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The value digital credentials can add to your organisation

Podcasts and Audio | 19.03.2019

This month the team cover the topic of digital credentialing, the benefits of motivating pro-active learning behaviours and how to implement digital credentials in your learning strategy.  

Paul Westlake  0:00  

Welcome to Kineo Stream of Thought a monthly podcast that feature informal chat from the Kineo team about all things learning. I'm Paul Westlake, Solutions Consultant at Kineo. And today we're looking at the value that digital credentials can add to your organisation. Today, I'm pleased to say I'm joined by: 

Jez Anderson  0:23  

Jez Anderson, head of consultanting, 

Nina Brebner  0:26  

and Nina Brebner, Account director.

Paul Westlake  0:28  

Welcome! So, credentials, that's what we're here for. We're hearing a lot and reading a lot about digital credentials and badging and skills assessment. And to be honest, I think those terms are very much becoming very interchangeable. So maybe we can start with the obvious question. What exactly do we mean when we say digital credentials? 

Jez Anderson  0:47  

I think it's interesting that you use of word badges and credentials, and it's moved a long way from when badges started, you know, really on the on the back of gaming, that we're now in a world where credentials are the new language, a new way of describing what a badge used to be. Whereas a badge used to be about performance and achievement. You know, you hit a level, you got a badge here and that level. And over the time, we've digitally we've adopted that thought, that that mentality around acquiring a digital marker for achieving. Yeah, a badge, ultimately. And credentialing goes much further than just a batch, it goes much, much deeper than that it provides a lot more the digital format, 

Paul Westlake  1:37  

And what sort of information will be included?

Jez Anderson  1:40  

So if you think about a badge, what a badge does, badges of physical representation of something ... that you've hit a standard, they've hit some sort of standard that somebody else somewhere, understands, respects and gets really. And what a credential does is it provides information around that standard, digitally behind it. 

Nina Brebner  2:00  

Yeah, I think an interesting, you know, description from Jez around what credentialing is, I think what also helps to understand it as well, where it's used, most commonly, we see it in academia, very simply, and in being able to issue credentials against the qualifications that people are receiving in academia. And we've seen a huge growth of it through vocational learning, as part of apprenticeships and other forms of qualifications. And now what we want to see is really see the corporate market, take on credentials as part of then that final stage of people's learning as part of their career journey. So that we see credentials being released alongside performance and behaviors and skills that people acquire in their day to day work environment that more commonly, might actually just be unrecognized altogether, but they are ultimately valuable to the whole story of that person and their capability. 

Paul Westlake  2:56  

So at one level, then it could be the O levels A Levels that I've got, is that what we're saying? So that could be is that a credential? Is that skill? Is that a badge? That sticker? 

Jez Anderson  3:05  

I mean, down the line, you know, that level of academic, digital quality, you know, recognition is but there there's a potential, there's a reality of that, I think we're where or is that much more in the sense that if you go on a course, so if you go on a project management course, for example, that at the end of that course, you have done some work, okay, you might have done some series of structured formal learning, you might have gone off and done some project work, you might have taken part in a project yourself as part of it. At the end of the day, what a digital credentials is, it wraps all that up, it says that this is what you've done, well done, here you go is accredited, what you have actually achieved and what you physically carried out and done yourself in a batch format, in a credential format. So when somebody else goes into it, so you know, employer, John wants to employ Mary, who's done that course, John can look at Mary's digital credential for project management and go, Okay, so you use prints, or use the principles of Lean principles as part of that, oh, I get that one. That helps because we use it in our workplace. So that works for me. So rather than just being like an O level certificate, which is great, you know, I'm showing my age, but it's, it's that so what the person did to achieve really was the awarding body, whatever it may be okay. 

Nina Brebner  4:25  

And it's also a more secure form of validation. You know, we can offer certificates, we shouldn't forget it as possible... And interestingly, we hire people on the basis of just their personal word, what they had in their CV, what they put on their LinkedIn profile. The whole endorsement thing on LinkedIn kind of got watered down by the fact that you get endorsed by people who have never even met you before, so they can't really validate your capability in that space and digital credentials creates a much securer space for that where you can now be confident that that has come from either an individual an organisation, An institution that it was issued on a particular date that it holds a particular standard to it. And that ensures that you're not just having to take people's word for things, you've got something that's much securer in its delivery.

Paul Westlake  5:12  

The digital credential itself is like an empty container that could hold a lot of data. So I'm assuming for what you're saying here is that data could be you know, when I took this one, I had to do whatever I had to show who marked it, whatever it may be. So who can create those credentials, though? 

Jez Anderson  5:29  

Okay, well, pretty much anyone can create create a credential

Paul Westlake  5:33  

That's pretty dangerous, surely, because it means we will hand them out like sweeties?

Jez Anderson  5:37  

Yeah, in essence, you could, the reality of it is, is the value that that credential has not only for the individual who's earned it, but for the organization that's issued it. And that's where you start to get deeper into the difference between a badge and a credential. So a badge, anyone you know, played a game, hit a level got a batch, great, you know, I'm good at that game, earned a credential working for a certain organisation that organisations might have face value. So if it's Rolls Royce, for example, or if it's IBM, or if it's Shell, or whoever it is, if they've issued a credential about project management, it's got some kudos. So all of a sudden, it becomes valuable, and you created a currency around that. So yes, anyone can do it. But Jez Anderson's personal credential on being a great guy has no real value. But if I was an IBM, if I don't have a piece of IBM training, and I earned an IBM credential, all of a sudden, I got a piece of currency that I can take anywhere in the world or look at it and go, this is really valuable because Jez understands blockchain. And he can do that. So it changes the dynamic of actually what's in that method, what what credential stands for, and how to use it. 

Nina Brebner  6:51  

And I think it's interesting to point out that we shouldn't be frightened of issuing credentials for slightly softer things as well. There's the as you know, your qualification, this is your, your, your easy representation, because it has a clear standard and a clear issuing against it. There's your kind of middle ground, which is what goes on in an organisation and how that's measured, such as what might come out from a competency framework, or a compliance framework, etc. But there's also it's okay for us to also be issuing credentials against just what people have done, or knowledge that they've acquired, and that may not have quite the same rigorous standard against it. But you make sure that the credential outlines the fact that it didn't hold a very rigorous standard against it. So we've got one customer, for instance, who the very lowest end of their badges is the fact that you went to a webinar, you read something. So that's their kind of what they call their knowledge badge, which is that you have attained some kind of knowledge. But then you have to go up into, you're able to prove an understanding of that knowledge, and you're able to then show in practice, that knowledge, and those are their three levels, then. So even without there being a rigorous standard, you're still applying some form of standard that says, this is just knowledge. 

Paul Westlake  8:07  

And I guess from what you're saying, there, so so clients could mix and match to a certain extent. So they could have, I guess, to a certain extent, they could use badging on the learning management system to say, so and so's completed this bit of a learning or as read this PDF, or watched this video, whatever it may mean. Whereas they those sort of smaller levels, if you like, all build up to into one overall credential which we give at the end, which could be leadership.

Jez Anderson  8:32  

Oh, I mean, I think this is really, really interesting, good examples of how you can look at individual badge structure. So City and Guilds, for example, and See my Skills is a great example of recognising individual combos. See my skills in our in our City and Guilds is it's it's our method, it's our it's our system of badging certain behaviors, certain characteristics, which we value as an organisation, an individual demonstrates that to a panel, a panel says, Yes, I approve that, that fit a standard. And they issue an individual badge, that badge stands alone. Ultimately, you also look at membership organisations, and a membership organisation can potentially look at it different levels of membership, different types of knowledge base that within that different experience is required to do that at those different levels. So it becomes much more complex and much more complex taxonomy of different badging types, structures, names, so that it can do an awful lot than just there's your badge, you know, put it on your arm. 

Nina Brebner  9:36  

And I think there's an interesting point in what you're saying is that this isn't just about, you know, organizations have frameworks for supporting skills and objectives. So we have competency frameworks, which clearly outline a role requires a certain level of competency. And we then identify whether the individual sat in that role holds that level of competency we all go through performance processes, which are about helping us to perform against a particular objective, which is normally driven by a vision or a goal within the business. So those things are all kind of business as usual. But what's interesting is what we don't have the ability to do at the moment is to create portability in skills, both from one business to another, or inside an existing business. So it's the fact that we often start the conversation by asking the question of what hidden skills? Yeah, you know, do you have as an individual that would be useful to your organisation that aren't necessarily directly mapped to the role? 

Paul Westlake  10:35  

No, unless they specifically ask you all, they all you tell them? 

Nina Brebner  10:37  

Yeah, there's no way of capturing that information. And so actually, a company fails to make the best use of its staff, because there's an abundance of skills and individual have, which will never ever be visible to that organisation. So credentials enable us to actually unearth a lot of hidden skills in people, which don't directly align to the immediate objectives to the business, but could be incredibly useful in a week, month or years time when there's a particular need or a need to plan for succession, in skills, etc, 

Paul Westlake  11:09  

Picking up where you're saying it. I mean, that's a crying shame. So when they are looking to fill a specific role, the chances are they've got someone in the business who could have those skills or those credentials, not necessarily from the role they're in right now. But maybe it's from a previous employer, something they did at college before they even came into the workplace or in or whatever it may be. But they're never going to be identified, never going to see that are they? So without jumping ahead. There's an advantage to businesses as well as individuals in creating / achieving credentials.

Jez Anderson  11:38  

Yeah, I mean, I think businesses can apply lots take lots of use from from applying a credentialing system or credentialing approach to how they look at managing and supporting that talent. And I think if you overlay against the talent development strategy, and start to think of it from that perspective, rather than just being about an individual reward or something like that, it becomes something much more powerful, where you can start to look at how do you understand know what talent you have within your business.  It gives you a codified way of understanding what that looks like. 

Paul Westlake  12:10  

And if I can play devil's advocate for a second, because that's pretty much my job. Does that not make businesses nervous that basically they are helping someone prove what skills they have? And therefore they can ultimately that it's easy for easier for that person to then move on to another role or someone else, isn't it? 

Nina Brebner  12:31  

I would argue that they would leave anyway? If you're not Investing in their skills and their personal development, they will leave anyway.

Jez Anderson  12:40  

I think it's an interesting argument. I think there's an argument that's been had lots of time around. Do you develop it people generally? And the key is, is, is it better to develop good people and have them and they can demonstrate that value, or not develop bad people who you keep hold of? Who can't demonstrate value? And I think, you know, organisations will argue that and continue to argue that point. Our experiences is those organisations, which value and nurture, people are more likely to see people evolve and develop within that organisation, and move on to other things. If and if those other things don't exist, they might move on to somewhere else. But potentially, will come back right, with a different set of experiences, because they've had a positive value experience from that employer. And they believe that, you know, they become brand advocates. And there's another aspect of credentialing, which doesn't often often get talked about is that is that the credential itself becomes a brand recognition for for a certain standard.

Paul Westlake  13:35  

Certain companies, given someone a credential, and they've gained a credential... The company basically assess and said, Yep, that's right, here's a credential. That person could then share that out on social, which has got the company's name on it saying what a great employer I work for the training I should receive. So you could argue in loose terms, it's always free marketing to say look who look who I work for and look at a training I'm receiving 

Nina Brebner  14:06  

This is really interesting. I went to a company the other day, and they were buying my car off me. And the guy that was going through the process of purchasing my car for me behind his desk, he had 12, paper certificates. Sort of sellotaped to the wall. And I kept thinking, that would be much better as a credential that was posted out onto social media where other people would have seen how much that organisation was investing in his training needs. And instead, they're just sellotaped they're like a printed out sellotape version

Paul Westlake  14:38  

When he leaves I'd love to know if he takes them down and then takes them to his next employer and tapes them to the wall again, because my argument will be pretty probably not but then surely that's another huge benefit of these credentials. So are we working towards a world where, you know, kids from the age of well, as soon as theystart school must get a learning number. And we follow that right away through. I know people are now worried about some of the data and stuff, don't want to get into that. But in some ways, that's a, that's a great thing to have to be able to say, I did, I was in the Cubs and I did this, this and this, and then I did trampoline. And I do this and now I'm at work and now I've got these skills. So you know real history, a rich history of that person's experience

Jez Anderson  14:38  

It would be lovely to get to a place a state where as an individual, would you not, and you could opt in or out of it as you choose and how you choose. 

Paul Westlake  15:28  

By the way, I think we can do that now can't we? Say I only want to share etc.

Jez Anderson  15:33  

Yes. You own it. you know, it's your badge you your credential, you do what you want. I think that in the future, as you know, like now, for example, you interview somebody for a job. Now, the chances are, if it's a professional, you're going to go on LinkedIn and have a look at their profile. You have a look at who their connections are, you look at the sorts of groups they are a part of , any endorsements have got you look at how they are posting, you look at the behavior, you look at their career history, because it starts to give you something different to maybe the image that you're getting from a paper CV, and credentials, all they do is start to give more flavor more color to that individual. Over time, it'd be lovely to have your own personal learning locker where your own stuff sets, and you choose what's in that and you choose what's not in that, but you choose sits. And that becomes a place where you know, that certificate that you did, when I left school, I was a painter and decorator and I did my craft certificate with City and Guilds. And I haven't got a clue where it is. But I really like it. Yeah, I guess my age, I think that's a really interesting and novel piece of bit of my life. But as it all it was was a little scrap of paper, which I probably lost. Now I've got no way of proving I did it or not. But in the digital world, that becomes part of me, and it stays with me. For as long as I want. 

Nina Brebner  16:51  

I think it also enables, you know, slightly drifting away from our classic customer base. But it enables us to unearth skills and behavior in younger people that presently just kind of go un missed. I had this fantastic conversation with a leadership company, who was saying, leadership is is this strange thing that when you're young and you're at school, people will show natural leadership capabilities. And that often gets dampened by somebody saying that Charles to extrovert or too loud or whatever it might be, and it gets dampened. And most leaders don't establish that they're a leader until they're 50. And then they're going to retire in 10 years time. And they were talking to them about using credentials to, um, to actually recognise these kind of skills and behaviors in young kids that would help remind them that they have these skills and capture them much earlier on and allow them to channel them into the workplace, rather than not realising they've got them until they've done 20 years in the workplace. 

Paul Westlake  17:53  

And I'm just thinking, so could this potentially scale? So could we have sector level credentials, for example. So in something like hospitality, if all of these different companies are creating their own credentials, and all pretty much, measuring for want of a better word, people in the same way, can they not all work together, and even people moving around the industry...

Jez Anderson  18:17  

Isn't that what used to be the apprenticeship framework? Maybe I shouldn't be political. But the reality of it is, is that we have done that in a paper format before. And there's, you know, there's there's arguments for and against doing it in a structured way, because the moment you introduce a single standard, it becomes very difficult to say, which is the right standard for the employer, right, and which is the right standard for the individual based on the work that they're doing. Hence, the change in the apprenticeship system. Now, I think that credential credentialing does is because it built filters down and boils down to looking at an individual's behavior in terms of what they've done. It allows you to start to say, Well, I want these characteristics, I don't want that person who's got a certificate to prove it on that job. But I want these characteristics because this new job that didn't exist five years ago, when the framework was created, actually is made up of these behaviors and these skills. And I know that so what I'm going to do is I'm going to look for the credentials that give me that person rather than say, Have you got a level four in such and such, because that level four in such and such might not equate to the job that I'm doing. 

Nina Brebner  19:23  

And that's very relevant in the modern corporate world where we are talking to people about the fact that the rate of change and transformation in business and the fact that that's now an iterative thing, rather than an A to B location, that it means that they're needing to hire more people based on personal attributes and characteristics over sometimes whether they have hard skills or qualifications, because they need people who are able to learn faster, be more adaptive cope with change all of those kind of things. And that does enable them to then recruit people more effectively based on those softer set of skills and not the hard qualifications that their CV displays.

Jez Anderson  20:03  

I think we're probably getting to a closing point. For me, the issue is, we can't apply the old way of thinking around credentials and overlay it against what were the qualification structures. Because all we do then is recreate the qualification structures that went with it. What we have to start to think about is how we're going to look at talent and how we want to recognize use harness develop talent, in future. And credentials give us a really good way of doing that they give a really good way of codifying sets of behaviors and experiences and skills, and then enable us to recognise and value them and create those currencies, which people can buy into either employers or individuals who are earning those credentials. 

Paul Westlake  20:47  

So just on a very practical level, so we're talking about digital credentials. So how do we how can we gain those as in it, it just by completion, a number of pieces of elearning, for example, or or there are other ways that we can prove that, you know, someone has met the standard, so, so talk me through how practically that would work for say, an employer who wants to start credentialing? 

Nina Brebner  21:11  

I would say that you don't go all in, you don't kind of go with these, this is everything that we can do, you kind of pick off things in smaller chunks. And that will ultimately depend on who you are as an organisation. If you're more safety orientated environment, you may start off with some of your safety subjects and the behaviors that sit around that. If you've got a very robust and well used competency framework, you may decide to start off there, you may even decide initially, just to start with a couple of key programs that are really critical to the you know, the ongoing change or success of your business. And you want to be able to recognise people's success within those programs, and grow them out. So you don't go all in you kind of pick things that are easy for you to work with, and start to, to grow out from there. And the ultimate goal should really be that it's then ingrained across the learning and development, HR and talent process. So you're creating this cycle between the autonomous learning being done by the learner, and how you recognize that the fact that they're doing that independently from any major structure or objective, that it's being recognized as part of the learning and development strategy. And that all the rest is then being picked up as part of the talent process and how that's then recognised as part of the talent process. 

Paul Westlake  22:28  

So you two obviously quite experienced in talking to clients about credentials and understanding where they might fit in. What, if anything, are you hearing, but what are concerns people have got? So for example, is there a concern that once I've almost said, Yes, someone's hit this standard? If they go move on and work for someone else? Are they going to question whether I was right to say that if they don't see that? What what sort of things are people worried about? 

Nina Brebner  22:55  

Yeah, I think there's a couple of things. I think you're right. One of them is is around the fact that that brand recognition of something does carry on to another employer. And that sits around the same nervousness as to why people don't give thorough references. They just say, Yes you worked there for x time. So yes, I think that nervousness does exist, because they don't want to be held account of the fact that that person may not then exhibit those behaviors ... 

Paul Westlake 23:25

Which is odd because you would think they would want to be recegnised for training them in the first place wouldn't you. 

Nina Brebner  23:35  

Yes, And so that for that reason, you may initially not start with the soft stuff, you may start with stuff that's more tangible, more measurable. So you can feel confident in what what's going out into the public domain. The other concern is this sense that you're going to pat me on the back and give them a credential. And prevent that's an easy thing to prevent, in that the way that the system is set up, and who issues those and the standards and the framework that underpins that prevents that process of you, patting somebody on the back and giving them a credential. 

Paul Westlake  23:56  

And what about for you finally then Jez, and just what's stopping people getting started? 

Jez Anderson  24:00  

I think he's like anything, it's, it requires a bit of a groundswell of people to go that you know what, this is valuable and useful. And I think that it's, you know, show my age again, it's a bit like VHS or Betamax. Which way to go, yeah, there's lots of different platforms, or there has been lots of different platforms around. And I think they're starting to get filtered down now into into a couple of key players in the market. So that will change things, 

Paul Westlake  24:25  

Creams rising to the top of it...

Jez Anderson  24:27  

You could, you could argue that but I also think there's a it's this, uh, this, uh, the fact that also that HR and learning and development as you know, as a professional body is sort of catching up with the digital world. I wouldn't say that necessarily been on the front edge of change and the front end edge of accepting or embracing what digital technologies have to offer. But we're seeing an awful lot more organisations starting to not think about digital technologies and learning technology as part of that separate to their learning strategy, their starting to see it as being their whole learning strategy. It's actually it's just a delivery mechanism. And I think that over time, one of the key things will be when when organisations start to look at how do they create a digital credential system, which supports their talent management strategy, because that ultimately when they started to say that, like IBM do now is a really good way of creating that groundswell.

Paul Westlake  25:32  

If you want to continue the conversation, you can catch up with us on twitter where we're @Kineo.

Your speakers are

Jes was Head of Consulting at Kineo until 2020.
With over 10 years’ experience in the education and L&D sectors, Nina is responsible for working with a range of global clients to understand their needs, and interpret these needs into viable solutions. Nina is passionate about her customer relationships and ensuring they receive not only a solution that is fit for purpose but also a high quality service.
Paul was previously a Solutions Consultant at Kineo.