Every momentous period in history has irrevocably changed some aspect of human life. The coronavirus pandemic is no exception. 

The COVID-19 crisis made it clear that most knowledge-based jobs are going to be performed by a dispersed workforce mostly working from home, rather than by on-site workers in traditional offices. The rise of global organizations, along with the rapid development of digital technology, all meant that remote and hybrid work were on the rise even before the pandemic hit. However, the advent of COVID-19 has accelerated the move toward a hybrid workforce and, with it, the demand for hybrid learning solutions. To maintain a competitive advantage in this new world of work, employers need to develop learning strategies and systems to support their dispersed workforces with the tools they need to succeed.  

According to Ladislava Knihováan internationally-recognized specialist in hybrid work models, and a business management faculty member at the Prague University of Economics and Business, “[The rise of hybrid work] gives human resources (HR) professionals a key strategic role in putting in place systems to provide the dispersed workforce with mental and physical well-being support and encouragement, as well as providing for this workforce’s acquisition of new skills to meet the demands of the new workplace.”  

As businesses begin operating in this new normal, learning and development (L&D) must upskill employees to keep pace. One way to meet this challenge is with microcredentials. Digital badges, along with licensing and certification, form the “micro-credentials portfolio,” which recognizes learners who have completed any form of structured informal learning. Micro-credentials, which are largely based on assessed proficiency rather than time spent learning, are an effective way to upskill learners with in-demand skills.  

Linda Steedman, chair of the digital learning and assessment specialist eCom Scotland, believes that micro-credentials will be crucial in the future of work. Micro-credentials, particularly digital badges, give employers – and L&D professionals overseeing the learning process – leverage to upskill, motivate and engage employees in the learning process. They also create common principles and frameworkswith verifiable outcomesthat help learners stand out amongst their peers.  

“Micro-credentials also provide a currency of transferrable skills in the current workforce,” Steedman says. They build the organization’s brand for valuing learner achievement and demonstrate what being digital in the new normal brings to all stakeholders.”  

L&D professionals looking to implement micro-credentials as a way of assessing the new, dispersed, hybrid workforce’s knowledge, skills and competencies need to know the answers to four key questions: 

    • What indemand, practical skills do employees need to showcase?  
    • What information do employers need in order to assess prospective employees’ competencies?  
    • How can digital badging help learners stand out in the new normal?  
    • What reporting mechanisms will you use to track and measure success?  

Once implemented, badges enable employers to see whether a candidate meets standards and/or regulations for employment through skills verification, Steedman says.  

Motivating Learners  

In addition to verifying skills and abilities, micro-credentials give learners a way to display their accomplishments in an increasingly digital world, which gives them the aspiration to earn more in the future. After all, Steedman says, industry-wide recognition is a great motivator for learners. It incentivizes them to engage in positive learning behavior, including taking control of their learning in the pursuit of more digital badges that they can bring with them throughout their lifelong learning journey. “It also provides a way for them to differentiate themselves from others to employers – and prospective employers because these badges are verifiable personal achievements, portable and optimized for sharing on social media channels and professional networks,” Steedman says.  

In the end, bringing micro-credentials into your L&D strategy will position your learners, stakeholders and entire organization for success in the new normal and, perhaps most importantly, will give your learners the recognition they deserve.