Quantifying potential through digital credentials

Photo CC BY Doug Belshaw

At a recent Digitalme event entitled Digital Credentials for Employment: Bridging the Gap, we noticed three distinct themes emerging amongst speakers and participants. Digital credentials, powered by Open Badges, seem to be particularly useful for:

  • Quantifying potential
  • Alternative assessment
  • Fixing recruitment

This first post in the series focuses on the ways in which digital credentials allow us to better quantify potential.

The definition of potential is Having or showing the capacity to develop into something in the future’. Young people entering the workplace depend on employers recognising their ‘potential’ to develop within their company. However employers often struggle to quantify potential, in the absence of previous experience. According to Roger Philby, MD of the Chemistry Group, this should not be a barrier to recruiting the right person to the right role as ‘Previous experience is the least reliable indicator of future performance’.

Roger used the analogy of scouting talent in sport, where the visible skills such as strength, size and speed take precedent over the hidden skills of strategy, perseverance and mental toughness. To succeed sports men and women need a combination of the two and through identifying and coaching to the hidden skills success rates can soar.

To bridge the gap between education and employment, young people need to be able to evidence both their visible and hidden skills to demonstrate their true potential. Traditional qualifications can indicate academic capability within and across subjects and could form part of the ‘visible skill set’ young people leave formal education with. Their hidden skill set needs an equally robust method of verification and recognition, which is where many people are turning to digital credentials built on Open badge technology.

Through Open badges employers can communicate their expectations of skills required to succeed in the modern workplace and support educators develop relevant employability programmes. From problem solving to creative thinking, the criteria of Open badges can communicate and capture the skills that matter to employers. Through equipping young people with the tools to surface and evidence their skills in this agile and responsive way, employers can more effectively gauge their potential to succeed within their organisation.

Bryan Mathers often tells the story of how he once hired a ‘rookie’ for wapisasa, his non-profit, because of that young person’s ability to solve a Rubik’s Cube in under a minute. Bryan says that he saw latent potential in that young person that could be harnessed make a successful coder. Needless to say, that young person, who was working in a cafe at the time, had never considered that kind of occupation.

Now, a couple of years later, that young person is a Junior Developer, has successfully worked with clients, and has recently set up by himself as a freelancer. He was lucky that Bryan spotted his potential and had the capacity to take him on and nurture that potential. But what about for the countless other young people who might never know what career path they’d be well-suited for?

The great thing about Open badges technology is that it they’re evidence-based and full of information. These digital credentials are stackable over a whole lifetime, neatly wrapping up a multitude of knowledge, skills, and behaviours into a way that’s easy for employers to access and understand.

In the example of the Rubik’s Cube-solver who became a Junior Developer, an unexpected interaction led to a completely different career path than they were expecting. To scale that, we need better and more granular ways to credential what we know and can do. Digital credentials based on Open Badges technology allow for just that.

Are you interested in issuing your own digital credentials? Check out the Open Badge Academy.