Translating Microcredentials for Employers
Ah, microcredentials: an ever-evolving saga. There are so many things to consider when it comes to this topic. Who should design these credentials? How should they be delivered? What do they mean? Why don’t employers understand them? These are just a few.
Don’t worry, you haven’t stumbled onto a research paper exploring all of those rabbit holes. This article is focused on how you, the venerable institution of higher learning, may increase your success rates with employers by implementing microcredentials.
If you’re thinking that employers mostly overlook microcredentials, you’re right. It might be more complicated than a simple lack of education about your offering, and the issue will be unique based on your geography, the types of employers and industries you’re targeting and the skills you’re focused on building. Maybe it’s a lack of awareness. Maybe it’s a lack of budget. Maybe it’s a lack of clear outcomes.
Communicating your message is critical. No matter how valuable your content is, if that value isn’t communicated clearly, concisely and efficiently, then you lose the attention of employers. Employers of all industries and sizes are bombarded with companies trying to sell us things (and of course, we are concurrently bombarding others trying to sell them our products), so to break through the noise, it’s important to get to the point—and quickly. You must establish credibility, provide a meaningful solution to our business need and an appealing option to our employees and make implementation efficient.
So, what components of microcredentials are important to drive home in your communications to employers? Let’s discuss a few.
Establishing your standing in the area of your microcredential is paramount. A school name and reputation are nice, but employers want to know who in the industry you worked with to ensure the content of the credential is relevant, timely and meaningful. Allow me to explain with an example.
UCLA is a renowned higher education institution, and they have (hypothetically) added a microcredential in hospitality and customer service. As an employer with many customer service needs, I find that interesting, so I’ll ask my recruiters to keep an eye out for it on incoming resumes.
Now let’s say the UCLA team communicates that they worked with their friends down the freeway at Disney to create and vet the content. I now find the microcredential downright intriguing, impossible to ignore. Why? Because Disney is an A player in the hospitality and customer service spaces, they set the industry standard in many ways. I trust the brand, it holds meaning, and it get me thinking of improvements to my bottom line. These are the thoughts you want employers to have before you have a face-to-face conversation with us.
Along these lines, if you’re already working with other companies, use them in your branding! If we know that our industry peers are making use of your microcredential, we are more likely to take a look.
Working with other companies isn’t the only option to establish credibility. Consider the Project Management Institute for the PMP certificate, or the Society for Human Resources Management with their SHRM-CP certificate. If your institution can align your credentials with these industry-recognized paths (which many institutions are already doing), then you generate meaning for the employer.
Keep Your Solution Relevant—and Even Customizable.
What problem are you solving with this microcredential, and how did you establish that this problem exists? This is an offshoot of credibility as well, but employers want to know that your microcredential is solving a problem we truly have. We want macro data and micro data. For example, if you’re selling a cybersecurity certification, funnel the information from the broader perspective (increasing need, decreasing number of workers with necessary skills) down to what benefits the employer.
I know of many institutions who already create custom solutions, but I want to reiterate that this is a wonderful way to address the macro and micro details as well as deepen the relationship with a corporate partner.
Many of today’s in-demand skill sets are evolving rapidly. If your institution has created a wonderful information technology credential, how are you ensuring it stays up to date with the latest industry trends and innovations? Employers are wary of spending money on development pathways that are out of date by the time our employees are signed-up, so be sure to communicate to us how your microcredential will keep pace with innovation.
This is another example of how working with an industry leading company can help you. Grow with Google created an entry-level IT learning path hosted on Coursera and accepted for college credit at a variety of institutions. Google is pretty good at IT (heh heh), and because they set the curve in the tech industry, their certificates have instantaneous meaning and currency.
Anyone who has worked for a large company knows that many programs, initiatives and solutions have been rolled out with much fanfare, only to lose steam a few months later. Employees grow wary of these experiences, and who can blame them?
The ultimate test of meaning. Can an employee at Company A take this certificate to Company B and have it translate accurately? This is a key reason the college degree persists as a desired qualification because it means the same thing everywhere. If you’re creating custom solutions, portability within that specific industry is great (not everything needs to be as widely transferrable as the bachelor’s degree).
Also, how else can a participant use this microcredential? Can it be used toward an associate or bachelor’s degree? If it’s more in-depth or a higher level of content, can it be stacked toward a graduate-level certification or become the foundation for a corresponding master’s degree? Everyone likes having options, so be sure to highlight the ones you offer to potential partners.
Once employer partners are involved, be sure to make implementation as simple as possible. For the most part, employers are not looking to stand up an entire team to oversee development via microcredentials. In all likelihood, you’ll be given an existing contact in a relevant department (talent development, talent management, learning and development, etc.). Operations need to be streamlined, so a single person can administer the program.
What this means for your institution specifically will depend entirely on your structure and resources as well as those of your new partners.
Look, as employers, we know that due to ever-changing technology, there are skill gaps among our employee populations. We want solutions, and one of those solutions may very well be your institution’s microcredential offerings. So, when educating potential corporate partners on what you can do, highlight your solution’s credibility, explain how it solves our problem, why our employees will like it and how easy you can make it for us to offer. You’ll find open ears.
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Author Perspective: Administrator