reskilling post COVID-19: digital badging can address the acceleration toward digital transformation.

Literally overnight, the coronavirus pandemic has made obvious the need to alter the way we work, accelerating the digital transformation already under way as a result of automation and artificial intelligence (AI), often referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. As companies switch to online, remote models of working and rethink how to deliver products and services in a post-pandemic world – what McKinsey calls a ‘distance economy’ – the hard and soft skills needed to address these new models will require companies to find ways to rapidly upskill and reskill workers with tailored learning journeys to close the skills gap according to McKinsey. Preparing for the future of work and succeeding in the new economy is synonymous with upskilling employees. Digital credentialing and badging is one way to address this need.

In a recent McKinsey Global Survey, 87% of executives said they faced a skills gaps in their workforce, but less than half knew how to address the problem. Digital credentialing and badging provide an objective and verifiable solution for closing the gap. Digital badges are micro-credentials that serve as a mechanism for assessing, recognizing and verifying a skill, learning or achievement. Badges are widely used by many educational institutions, nonprofits and companies, including Adobe, Dell, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle.

While digital badging has been around for a few years, what is more recent is the increasingly important value these badges offer to organizations and individuals alike. Digital credentialing is becoming a key differentiator for organizations that care about the employee experience and want to be viewed as employers of choice. The ability to attract, hire, retain and engage a skilled workforce is, in part, based on a company’s ability to demonstrate its commitment to its workforce. Digital badges are a powerful way to offer continual opportunities for career development and recognition of new skills that are valued in the market.

For employees, having objective third-party verification of skills is critical in an era where organizations are increasingly focused on hiring for the skills needed for a role, rather than solely or primarily on past experience – a reality likely to be accelerated because of the new world of work that is being birthed by the pandemic. In addition, with new technologies such as AI being used to screen and match candidates with jobs, digital proof of verifiable skills on a resume can mean the difference between getting an interview with the hiring manager and having a resume cast aside.

Once earned, digital badges can be shared on social media and professional networks, creating brand recognition for the company and elevating an employee’s personal brand.

an industry first

In recognition of the value that digital badging provides, Randstad RiseSmart has become the first company in our industry to digitally badge our career mobility teams, which comprise coaches, branding experts and job concierges, through our digital learning campus, RiseSmart University. These teams are at the heart of what we do. They deliver career coaching, professional branding services such as resume writing and social media profiles, and job search assistance to employees who are either going through redeployment or outplacement. Our coaches also provide guidance for employees using our career development platform. Verification of skills is being provided through Credly, one of the premier digital credentialing companies

“We’ve created a structured, digital learning experience for our employees that allows us to train globally at scale to make sure our career transition teams are consistently delivering exceptional service no matter where they’re located,” says Lesley Brownlie, vice president of international expansion at Randstad RiseSmart. “We feel that the digital badges awarded upon completion of our courses will help set the quality standard in the industry, enabling us to continue delivering on the exceptional Human Forward promise of our brand that we know makes a difference for our HR customers and their employees.”

In addition to earning a Career Mobility Team badge to signify the rigorous learning attained through our onboarding process, our coaches, branding experts and job concierges will have the opportunity to take additional tiered and specialized courses based on a combination of curriculum and hours of professional development. Each member of our career transition teams will be able to follow online learning paths tailored to their roles and obtain digital badges after passing certification exams for each course. Certifications will require renewal to reflect changes in skills and requirements. We are also in the process of developing specialty badges.

Members of our engineering team have also begun digital credentialing and badging, and we plan to roll out courses to other teams as well.

microlearning drives internal talent mobility and visibility

Digital badges represent competency-based milestones. By enabling existing employees to develop their career interests and requisite skills, organizations broaden and deepen capabilities across the organization. Workers with updated hard and soft skills can expand their roles into cross-functional teams and internal gig work, or even move to different parts of the organization where their skills are most needed. Such an approach helps develop the T-shaped workers prized by many companies—those with a depth of expertise in a certain area and broad, multidisciplinary and soft skills.

Greater workforce flexibility can translate into increased business agility. Digital badges contain embedded metadata about very granular skills and accomplishments, making them, by nature,  verifiable, open, searchable and portable. This transparency can help organizations quickly identify employees with the needed skills sets for particular projects or roles. It can even help employers identify workers who have many, but not all the skill sets required for a particular role, and offer them additional learning opportunities to qualify for that position.

Such capabilities can help companies more easily and rapidly redeploy talent—whether as an alternative to layoffs or at the request of an employee seeking to move within the company—by connecting people with well-suited jobs or projects based on easily identifiable skills. In addition, skills that were previously unknown or overlooked by an organization may surface as a result of digital credentialing. Not only does the organization gain a more complete view of its employees’ capabilities and expertise, but employees benefit from access to more opportunities for growth and advancement. A badge portfolio also provides employees with a mechanism for telling a story about their achievements and how they can contribute to new roles.

Related content: What issues does HR encounter when trying to upskill their people?

prime tool for career development, recognition

LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report revealed that 94 percent of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in them through learning and development. In a recent analysis, IBM saw a 120% increase in earned IBM credentials between April 1 and April 15, 2020, compared with the same time period in 2019. It’s no surprise that most employees desire continuous improvement to maintain their relevance and value, seek meaningful work and want to make a difference in their organizations. Digital badging promotes individualized goal setting and self-directed learning that complement career development. Badging also codifies and acknowledges previously learned skills. In this way, it can help level the playing field by providing a means of recognizing, in an objective way, past accomplishments and capabilities.

While educational degrees and industry certifications recognize point-in-time achievements, digital badges enable employees with and without those credentials to have proof of continual learning that is relevant to them and to their organizations. In addition, microlearning enables people to more easily retain what they learn, and can reduce the frustration and attrition associated with broader certification or education programs that require extended training over long time periods. What’s more, digital badges mark progress and highlight achievements that can be celebrated by peers and managers, in turn encouraging employees to continue on their learning paths.

continually upgrade skills

In a time of rapid change brought on by digitization, AI and machine learning, the average half-life of technical skills is shrinking. In a 2019 report by Wiley Education Services and Future Workplace, 40 percent of employers estimated that a hard skill is usable for four years or less. While there have been numerous articles about whether AI and robotics will lead to fewer jobs, according to the 2019 World Economic Forum, technology will create more work, not less, and heighten the value of soft skills such as adaptability, teamwork and curiosity. In the long run, the issue will be a shortage of talent with the right hard and soft skills. Combatting this mismatch will take broad efforts involving educational institutions, government and the private sector; but, continual digital learning and credentialing provide an important avenue for bridging the skills divide.

Related content: how to upskill employees to create future-ready workforce.

addressing talent scarcity, improving retention and engagement

Once the global economy recovers, we may find ourselves once again in an era of talent scarcity. Before the pandemic, top talent tenure was just over one year with the cost of acquisition exceeding return on investment by a factor of 2 to 1 according to a 2019 report done by Aberdeen in conjunction with RiseSmart, “Redeployment Extends the Value of the Workforce.”

Many in HR are also well aware of the low numbers for employee retention and engagement that have been reported by numerous studies. By providing bite-sized opportunities for lifelong learning that allow individuals to learn at their own pace, employers can give current employees the chance to succeed early and often. A renewed focus on developing existing talent is likely to reduce talent acquisition costs by increasing employees’ desire to stay with and contribute to the company. By way of example, IBM found that employees who earned digital badges had higher engagement than those who did not, and 87 percent of badge earners said they felt more engaged because of the digital badging program.

A 2017 internal IBM survey showed that digital badges positively impacted every area the company measures. About three quarters of digital badge issuers agreed that badges motivate employees and customers to develop current skills, as well as recognize employees for their achievements. Nearly 60 percent said badges increased social media presence; 48 percent said badges helped identify verified talent; and 39% felt they increased engagement.

badging our coaching teams: ready for the future

RiseSmart’s adoption of digital badging reflects a forward-thinking approach to making sure that the skills of our people will continue to reflect the needs of the participants and customers we serve.

“We have a culture that values continuous learning and recognition,” says Judi Yost, global learning and development manager at Randstad RiseSmart. “And, we’re always looking for ways to improve how our people deliver services to our participants. Digital badging provides a verifiable way for us to maintain what we feel are the highest standards in the industry and to continue promoting career development for our staff.”

Many members of the coaching teams have been with RiseSmart for a long time and we value their passion and experience. Digital credentialing will provide a source of pride and recognition, and encourage employees to continue to stay with us to deliver the responsive and caring services we have become known for.

With coaching teams deployed globally, digital badging will provide verifiable evidence of skills so that customers can rest assured they are receiving the same high standards of service anywhere in the world for their impacted employees, whether in the US, India, France, Australia or any of the 80-plus countries in which we operate.

“A structured, digitalized learning experience provides a systematic way for us to train our people to deliver a consistently high-quality experience to meet the needs of our largest global customers,” Lesley says. “It allows us to scale rapidly while also providing transparency to our customers so that they can verify the skills our teams have achieved simply by clicking on earned badge icons associated with each coaching team member.”

michelle gouldsberry.

content marketing manager

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