Posted November 19, 2021 by Mark Perna
Here are three big reasons why micro-credentials can be your secret to recruiting, retaining and upskilling workers for the future of work. Mark’s article, “Small But Mighty: Why Micro-Credentials Are Huge For The Future Of Work” published at Forbes.com on October 5, 2021.
Today, the pressing talent shortage is hitting just about every business and organization in a big way. It’s more than just a matter of sourcing people willing to work; they also have to possess the skills that match up with the role. Research by Robert Half indicates that 95% of executives say it’s somewhat or very challenging to find employees with the appropriate skills and talents—a longstanding impasse that’s come to be known as the “skills gap.”
It’s time to get creative not only with where we source new talent, but how we create it. More and more organizations are rethinking their approach to employee training and development programs capable of upskilling employees and candidates. Of course, there’s a catch. Making big investments in employees can be risky. All it can take is a call from a single recruiter for that employee, in whom you’ve invested thousands of training dollars, to jump ship.
This is where micro-credentials come into play. As an emerging solution to this dilemma, micro-credentials are bite-sized qualifications that demonstrate skills, knowledge and/or experience in a specific subject area or capability.
Micro-credentials tend to be narrower in range and easier to acquire compared to traditional qualifications like degrees. At the same time, they can also be broad in focus. For example, employees can obtain micro-credentials in subjects as wide as data-driven marketing or as narrow as how to empower others in the workplace.
“Micro-credentials offer numerous benefits for employees, employers and organizations of all sizes,” says Kyle Shea, EVP of Partnership Development at All Campus. “When designed correctly, micro-credentials are flexible, portable and cost-effective to implement. They can help boost employee engagement and support employers by promoting a culture of lifelong learning while providing a map for an employee’s career path.”
Put another way, micro-credentials can deliver win-win benefits to both employers and employees—both now and into the future. Here are three reasons why the small but mighty micro-credential is going to make such a huge impact on the future of work.
Investing in robust training programs, even in partnerships with universities, can come with a big price tag for companies looking to ensure their employees are competent, engaged and productive. Scalable training programs like micro-credentialing can offer a cost-effective way to maintain competitiveness and pivot to meet changing market demands.
Such pivots often need to happen quickly—and here again, micro-credentials deliver. “Whether it’s industry-wide trends like the IT revolution and digitalization or market-specific changes you need to respond to, scaling up your training according to need is an invaluable way to outpace the competition,” says Shea.
Because they’re “stackable,” meaning they build upon one another toward a larger qualification, micro-credentials are less intimidating to start than a traditional degree program. Employees can continually gain new knowledge to keep pace with changing business needs while also progressing toward a bigger goal.
Compared to full-length courses, micro-credentials also offer a more personalized, on-demand learning experience. And, unlike traditional degrees, which take years to complete, micro-credentials can be completed in weeks or even days—which appeals to workers who want to quickly learn exactly what they need, apply it on the job and immediately have a credential to show for their effort.
“Micro-credentials benefit degree holders who want to add specific skills to their resume, as well as workers who do not yet have a degree,” says Shea. “Many universities structure micro-credentials so students can earn degree credits, boosting the overall value for learners who want a degree in the long run.”
In many ways, Shea says that pursuing micro-credentials mirrors the life experience of younger generations who have grown up with the internet, smartphones and social media.
“Employees from the younger generations have always been able to control when and how they gather information,” says Shea. “Micro-credentials allow them to learn in a way that feels more natural and logical to them. But regardless of the learner’s age, online learning offers the convenience and flexibility working professionals are seeking.”
Developing a micro-credential training program not only can help organizations fill immediate gaps in their skill base, but it can also become part of a strategy to attract and retain top talent by addressing employee growth opportunities and career aspirations.
“By ensuring employees are continuing to develop new skills, businesses not only reskill their current employee population, but they also attract new workers who are eager to learn and advance within the company,” says Shea. “Micro-credentials provide a way to map an employee’s career paths and quantify any type of skill.”
To support employee advancement, companies should build as much autonomy as possible into their micro-credential programs. “Employees achieve more when they are able to choose what, when and how they will learn,” says Shea, who notes that some of the most successful micro-credential training programs have been created in collaboration with employees. Such programs allow for the creation of personalized development plans that address the individual’s career aspirations as well as the organization’s skill-building needs.
To kick off a micro-credential program of their own, organizations should begin by identifying the critical skills and competencies they need to upskill and reskill their workforce. Once they have that data, says Shea, they can partner with universities that offer micro-credentials aligned with their needs.
“The course content developed by universities is high-quality and delivered by experienced subject matter experts,” he says. “University partnerships also connect employers with a potential talent pipeline that includes interns, new hires and ongoing employee development opportunities. This approach appeals to employees because they know they are earning credentials backed by a reputable institution.”
Meanwhile, universities can be proactive in partnering with companies by comparing the skills represented in their course offerings with the skills represented in an organization’s job postings. “This type of analysis helps universities identify gaps between skills needed in the job market and skills they are currently teaching,” says Shea.
In the midst of a record talent shortage, micro-credentials offer an exciting and effective way to attract, train and recognize employees—to establish a culture of continuous learning. Whether your organization is seeking ways to supplement traditional credentials, train staff in professional skills or provide highly individualized programs to meet unique skill gaps, micro-credentialing has emerged as a valuable option for your team.
Micro-credentials prove the truth of the old saying: sometimes, the best things do come in small packages.