Micro-credentials could be the next major disruptive force for upskilling in the workplace, and everyone from schools, non-profits and businesses is using them. So, what are micro-credentials and why should employers and organisations consider offering micro-credentials to their employees? If you’re an employer or executive in an organisation, you’ll want to learn as much as you can about micro-credentials and their advantages for your staff and business.
What are micro-credentials?
Micro-credentials are mini-qualifications that demonstrate skills, knowledge, and/or experience in a given subject area or capability. Also known as nanodegrees, micro-credentials tend to be narrower in range than traditional qualifications like diplomas or degrees. However, they can also be broad in focus rather than specific. For example, you can have a micro-credential for something as broad as data-driven marketing, and offer another micro-credential focusing specifically on how to empower others in the workplace.
Soft and hard skills
Micro-credentials can be awarded for soft and hard skills. Examples of topic areas include self-management, teamwork, digital marketing and data analytics. The subject areas are unlimited, and depending on the individual employee, you could award them a micro-credential in anything ranging from customer service and email etiquette to front-end web development.
The growing interest in micro-credentialing could be in part explained by the need for workplaces to remain competitive by ensuring employees are continuing to develop new capabilities. Micro-credentialing gives a way to map these career paths and quantify any types of skill.
How it works
Earning a micro-credential can involve completing activities, assessments and projects, and the employee can receive a digital certificate or badge as evidence of attaining their new credential. The micro-credential could be a one-off qualification, or it could be part of an employer-mandated training pathway leading to a final overall qualification for the employee. You can deliver your own micro-credential as an organisation or work with a reputable, accredited course provider to design a quality program.
Earning and assessing micro-credentials
Earning a micro-credential can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year. The training and assessment pathway varies depending on the qualification, but an example might include one or a combination of the following.
- Assignments – Employees might be asked to complete tests, assignments and projects at the initial stage, perhaps to demonstrate theoretical knowledge of the field.
- Lectures and seminars – Your organisation’s micro-credentialing process could include a lecture and/or seminar component that gives your employee the opportunity to be exposed to the latest ideas or research in the area.
- Present portfolio – Employees might present a portfolio of work in the area to their team or to their direct report as part of the process, to demonstrate their skill set in the area.
- Assessments – An assessment component, such as tests or practical exercises, could be part of the micro-credential earning process.·
- Conferences – Employees could have the opportunity to attend local or international conferences as part of their exposure to skills, practices and research in the field.
- Demonstrate skills in work setting – Finally, employees could be asked to demonstrate they can successfully apply their skills in the area in the workplace.
Benefits of micro-credentials
Micro-credentials offer numerous benefits for employees, employers and organisations of all sizes. When well-designed, they can be flexible, portable and cost-effective to implement. They could also help to boost employee engagement and support you as an employer in accurately tracking your employees’ development.
1. Personalisation for employees
Micro-credentials offer employees the opportunity to focus on one single area. Your team members can be given the opportunity to choose an area of interest to them. This allows you to personalise your training program with ease, whether you’re a large or small organisation. Rather than investing in a broad, uniform program for departments or teams, you can tailor clusters of micro-credentials to individual staff members to suit their career goals and responsibilities. Your staff members could each end up with unique micro-credential packages that closely meet their training requirements.
2. Personalisation for employers
Personalisation also applies for the organisation or employer. With micro-credentials, you can develop a training and assessment process closely aligned to your current work practices. For example, with a reputable provider, you can develop a data-driven marketing credential that’s partly based on the employee completing a number of on-the-job projects. Your organisation’s micro-credentialing program can be delivered as a precursor to a traditional qualification, as an add-on to a traditional qualification, or as a standalone qualification in an emerging field.
Employees enjoy recognition for their soft and hard skills, and often it’s a challenge to characterise, quantify and qualify the skills and knowledge they’ve gained on the job. Traditional qualifications offer no solution, however a micro-credential (for example) can allow you to recognise an employee’s innovative ideas over time by awarding them with a creative micro-credential.
4. Structured approach to learning on the job
Micro-credentialing offers you and your employees a structured approach to training and learning on the job. Often the skills developed on the job aren’t recognised and recorded, and they’re not reflected on the employee’s record or resume. The flexibility and incremental nature of micro-credentials means you have a tool to give employees greater structure and measurement in the skill set and knowledge they accumulate in their role.
5. Recognise soft and hard skills
Micro-credentials can be developed to train employees in both soft and hard skills. While traditional qualifications tend to focus on hard skills, soft skills like leadership, problem solving and communication are equally vital in the workplace. By offering micro-credentials in both areas to employees on an as-needed basis, organisations can fully leverage their workforce capabilities.
The flexibility micro-credentials offer to organisations and their training programs can be extremely valuable. Micro-credentials can be designed from scratch by the business, and they can be delivered in an incremental way to stagger program stages. Instead of designing an uniform program for particular departments or teams, your business can provide micro-credential training to individual staff members as needed.
Other than eliminating the need to make a major outlay for a big training program, using micro-credentialing can allow you to create and deliver programs that better meet the unique skill requirements of your team members.
7. Demand for flexible lifelong learning
Micro-credentialing could be a way for you to meet the demand for flexible lifelong learning. In today’s workforce, employees tend to change jobs every 4.5 years and they may switch careers several times or more during their lifetime. This means it’s more essential for organisations and employees to have options like micro-credentialing that makes ongoing, continuous learning and recognition of capabilities more accessible.
8. Multidisciplinary roles
Micro-credentialing can be a crucial tool for organisations for ensuring staff members are sufficiently skilled for interdisciplinary roles. For example, with the rise of IT and dependence on technology tools in any role, technology competency is required for just about any role or department in a business. Micro-credentialing allows businesses to build competencies across disciplines rapidly by delivering training programs in highly targeted subject or capability areas, without employees having to commit to long-term qualifications.
9. Employee engagement
Employee engagement is critical for productivity and organisational competitiveness. It’s also widely valued as a driver of organisational success and closely linked to turnover. For organisations looking to minimise costly turnover and better engage their employees, micro-credentialing offers a cost-effective way to retain employee’s interest while boosting their competency. Ensuring your staff members learn what they want to learn and develop skill sets they need to have for their jobs (current and future) might not only result in higher engagement, but it could also help your organisation stay ahead of the competition.
Micro-credentialing is a highly scalable approach to training employees. Whether you’re a large or small organisation, you can undertake training programs on an incremental basis instead of committing to a large-scale training program. You can minimise immediate costs, stop and assess the effectiveness of each micro-credential and then refine your approach with additional micro-credentials. Additionally, the highly targeted approach to training might end up being more effective for upskilling employees than a wide-ranging program that’s uniform for all team members.
11. Training in emerging areas
In dynamic business environments, the ability to train staff quickly to fill new, emerging skill gaps can be invaluable. Whether it’s driven by a new market opportunity, technology or product strategy, your organisation might need to draw on new skillsets not currently in your workforce. Traditional credentials can take too long to implement, or they might not provide coverage for the skill sets you require. Micro-credentialing offers a way to train individual staff members in specific areas quickly, so you can quickly take advantage of emerging market opportunities or respond in a timely way to technology trends.
12. Specialised skillsets
Micro-credentials enable businesses to fill specialised skill gaps that might not be addressable with traditional credentials. The skill gap you’re experiencing might be highly specific to your organisation, or you might require a staff member to apply multidisciplinary skill sets in a single role. You might need a unique combination of micro-credentials to train your employees.
With the flexibility of micro-credentials and the potential for a more granular approach to addressing skill needs, you can develop tailored programs to address these specialised skill set gaps. This is true whether you require soft or hard skills, or both. For example, you might be seeking to train an employee in a combination of digital marketing and data analytics, along with giving them an opportunity to develop soft skills like problem solving and emotional judgement.
13. Deliver on demand
Micro-credentialing empowers organisations’ training programs by enabling you to deliver training on demand. In addition to the scaling and incremental commitment benefits, you can work around business and employee’s schedules to provide training when it’s most convenient. You can train and assess a team of employees when, for example, you’re pursuing a major project, and design the training and assessment around the project. Alternatively, you can train and test a staff member’s competency in a given area on an individual assignment.
Giving training on demand can benefit the business by allowing you to direct resources when it’s most appropriate. It can be advantageous to employees because it can be delivered to align with their schedules.
14. Address widening skills gap
Bridging the skills gap can be an ongoing challenge for employees in any industry. Offering micro-credentials can help businesses in several ways. You can leverage your existing workforce more effectively by ensuring their skills are up to date. Offering training can make your organisation a more attractive employer to job seekers and allow you to attract the talent you seek.
15. Track and deliver training more effectively
Micro-credentials give your business a streamlined, easy-to-manage way to allocate training to staff and evaluate their online learning programs. Because micro-credentials are delivered on a unit-by-unit basis, you could find it easier to manage and track your training programs at work. Additionally, micro-credentials can be easily clustered to create an overall training program. And since you can tailor it to your workplace schedule, delivery is also streamlined.
16. Measure capabilities and track
Micro-credentialing can play a useful role in your overall human and enterprise resource management strategy. You can measure employee capabilities, as well as track enterprise-level skills and knowledge. They can support you in quantifying skills for planning purposes, and collating useful data on employee’s skills. You can use the data to manage your HR supply, forecast resource needs and training gaps, as well as formulate effective HR strategies.
Whether you’re planning for annual peak periods or long-term market trends, micro-credentials offer you, as the employer, a way to assess and monitor your most important resource – your workforce.
Staying ahead of the competition requires businesses to ensure employees are competent, engaged and productive. Scalable training programs like micro-credentialing could offer a cost-effective way to maintain competitiveness and respond to changing market demands. Whether it’s industry-wide trends like the IT revolution and digitalisation, or market-specific changes you need to respond to, being able to scale up your training according to need is an invaluable way to outpace the competition.
Bring new life to your staff skill sets with micro-credentialing
Micro-credentials offer businesses an exciting, effective way to continually train and recognise staff. Whether your organisation is seeking ways to supplement traditional credentials, train staff in soft skills, or provide highly individualised programs to meet unique skill gaps, micro-credentialing is a valuable option when it comes to choosing the right training programs for your team.
As a recognised provider of qualifications and credentials, Deakin believes learning experience in the workplace deserves to be recognised. With our demonstrated ability to bring business and university learning together, as well as provide flexible measurement and recognition solutions, we can assist your business with creating a tailored training program to match your requirements. Contact our team today for more information about how we can work with you.