Streamlined certifications for a global IT services workforce

Posted by Joan Phaup

NCR automated tellers machines (ATMs) and other self-service technologies are used all over the world, and the thousands of technicians who maintain them need to keep pace with constantly changing technology as well as the general wear and tear of heavy use. NCR University, the company’s training arm, runs a global skills-based technical certification program that we first reported about in this blog a couple of years ago.

John Berry

John Berry

Since then, the program has continued to grow and prosper, so I asked for an update on the program from John Berry, who is NCR’s Technical Certification Program Manager:

Tell me a little about NCR University
NCR University (NCRU) is the destination for all employee learning at NCR. We have thousands of online technical and soft skill training courses as well as instructor-led offerings delivered in classroom settings worldwide. Our online learning catalog is constantly being updated by NCR’s Global Learning team, which I’m part of. NCR employees all over the world use NCRU every day.

How has the Technical Certification Program changed since NCR first set it up?
The processes used to create the NCR technical certification exams are the same as they were when we developed the program in 2008 in partnership with industry-recognized certification consultants. Our NCR Global Learning instructors do the bulk of the exam development, but we still ask NCR Customer Engineers (CEs for short) for input. However, we have improved the way we make the certification exams available to the CEs. In 2010, we fully integrated the Questionmark technical certification exams with NCRU and our learning management system SABA.

How has the integration changed things for you?
Before the integration, we scheduled exams manually through Questionmark. With thousands of NCR CEs worldwide, that’s a lot of exams to schedule! So the integration has really streamlined that process. Now our CEs can schedule their own tests through the NCR University. We build the exams in Questionmark and they’re available to our audience through NCRU (SABA). When someone completes an exam, we get detailed question-by-question reporting that helps make sure the exams are working properly. The detailed reports we get also help us to determine if we need to go back and further validate individual questions. So between automated registration and detailed reporting, the integration has made life easier for everyone.

How many people participate in the program around the world?
We have thousands of CEs globally, but at the moment this is a voluntary program which is supplemented with reward and recognition at each level of achievement. Technical Certification validates our CEs’ skills and abilities over and above their normal training, and we have various rewards for progressing through the increasingly difficult levels of the program. To date we’ve issued more than 4,300 certifications to more than 2,500 individuals in 49 countries, and our exams are available in up to eight languages.

How do you motivate people to take exams voluntarily?
There’s a buzz about the certification program among our CEs, because there’s prestige associated with passing the different exam levels. Those who pass the Basic Level exam receive a bronze lapel pin. We give a silver lapel pin and a customized tool bag to people who pass the Advanced Level certification, and anyone who achieves Expert Level certification gets a certificate and a beautiful watch with the NCR logo and “Expert Certified” on the watch face. We also publicize certification achievements through an online “Wall of Fame” as well as through NCR’s various communication channels.

Reward and recognition are part of this program, but the really important thing is being able to refresh and enhance our CEs’ technical knowledge. Technology changes quickly and helping them keep up-to-date with some pretty complicated hardware and software enables them be more effective at their job.

I’d like to know more about Expert Level Certification!
The ATM Expert level certification exam is currently the most difficult and sought-after exam in our program. It includes some really challenging troubleshooting questions with hypothetical ATM problems presented through a combination of videos, graphics and photos. We spent about a year gathering information from instructors and CEs all over the globe, and released the exam this September. Many CEs who had already attained the ATM Advanced Level certification were anxiously awaiting the release because they wanted to be among the first Expert Level certified engineers. And in fact, sixty of them passed the exam during the first week the exam was available!  NCR’s senior vice president for services individually recognized these CEs via personal letters, and a general announcement about their achievement was sent to the global services team. It’s a real morale booster! These CEs, who are driven to be the best they can be in their field, serve as a real inspiration to our entire field services team.

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