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The Impact of Digital Credentials on the Future of Work

February 2020

The Impact of Digital Credentials on the Future of Work

Thanks to Credlyan 1EdTech Contributing Member and a sponsor of the 1EdTech Digital Credentialing & Pathways Initiative, for contributing this article.


As we situate ourselves into 2020, we carry with us all the foundational work that began on digital credentials nearly a decade ago. In that time, digital credentials have matured from a whiteboard concept to an industry game-changer. The future of work is top-of-mind for credential issuers, the individuals who earn certifications, and most certainly for employers. It's top-of-mind for us, too. And while we don't know everything that the future of work will bring, we do know that digital credentials support many major workforce trends.

The Rise of Skills-based Hiring 

As the battle for top talent continues, we will see more companies turn to skills-based hiring as a way to more readily identify and connect with qualified candidates in 2020. This mode of hiring relies on specific skills and competencies, rather than traditional proxies such as college degree or years of experience, to both widen the talent pool and narrow the focus of finding candidates that are truly a good organizational fit.

Digital credentials provide validation and a level of granularity to the skills an individual has by providing context around when and where their skills were learned. LinkedIn recently compiled the list of top five most in-demand hard skills and the top five most in-demand soft skills of 2020. Organizations issue digital credentials through Credly's Acclaim platform for each of them. That's one reason why we will see digital credentials emerge as an invaluable tool in skills-based hiring. Companies will hone in on these credentials as a way to discover people for opportunities for which they typically wouldn't have been considered. 

How are individuals with digital credentials faring in this skills-based hiring model? In a survey conducted of Autodesk digital credential earners, 91% of respondents consider an Autodesk digital credential to be valuable. They reported experiencing a range of positive job-related benefits, including getting a new job or earning a raise. Of those that earned a promotion or new job because of their digital credential, 17% report an increase in income of $1,000-$10,000. 

One individual who responded to the survey spoke directly to the network effect of his digital credentials by sharing that his colleagues are aware of his badge and have referred clients to him for potential jobs. He went on to say that a big benefit to sharing his digital credential is that clients feel more confident when they see them on his resume. That kind of confidence can mean the difference between booking a job or not. That's pretty impactful, and it's now a common story. 

A Push for Data-Driven Talent Strategies 

With the rise of skills-based hiring, we will see an even greater push for data-driven talent strategies in 2020. The foundation of digital credentials has been creating a culture of recognition. The next leg of this journey is about putting those credentials to work. And as the adoption of digital credentials has accelerated, we now have more information than ever to help organizations build effective, data-rich digital credential programs. 

We know the impact of defining goals and business objectives long before badge issuing begins. We have data that indicates marketing plays a key role in both the initial success and long-term health of a digital credential program. All of these finely-tuned program management processes and insights are helping to generate successful digital credential programs that provide more data to help with people decisions.

ForgeRock University is one such example. The organization reported that its certification exam volume skyrocketed by 751% within six months of ForgeRock's digital credential program launch. And that initial surge wasn't just a one-time thing. Certification exam volume increased by 96% year-over-year. This surge in learning creates a more skilled, more prepared workforce. ForgeRock University didn't do anything differently with its course content or delivery method. The only change it made to drive such incredible results was offering digital credentials. 

This year, we'll see continued momentum around the success of certification and skill development programs that utilize digital credentials. In turn, the use of real-time digital credential data to make better human capital decisions will also continue to rise.  Employers are building entire talent strategies backed by digital credentials, and this year we'll see this new currency for verified skills brought into every part of the talent ecosystem. 

The Future Looks Bright for Digital Credentials 

Digital credentials are bringing consistency, data, and trust to skill recognition and human capital decision-making. They also provide individuals the ability to trade on the currency of their skills in a way that is portable, verified, and provides a context of their knowledge and abilities. Employers that are dialed into digital credentials are well-positioned to make their hiring practices more efficient and effective. And organizations that issue digital credentials are well-positioned to not only grow their own programs but contribute to the future of work in a way that is meaningful. 


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