 years. Full time. In multiple industries. Across countless countries. And trust me, you don’t learn how to “build high impact compensation systems in a recession” by sitting in one sub- session of a two-day classroom training !

I find this kind of claims highly misleading. One does not become a Compensation & Benefits Manager in two days.

C&B is the most complex side of Human Resources. We are at the intersection of all aspects of HR, from payroll, to resourcing, to retention, to nationalisation, to recognition, to Board meetings. Experience is necessary. Making mistakes is necessary. Seeing approaches in different industries is necessary.

Training is necessary too, but only as one part of the overall approach in becoming a well-rounded Compensation & Benefits professional. I am sure you all know that learning is mostly done through experiential development (ie on the job activities) combined with a little formal training.

And what kind of value does such a certification hold ? What kind of international recognition does it have ? Before moving to Dubai, I had never heard of this training company, or of the certifying institute in the USA that is backing this training.

Full disclosure : when working at another company, I actually sent some of my team members to their Certified Compensation Manager a few years ago. At the time, the training was 5-days long. To the credit of the training company, they received a certificate of attendance (not a certification) at the end of the 5 days. One of my team members then proceeded to write an essay and take a Multiple Choice Questionnaire test a few weeks laters. I personally helped her regarding the essay, guiding her thinking to help her come up to a relevant approach and structure. The essay and test were evaluated in the USA by the certifying organisation, and my team member passed, after a strong effort to learn and actually understand the training content. So she became a certified Compensation Manager.

That’s the good side. The certification is given to the delegates that provide extra effort to prove their understanding, evaluated by an independent body.

On the bad side… when I saw the training materials I was horrified. Poor quality content, with typing mistakes, content relevant only to the USA (what’s the point of learning US Social Security for your first contact with C&B in the Middle East ?), and apparently the trainer was not knowledgeable and not pleasant.

So let me just say that I hope that since then, they had a chance to revise content and improve on it.

In the mean time, let me continue to send my current employees to the only Compensation & Benefits certification that is recognised across the globe : the Global Remuneration Professional (GRP) from World at Work. With 8 modules of 3 days each, which each need to be passed through a test (with a high failure rate – so it’s not a simple attendance system), and some time in between the modules to apply your new learning, this gives a strong basis to anyone who wants to become more specialised in Compensation & Benefits.

Armed with the GRP, my team members will become more capable of answering the challenges we need to face in today’s ever-changing economic world. Their experience will become more relevant as they will fully understand what they are doing and why. And I will feel comfortable that I gave them a skill that is recognised by any organisation in the world.


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  1. Bashar Juneidi says

    Well, its like “Learn Chinese in Five Days” 🙂

  2. Hi Sandrine,
    Love reading your blog and the most interesting thing is that you explain things in a lucid, easy to understand manner. I intend to sit down for a ccp exam @ world at works. Whats the best training material that you would suggest?

    Thanks a lot and keep up the good work.

    Best Regards,Deepak

    • Hi Deepak,
      CCP is similar to GRP (same core modules) but it focuses more on the USA while GRP is more international in nature. Be careful to select the one most appropriate to your work needs – and you can always sit on the few different modules later on to get the second certification.

      The learning material has to be theirs (World at Work). You can either go fully independent online through self-paced learning, or through e-learninng with a coach, or if you are based in the UAE, you can attend classes in Abu Dhabi. There is only one authorised training partner in the whole country, which you will find on the World at Work website.

      All the best !

  3. EK TORKORNOO says

    Thanks for this piece. I love the title even before I’ve read the content. I have been lamenting (on LinkedIn and elsewhere) the mushrooming of these dubious ‘certifications’ from equally dubious providers that seem to be multiplying in number just about everywhere. It is sad to say too many of these cheap and questionable ‘certifications’ are in one or other area of HR (with some HR practitioners adding ever growing strings of absolutely bogus letters to their names, even here on LinkedIn). Yet HR is the function that should be rigorously taking a firm stand on bogus qualifications coming from spurious and/or heavily diluted courses, often from unaccredited or dubious organization (including some palpably bogus ‘universities’ and ‘colleges’ often with funny addresses. So, to imagine that the general silence on this matter is now enabling them to add other areas, including our beloved but somewhat more complicated area of compensation and rewards function to the list of dubious ‘certifications’ is indeed galling. I have also been receiving those emails to such courses. It helps me know who the culprits are. Let the buyer beware. Thanks again

    • In a way, I do understand the training organisations that offer certifications, after all they offer it because the clients want it and value it, especially in certain parts of the world. But for me, the main concern is that some people could really believe that they can master a function after only 2 days of training…. Hopefully most people who attend a training understand that this is only the beginning of the journey, and that they need the famous 10,000 hours of practice to get to mastery.

      • Sandrine, I agree with everything you’ve written here. I have been CCP and SPHR certified by World at Work and the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), respectively. In each case I found the seminars, work materials, and certification testing extremely useful, but emphasize with you it could never be done in 2 days or one week. Careful note-taking for matters specific to my job and interaction with HR peers from a variety of industries helped tremendously. But the key to my continued growth in HR was the follow-up work on the job which has taken place over many years. Your friends and colleagues owe you a debt of gratitude for highlighting these fraudulent certification programs.

        • Hi John,
          Recently one of the HR staff at one of my clients saw me watch a webinar and asked me why I was watching it, as “you are sooo knowledgeable, why do you need this ?”. My view is, I might have some degree of experience and a opinion on a given topic, but if a book, blog post, webinar or video gives me one new idea or a new way of thinking about a topic, then I have not lost my time. Often some of my new ways of thinking come from questions or comments from people who have way fewer years of experience on the topic than I do : their way of thinking is fresh and isn’t constrained by “the way things *must* be done”.
          Thanks for your comment John !

  4. Tasneem. S says

    Hi Sandrine, Very true, well said. Another side of the coin precisely described even I get such emails every second day. Candidates get only attendance certificate of such session but they can only understand the concept of topics not the real inside.
    Appreciate your work, keep it up.
    Regards, Tasneem.

  5. Hi Sandrine, very nicely written.
    Its very true that no one can become C&B manager in 2 days, C&B is such a complicated and dynamic are of HR that even after having many years of experience people tend to do mistakes.

    Experience is the most important knowledge in this field and certificates are added value

    Anand Hegde

  6. Great post. What are your thoughts on the CEBS certification? Seems to be growing in stature…

    • Hi Christian,

      I don’t have much exposure to it as it is designed for US or Canada-based professionals (you have to choose which country curriculum you want to follow), but I’ve heard it’s a good programme.

      The content looks thorough and would surely add value for someone who wants to specialise in Employee Benefits management in the USA or Canada.

  7. Karthik Shivram says

    Its a great article and you have brought out the true aspects on this subject. There have been courses claiming that one can become a certified compensation and benefits manager just by taking a course which costs around INR 75000 which is absolutely crazy. For anyone to become a certified compensation and benefits manager he/she needs to go through the experience and 2-day or 15-day course can’t teach that.

  8. Johan Nel says

    Brilliant Sandrine. There are so many disillusioned training providers and especially consultants who claim to be Rewards Specialists whilst they shouldn’t even be called consultants or training providers.

    I have not done the GRP and don’t intend doing it, however, my mentor is Dr. Mark Bussin and I consult for 21st Century the company that he is Chairperson of. What I know and am competent doing has been through experiential learning, research and reading. I hold the designation of Chartered Remuneration Specialist by the South African Rewards Association.

    I do however recommend the GRP Certification by W@W.

    I want to sincerely request potential Rewards Peofessionals to stop chasing credits, certifications and CPD points and to rather strive to become competent experienced professionals. Remember you hardly apply more than 15% learnt in a classroom!!

    • You’re completely right Johan ! For me it’s about getting some theoretical knoweldge so as to have a framework upon which to base the work… but nothing replaces real-life experience !

  9. Well this has driven many insightful comments. As the actual person who founded the GRO and was chief designer on the GRP it is pleasing to note the standing in which the GRP is held and it certainly has much more insigthful technical material across the Body of Knowledge, Why, because of the design team we used to develop the material. This team of highly experienced professionals were from Australia, Singapore,, UK, UAE, Brazil, Canada and Mexico. We hade 3 face to face 4 day meetings plus several rounds of edits by the Team of all the work in English. As I an no longer involved I cannot comment as to the current housekeeping so to speak but WAW remaons the recogniesd Professional body for those in Rewards management

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