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The Value of Certification.

Byline: Daniel P. Strunk

Companies and employees both see benefits.

Category management is a collaborative practice exercised by retailers and manufacturers, in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry, to optimize the return on investment for a segment of retail geography, or "category."

The process involves providing consumers the right product assortment, correct sizes and appropriate inventory levels to optimize the shopping experience. Retail merchants and key account sales and category management professionals are the major players in this essential industry-focused collaborative process.

In 2010, the Category Management Association (CMA) introduced a set of standards to the CPG industry to govern the training and professional status of people involved in the category management process. The standards were created through the involvement of senior category management professionals representing more than 40 companies and took two years to write.

These standards have been in place now for six years. Thousands of people have attained certification at one of three levels: Certified Professional Category Analyst (CPCA), Certified Professional Category Manager (CPCM) and Certified Professional Strategic Advisor (CPSA). The CMA has gleaned a great deal of knowledge about the value of certification to companies during this time.

Win-win Situation

First, certification focuses an individual and their company on professional development. When care is taken with the professional development of employees, greater job satisfaction and improved retention rates are the result.

It's easy to understand how improving the retention of just one employee, at the category analyst level, can lead to significant savings from reduced recruiting expense and reduced training expenses. These savings can easily exceed $40,000. It's important to note, however, that this figure doesn't account for the improved productivity that results from better-directed training and better-prepared analysts.

Second, better direction of skill development at junior levels affords organizations the opportunity to optimize training programs by grouping individuals with like needs. The resulting training efficiency gives organizations the opportunity to save thousands of training dollars. The CMA suggests that you consider having your organization assessed by an accredited training company before you begin training or certification. In doing so, you will benefit by grouping people, and also save your people time in undergoing training that may not be required.

The CMA Certification Program enables organizations to align channel partners with similar skills, terminology and a common understanding of this important business practice. It enables retailers to understand the caliber of talent providing them category management services. When we consider the improvement in performance for both parties in the channel, it's easy to see that the return on investment for certification expenses can be significant.

Let's consider one example, using a small category with $500,000 in annual profit for a chain; the latest industry estimate is that the improved performance in that category could be as much $50,000, or a 10-to-one ratio, when compared with the certification cost for a 20-person team.

Certification aims to provide all participants in category management specific direction to optimize professional development. Clearly, we've learned that has indeed been the case, and that those retailers and manufacturers with certified teams working together do realize improved results based on the use of common language, common skills and the alignment of talent.

The CMA Certification Program enables organizations to align channel partners with similar skills, terminology and a common understanding of this important business practice.

Daniel P. Strunk is managing director at the Center for Sales Leadership at Chicago's DePaul University.
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Author:Strunk, Daniel P.
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2016
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