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  • Credit Where Credit Is Due: 3 Tips for Implementing a Digital Badge Program at Your Organization

Today, more than 73 percent of American adults consider themselves “lifelong learners,” according to the Pew Research Center. Increasingly, responsibility for delivering that learning falls upon employers; 89 percent of millennials think it’s important to be “constantly learning” at their job. If they don’t learn, they’ll leave. Faced with the reality that training is a necessity but trainees are highly mobile, companies are struggling to act on Virgin founder Richard Branson’s classic admonition to “train people well enough so they can leave; treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

As organizations pursue innovative approaches to treating employees “well,” they seek to create thriving cultures of achievement and recognition. Many are discovering that investments in recognition technology pay dividends, with O.C. Tanner reporting that such investments can yield significant improvements in key business outcomes, including a 20 percent increase in revenue, a 26 percent increase in employee retention and a 36 percent increase in customer satisfaction.

To achieve those returns, employers are seeking new ways to memorialize, validate, make use of and share the skills of their employees. They are using digital badges to honor existing employee skills and to publicly recognize new abilities.

Digital badges are portable, data-rich representations of demonstrated skills and certifications. They offer organizations and individuals alike the potential to convert workforce-relevant knowledge and skills into an interoperable currency for the labor market. The best badges offer transparency into the relevant achievement, offering meaningful performance insights that are fully integrated into day-to-day enterprise decisions and activities. Here are three tips to keep in mind when implementing a digital badging initiative at your organization.

Make it Meaningful.

Before getting into the “how” of digital credentials, it’s important to also focus on the “what”: For what skills or competencies will you offer badges? How will you determine when someone meets the criteria to receive a badge? And how can third parties add even more weight to badges through endorsements and standards alignment?

The Colorado Community College System (CCCS) engaged regional employers to identify and define the most in-demand skills and competencies in the advanced manufacturing industry. To further solidify the value of the credentials, some are aligned to industry standards, such as the National Institute for Metalworking Standards. In taking this strategic approach, CCCS worked with the people who would ultimately review the badges to ensure they would carry the most value possible in the markets for which they were intended.

Make it Measurable.

Management guru Peter Drucker famously said that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Where a typical resume might list sales responsibilities and even the size of the budget managed, innovative companies like IBM are measuring precise levels of performance and then recognizing that performance with portable, digital and verified evidence in the form of digital badges. At IBM, sales teams review a personal dashboard of over 60 different metrics that track progress toward pre-identified goals and allow individuals to distinguish themselves in the context of a large organization.

PwC has gone one step further with its own “success tracking” program, which makes various employee metrics publicly visible. Team members from both IBM and PwC can be spotted on Twitter on a regular basis sharing their achievements, generating actionable data and marketing value back to both companies.

Make it Interoperable.

Early railways in the U.S. and Canada used six different track widths called gauges. This structure meant tracks were often unusable by other railway operators. As a result, trains – and therefore the flow of people and goods – were limited to certain geographic areas. The standardization of gauges after the Civil War made everything simpler. Trains could travel further, tracks could be shared, and commerce and travel became more efficient.

Standardization in digital credentials provides many of the same benefits, enabling the use of credentials across a wide variety of environments, including social and professional media, learning and talent management systems, and everyday communication media like email and blogs. The IMS Global Learning Consortium today leads the technical specifications for the Open Badges Standard and helps ensure that the emerging labor market currency is accepted wherever opportunity awaits. Make sure the badges you offer your students, employees and members align with these standards, and they will be easily transferrable, providing a plug-and-play experience across a broad digital ecosystem.

Jonathan Finkelstein is the founder and CEO of Credly, a platform for digital credentials and open badges.

Toby Beresford is the founder of Rise.global, a success tracking network to raise everyone’s game with rich, relevant and regular feedback via your own scorekeeping service.

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