You CAN Take It with You

As I was editing the feature stories in this month’s online-only issue focused on learning assessment, badging, and certification, a scene from The Wizard of Oz popped into my head. After spending much of the film bemoaning his lack of courage—despite his actions to the contrary—the Cowardly Lion receives a special badge from the Wizard of Oz, who declares: “For meritorious conduct, extraordinary valor, conspicuous bravery against Wicked Witches, I award you the Triple Cross.”

In addition to restoring his sense of confidence, that badge of bravery told the world about the feline’s valor and served as outward verification of his skills based on certain recognized standards.

Although most workers don’t typically wear skill badges on their chests these days, organizations increasingly are developing programs that award employees digital badges (or ebadges) and certifications. In today’s pandemic-ravaged world, as technology and job roles evolve every day and nearly two-thirds of U.S. workers are looking for a new job, organizations are faced with finding and retaining talent who possess the needed skills—and then continuously upskilling and reskilling them in a constantly changing workplace. Certification and badging help employers identify what skills employees have while providing workers with visible, portable credentials they can bring with them as they move from job to job.

“Voluntary badging has contributed to our culture of continuous learning beyond our wildest dreams,” notes one Training Top 100 Hall of Famer in a recent white paper, “Training the Workforce of Tomorrow.” “Employees used to learn because they had to. Since we introduced voluntary badging two years ago, the program has been open to everyone from the administrative assistant to the CEO. Everyone can earn the same badges. As a result, people are forming study groups and Yammer groups, contributing to their own culture.”

Another Hall of Famer noted that some managers are setting aside time for their teams to work on specific badges together. “The results are seen not only in promotions and enhanced skills, but in employees contributing to projects for which they previously were not qualified.”

In the latest iteration, organizations are putting stackable digital badges on blockchain, providing a verifiable credentialing portfolio unique to each employee, according to Potoula Chresomales, SVP of Product Management at Skillsoft, in “Putting Digital Badges on Blockchain.” She notes that digital badges “make it easy for learners to share their accomplishments across physical and virtual environments in a visual, verifiable way. Plus, badges are imminently portable, so learners have the comfort of knowing they can bring proof of their skills anywhere they go.”

Adds Bucky J. Dodd, Ph.D., assistant vice president for Education Strategy and Innovation and chief learning innovation officer for LX Studio at the University of Central Oklahoma, “When multiple digital badges are earned, they create a personalized ‘mosaic’ of capabilities. This helps people demonstrate their capabilities and plan and create a vision for their future learning experiences (see his article, “Designing Micro-Credentials for the Future of Work”).

Digital badging used as recognition for achievements also increases employee engagement, Chresomales says. She cites a recent Voice of the Learner study conducted by the Digital Learning Consortium that revealed 9 out of 10 learners value a Learning Record that travels with them throughout their career. Furthermore, 73 percent of those interviewed indicated digital badges would distinctly improve their experience by giving them an on-demand history of their learning journey.

In addition, writes Credly Chief Experience Officer Jarin Schmidt in “Amp Up Training with Digital Credentials,” “training programs can benefit from the sharing of credentials as it showcases opportunities and drives impressions to a brand.”

Learning and Development (L&D) is like the Wizard behind the curtain—creating training programs that teach valuable skills and then measuring and verifying the learning and achieved skill competency via assessments, certifications, and badging. When developing digital badges and micro-credentials, Dodd explains, L&D professionals must strategically address several design characteristics, including:

  • The Need: Are the knowledge, skills, and abilities included in the micro-credential important in the market?
  • The Value: What value does the micro-credential have for people (save time, save/increase money, mitigate risk, achieve recognition, etc.)?
  • The Evidence: What evidence is used to demonstrate achievement of competencies?

Another aspect to consider is the difference between providing badges or certificates of completion—which just indicate an employee completed a training course—versus badges or certifications that show proof of skill competency or mastery. “While both certificates and certifications can serve to reward an individual for achieving a milestone, certifications are more likely to lead to a measurable impact for the certifying organization—as well as enable proficiencies that can be applied to the learner’s profession and even help bolster their resume, writes Vicky Kennedy, chief strategy officer for Intellum in “Distinguishing ‘Certificates’ from High-Value ‘Certifications.’”

If you’d like to continue to hone your skills and master new ones (and earn more digital credentials of your own), I invite you to attend Training’s upcoming TechLearn 2021 Virtual Conference October 25-29. It’s 5 days of learning for just $495 when you register with discount code tme2.

In the case of digital badges, micro-credentials, and certifications, you can take it with you!

Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training Top 100 and Emerging Training Leaders.