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Jun 2018

The case for credentials: street cred for employees, real cred for companies

Blog posts

Steve Lowenthal

Steve Lowenthal

CEO at Kineo US

In this age of ‘every kid gets a trophy’ just for participating in a sporting activity, the notion of incentivizing employee training can be met with groans and eyerolls. Credentials and certificates are not merely gold stars of achievement, however. Credentialing employees through trainings and workshops can be meaningful for their companies and their careers. In this post, we’ll highlight some of the ways credentialing can offer an added benefit to to your organization and how employees and employers are leveraging credentials.

Start with what we know

In many industries, credentialing is already a standardized process. In order to be eligible for brokering in US stock exchanges, for example, one needs to have passed specific exams. In these cases, certifications protect organizations from potential lawsuits, and ensure--at least on paper--that employees have been appropriately trained to do their job. Beyond liabilities, though, credentialing can demonstrate qualification for a variety of functions as well as mark the achievements of ambitious employees. As we will discuss, a certificate is not always synonymous with proof of mastery. 

Digital credentials, real life recognition

Kineo has a partner company, Credly, that is the global market leader in digital credentialing. Digital credentialing is gaining ground in Europe as well as the stateside. Having digital credentials effectively means employees receive digital certificates that contain robust data about where the certificate was received, from whom, and for which achievements. Employees can display these certifications on their dossier, LinkedIn profile, email signatures, etc. and know that the information is easily verifiable. These digital certificates show the areas of competency employees have gained by their own initiative, thanks to a supportive employer.

Third party endorsements

Unlike continuing education credits where one need only attend a conference or training to retain one’s license, our interest here is in employees proving competency or mastery of a skill. This is why author Michael Horn, who writes about education innovation, says ‘competency-based credentials’ are the truly valuable ones. “In that world,” writes Horn, “you’d earn a badge for demonstrating mastery of a set of knowledge and skills. Whether you learned that skill outside of a formal educational experience or inside wouldn’t matter. Nor would it matter if you sat in a seat to learn it for a week or online for a few hours. What would matter is you had the skill set.” 

Isn’t that what matters to employers most of all? Not that their employees have completed a training but rather that they have gained confidence in their ability to perform skills or find resources easily. Being proficient in the skills that are central to their operations is a win for both the employee and ultimately for the workforce. Further, having a third party verify the certification (for example, becoming Apple certified by MacIntosh Inc. in order to be of tech help in one’s department), adds one more layer of verification that a skill was acquired and mastered. This seems to be the trending philosophy as more companies and universities look toward offering Microcredentials, rather than master’s degrees, in fields that are constantly evolving.

The company that cares (about employee education)

For the company, credentialing also tells a larger story. Companies who invest in employee education and skill training can sometimes grow frustrated that there isn’t a strong return on investment. As with anything presented as a requirement rather than a choice, training runs the risk of being a box to check rather than an experience to embrace. By offering employees digital credentials as an incentive for training completion, they incorporate the element of choice back into the experience. Further, when a company can report that, eg 25% of employees are credentialed in UI/UX or are CPR certified, it reflects well on their corporate brand. All the beautiful mission statements in the world ring hollow if there is no evidence of these values practiced by the company. Proof of credentialing employees year after year, pays more than lip service to a company invested in employee education. 

Digital credentials: a part of talent management

IBM’s digital certificate program, Open Badges, offers employees the chance to showcase their credentials widely. Where few people may see a paper certificate hanging on an office wall, hundreds or thousands of people will see a digital certificate when it is shared on social media, in an email signature, etc.  Employees earn Open Badges by completing steps toward a larger certification in a particular skill area. 

Call it ‘positive peer pressure’, call it a culture of recognition, mastery begets more mastery for employees wanting to take part in education with digital credentials. In fact, IBM saw certification exam pass rates increase markedly in cases where test takers had first earned progression badges. For companies wanting to do similarly, they can create distinct credentials for different subject areas. For example a certification for marketing could be enhanced with badges for a functional role, like analytics or copywriting. 

Wondering whether credentialing may be worth your company’s investment of time and resources? See our webinar recording on digital credentialing and prepare to be inspired by the problem-solving power of credentialing.

Steve Lowenthal

Steve Lowenthal

CEO at Kineo US

Steve Lowenthal has over 15 years of experience in Learning Technologies in consultancy, sales and management roles. He's a regular speaker at US conferences and events on trends in LMS, elearning and technology.

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