Management Company or CAM, Who Should Pay for Education?

Posted by Andrea Drennen, CMCA on June 10, 2016
Why your CAM Management Company Needs an Education Policy

How to lose an employee in 1 easy step

Janet has worked as a CAM Manager for Masterpiece Management* for 5 years. She is smart, dedicated, and underpaid. She puts in 60 hours a week going to night meetings and dealing with petty squabbles and board drama. She does so well that her boss and mentor, Charlie, has given her more communities to manage. The problem ones that nobody else could handle.

Janet loves her job. But she wants more.

Janet is thinking about her future. Being a CAM is her career, not just a job for her. At an industry conference, Janet sees a path for her future in the industry. Many of the speakers and presenters in the conference started in the same place she is now. They worked their way up from rank and file managers to respected members of the industry; owning their own businesses, setting policies, and speaking at conferences.

Janet would like to do all that... one day. Her first step toward her dream is to work on her certifications. Sure, she has the minimum certification required by her state now, but what she really wants to do is attain her PCAM license.

One day, Janet tentatively knocks on Charlie's door and asks:

"Charlie, I have been thinking about my management credentials, and I would like to pursue the next level of my certification."

"That's great Janet, I love to see you so dedicated," says Charlie, "but John has more seniority than you and I promised him he would get his certification first, and then Arlene. I promise you are next on the list after them."

Janet leaves Charlie's office with discouraged acceptance. She doesn't begrudge John getting a certification, but she has already waited 5 years and John has only taken one class a year in all that time. It doesn't seem like he is motivated to actually get the certification any time soon.

Janet begins to realize that her future with Masterpiece Management is a dead end. She has hit the ceiling of how high she can go in the company, and her dreams for her future are fading in the cold light of reality.

Janet could try to pay for her certifications herself, but that would be difficult considering she is living paycheck to paycheck on the amount she is currently getting paid. She decides that the only option she has is to leave the company and seek out a new company that will help her achieve her goals for the future.

Two weeks later Janet is gone, and Charlie is bewildered. "I don't understand," he says to John. "Why would she leave?"

Why, indeed? Charlie may never see that he engineered the very circumstances that caused Janet to go.

Reasons companies aren't paying for certifications


Like the story above, a lot of management companies dole out certification training in dribs and drabs, holding it over employees heads like the proverbial carrot on a stick. Why?

Cost is usually the biggest factor. Getting someone from zero to PCAM can be an expensive project. There's more than just certification and training class costs. Management executives have to take into account paid time off, travel expenses and the costs of continuing education. And this assumes that the manager passes their test on the first try!

There are ways to mitigate training costs, but the bottom line is getting your managers certified will subtract from your bottom line.

The fear factor is another obstacle that is difficult to get over. Management executives fear that managers will use the management company as a stepping stone, using company resources to attain certification, so they can leave to get a better paying job elsewhere.

With these obstacles in their path, many management executives will choose to hold certification as a reward for long-term employees that have 'paid their dues'. This attitude is dangerous because it fosters a sense of favoritism and defeatism among your management team, much like Janet felt in the story.

In the long run, you'll create a negative culture in your organization: punishing eager, engaged managers, and rewarding those who just follow the status quo.

Benefits of Employee Certifications


For a management company, having certified employees on staff should be a no-brainer. The benefits are clear:

Certified employees provide legitimacy to your management company by giving clients a level of assurance in their skills, experience and integrity. High level employees can allow you to command higher fees from premium clients who are willing to pay for quality.

Your company can also gain greater exposure (free advertising!) from industry press releases, articles your employees publish, and industry awards and recognition.

Education reimbursement can also work well as a recruitment tool, as an awesome benefit you offer, and to attract new managers seeking to grow their career.

Investing in your team sends a strong cultural message to existing and future employees. It strengthens loyalty ties, increases value, and shows your employees that you care about them enough to invest in their future success.

Develop a fair education policy

It's clear that investing in your employee's education is good for everyone. But you still have to deal with the obstacles we mentioned above. The solution to the education dilemma is to develop a fair and consistent education policy that applies to all your employees. Here are some things you might consider adding to your policy:

Proscribed programs

You can define a list of pre-approved programs that are eligible for reimbursement. Anything outside of the proscribed list can be dealt with on a case by case basis.

Contribution Percentages

To insure that the employee is taking their education seriously, one thing you can do is contribute only a percentage of the costs. For example, the company will reimburse 75% of all continuing education costs, the employee is responsible for the remaining 25%.

Reimbursement limits

Define a maximum amount you are willing to reimburse each year. This can prevent employees from abusing the program, or getting everything that they can from you before they step out.

Academic Standards

Another option you can set in your policy is a minimum academic standard. For example, the company will reimburse the costs of the test the first time, but if the employee does not pass, they are responsible to pay for subsequent attempts.

Loyalty Contract

Some companies have incorporated loyalty contracts with the employee into their education policy. This may stipulate that the employee must stay with the company for a period of time after the education, or they must reimburse the company for the costs. (Check with your lawyer to see if this is a viable option in your state.)

How to Keep an Employee in 1 easy step

Richard Branson said, "Train people well enough so that they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to."

With a consistent education policy that rewards dedication and hard work in your team, your people will be eager to stick around for the long haul, and your company will be better for it.


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