Digital Credentials are the Future of the Workforce

What are Digital Credentials?

Think about all of the achievements you’ve earned in your lifetime: graduating from college, joining a professional association, recognition at work for a job well done. Where are those achievements currently displayed? In your home? On your desk? Stuck at the registrar's office? There’s a better way to surface and share those achievements: digital credentials. Digital credentials are a graphical representation of a person’s abilities and competencies, combined with a verifiable description of the knowledge and activities it took to earn it. Digital credentials are the quickest, most secure way to verify knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Digital credentials save your organization money on marketing, human resources, and recruiting costs, which has an impact on the financial bottom line. Data shows that it costs less to upskill and train your existing workforce, with the goal to retain and fill unoccupied jobs, than hiring outside of your organization. Hiring new employees is expensive. On average, companies spend between six to nine months of an employee's salary to successfully recruit and onboard a new team member.

Digital credentials are highly-visual and optimized for sharing on social media channels and professional networks. This builds awareness, value, and demand for an organization’s credential. According to the case study Shifting the Up-skilling Paradigm digital badges help IBM create a diverse, inclusive workforce. IBM’s digital badge program has garnered more than 200 million estimated social media impressions through early 2018, which represents $39,000 per month in marketing value.

Bridge the Gap Between College and Employment 

The road between higher education and full-time employment is no longer a straight one. Post-Great-Recession graduates are dealing with a labor market that, while booming, is competitive. Relying solely on a transcript to gain employment is a dated process that hinders both the student and prospective employer, but verifying achievement and skills has never been easier with digital credentials. 

How can a recent college grad get hired? Earning credentials helps bridge the gap between higher education and employment by going beyond a traditional transcript. Recent college graduates can take what they’ve learned from a university that offers digital credentials (beyond just classes they take and grades they earn), and turn them into granular achievements that are marketable to potential employers. Skills-based hiring levels the playing field among candidates and makes it easier for hiring managers to eliminate bias, identify skills, and hire efficiently.

Creating digital credentials relevant to a college or university’s local community also positively impacts the employability of recent graduates. After Colorado Community College Systems conducted an extensive needs-analysis with local employers and employment experts, they mapped those skills to stackable, digital badges. This enabled students to be recognized for specific, relevant skills that helped them stand out as qualified job candidates.

What Are the Benefits of Joining a Professional Association? 

Whether your organization is a professional society or trade organization, credentialing programs are a valuable benefit for members. So much, in fact, that professionals in every stage of their career--from Millennials to Gen Xers to Baby Boomers--ranked credentials among the top benefits that matter most to them and keep them engaged in the organization, according to a member engagement study by Abila. Credentialing programs can also be a strong recruitment tool among non-members, too.

Many professional associations already have laid the groundwork for certification and credentialing programs, and adding digital credentialing makes the credential--and the association--more marketable, shareable, and powerful.

Paper certificates aren’t shareable on social networks and don’t have the same marketing and branding power (for both the association and the member earning a credential). Digital credentials are highly-visual and shareable online, making them a more engaging and distinct benefit for your members. Every credential is backed by metadata that details the certifications and provides members with proof of learning. Once a member earns a digital credential from your association, they can easily share it on professional networks, online job banks, resumes, and email signatures--making your association and members that earn your credentials more visible on social media. On average, LinkedIn members with certifications receive 6 times more views to their profile.

Digital Credentials Belong on Resumes

The increasing number of global employers who are making the move to skills-based hiring are looking for clear evidence of in-demand skills and the capabilities of would-be employees. Imagine if there was a more direct way to quickly identify the skills your organization needed to fill jobs, or surface existing talent within your organization. When candidates include digital credentials on their resumes and applications, you can do just that. Being able to identify and surface verified skills, achievements, and recognition will make putting the right people into the right jobs easy.

Skills that are vetted and verified through digital credentials offer individuals the opportunity to own proof of their knowledge, and to share that proof with their current, or future employers. On average, companies spend between six to nine months of an employee's salary to successfully recruit and onboard a new team member. Decreasing the time that it takes to find talent will significantly reduce that expense.

Employee Engagement in the Digital Age

Ensuring that your employees are engaged in their work is the easiest way to increase productivity and retain the best talent. How can your organization retain and engage employees? Issuing digital credentials. Digital credentials help organizations, both large and small, recognize achievements, and put value behind learning. Digital credentials allow a company to create a culture of recognition, rather than just awarding participation trophies for showing up. Digital credentials allow managers to see the achievements of their most dedicated and engaged employees. With access to real insights, companies can make more-informed human capital decisions.

Continued learning at work is vital not only for professional growth but personal growth as well. Your least engaged employees are likely to be the first to quit. Without the opportunity to learn new skills or advance professionally, workers will look for employers who are willing to offer learning as a benefit. No one wants to remain stagnant in his or her work. Offering digital credentials and allowing employees, rather than the company, to own the proof of their skills and learning motivates employees toward lifelong personal and professional growth.

Digital Credentials Are a Critical Key to Employee Retention

Developing a relevant, impactful learning and development curriculum in the workplace is a strategy that can move the needle in improving employee engagement and retention. When on-the-job training becomes part of an overall benefits package, employees claim to have higher satisfaction rates, become actively engaged with their work, and are less likely to leave their current role.

Offering digital credentials as part of an overall learning strategy in the workplace reduces turnover and increases retention. When employees feel recognized, engagement, productivity, and retention goes up. Implementing recognition technology boosts employee engagement by 48%, productivity by 34%, and employee retention by 26%, according to a report by O.C. Tanner Institute. Because it’s significantly less expensive to train existing employees than to find new ones, closing the skills gap, retaining the best employees, and promoting from within all together have a real, positive impact on the bottom line.

How a Digital Certificate Can Verify Skills and Help You Find The Perfect Job Candidates

Recruiting top talent can be time-consuming and costly. Digital certificates allow hiring managers and Human Resources leaders to quickly identify internal and external talent, and decrease the amount of time spent on recruiting. The Society for Human Resource Management’s Human Capital Benchmarking Report states that the average time it takes to fill an open position is 42 days. For white-collar jobs in areas like engineering, finance, and marketing, that time is even longer. The average time-to-hire for white-collar positions is 68 business days, according to a Gartner study Recruiting Slowdown Hurts the Bottom Line.

Digital certificates can also be issued for “soft-skills,” like leadership, management, and communication. Talent developers are relying more on online learning to support learning and development initiatives, according to LinkedIn. Digital credentials provide individuals with verified digital badges backed by metadata that detail the skills mastered to earn the credential. When shared on social media and resumes, these badges send clear signals to current and future managers--helping earners find a job or earn a promotion.

Making Open Badges That are Meaningful & Impactful

Open badges are the industry standard for secure, verified digital credentials. Creating open badges that are meaningful to the issuing organization, as well as to the individual earning the credentials, is simple to do if badges are built on the framework of robust metadata. The true meaning of a badge is the metadata behind it which goes beyond pretty design and graphics. Metadata is the endpoint of an open badge that describes who received the badge, from which issuer, when, and what criteria was met to earn it.

From an earner perspective, metadata that doesn’t verify their achievement in a complete and secure way reduces the experience of learning, and earning an open badge to something that anyone can earn. A fully-developed badge with rich metadata affords the earner a new vocabulary for discussing and showcasing their potential. Open badges with exceptional metadata will also include real evidence of learning in the form of a work product.

Open badges with insufficient metadata dilute the learning offerings of credentialing programs and decrease the value of the credential itself. The issuer may miss an opportunity to position themselves as a provider of quality learning experiences, and instead of branding the organization as having a higher value to their workforce over their competitors, they are instead left to find value elsewhere.

Take a look at how you are authoring your digital credentials and ensure that your organization is providing earners and outsiders a full and rich description of the relative value of the achievement, the skills, and competencies represented, the full program required, and all assessment methods.

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