Digital Credentials Unpacked

By Nicholas Robert

Have you ever discovered that a job candidate lied about a qualification on their CV? According to conservative estimates by Australia’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), around 25 per cent of people misrepresent their skills, qualifications, certifications or experience on their CV.
A combination of trends in the hiring space suggest that hirers need a quick way to verify an applicant’s credentials. Firstly, we are progressing to a world where employers are moving to a skills-based employment model, which means candidates need to have evidence of relevant skills or knowledge in a particular area. Secondly, the number of candidates applying for each role is increasing, putting pressure on hirers as HR capacity is stretched thin. 
A robust verification process, therefore, needs to be efficient and trusted, so that HR has confidence in the confirmation process. This is where digital credentials can help.

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What are digital credentials?

Digital credentials, represented as digital badges, are a virtual acknowledgement of an earned qualification or certification, demonstrated skill or professional achievement. Each credential contains secure metadata about the recipient, including their achievements and activities, as well as the authority or organisation that issued the credential, the date issued and expiry date if applicable, and a description of the credential.
Credentials can range from qualifications, such as a bachelor’s degree, and certifications, such as Chartered Accountant or Registered Nurse, to vaccination status, skills such as First Aid, authorisations, police checks, and Working With Children Checks. 
Credentials are stored in a digital passport or portfolio that can then be shared confidentially with businesses, employers or organisations that need to know, or publicly via social media, email, or text message. A good digital credential system should be secure, verifiable, flexible and shareable, with encrypted data stored on secure local servers so that credentials cannot be copied or tampered with in any way.

Using digital credentials when hiring

The use case for hiring is simple. An applicant submits their résumé, which includes any digital credentials, and HR can integrate, review and verify in real-time what a candidate claims they can do. If the hirer wants to investigate further, they can see details of what the candidate had to do to receive that credential – for example, a list of competency standards – and the authority or organisation that issued the credential, such as a registered training organisation, former employer, registration body or professional association.
HR can quickly dismiss candidates who do not meet the minimum criteria and also compare credentials more easily for desired skills, knowledge or experience. This facilitates an easier process to put the right people with the right skills and knowledge in the right roles.
As digital credentials are machine-readable, over time this process will become automated and the verification protocol will be part of the standard submission process when reviewing a candidate against the job application requirements, allowing you to create automatic shortlists based on the skills in the job listing. 

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Imagine a world where your next role requires someone who has:

·       An accountancy qualification

·       Proficiency in Microsoft Excel

·       Proficiency in Xero accounting software

·       Strong interpersonal skills

·       Management experience

Any person who submits a résumé can include their digital credentials, which can automatically be verified upon submission. One of your candidates has digital credentials that have been 100 per cent verified:

·       Certified Member of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand: certified practitioner, meeting annual CPD requirements issued by CAANZ

·       Advanced Proficiency in Microsoft Excel: micro-credential issued by Microsoft 365

·       Mastery of Xero, Level Four: certified practitioner issued by Xero

·       Emotional Intelligence Self/Others/ Business: micro-credential program issued by a leading Australian training provider

·       Five Years Manager Award: issued by a previous employer, a reputable consulting firm, highlighting what the candidate had to do each year for the five years to receive this achievement.

Without even reviewing the candidate’s résumé, you can see that this candidate has the necessary skills and knowledge, independently verified, to be considered for shortlisting.  Digital credentials can also be used for cases where the candidate is not qualified yet but may be close to an achievement, for example undergraduates who apply for internships, or who may have completed relevant courses within a program without finishing the entire qualification, such as doing a marketing component without finishing a Certificate IV in Small Business Management. HR can see the segments the candidate has completed.

Ongoing HR use cases for digital credentials

Verification for hiring is not the only HR use case for digital credentials. HR can also keep abreast of training completed during the employment period. Imagine that you have just placed your organisation’s supervisory team through a two-day intensive course on ‘leading through crisis’ to provide them with the necessary skills and knowledge to lead their teams more effectively in these pandemic or post-pandemic times. All supervisors that participated in this program receive a digital badge for completing this two-day program from your organisation. The credential would include what the candidate learnt, how long the program went for, who facilitated the program, what assessment components happened throughout the program, including if there were any metrics that were required to be met or achieved in order to successfully complete the program. There are two main benefits to this practice: your organisation is positioned as an employer of choice due to this visible investment in your people, and your employees can then carry this verified credential with them to their next role either internally or externally. Because digital credentials provide a snapshot of an employee’s status at a particular time, they can also be used to indicate where renewal or continuing professional development (CPD) activities need to be maintained. For example, many state workplace codes of practice state there must be at least one qualified first aider on shift, and that requires renewal of the CPR component every 12 months and the full course to be renewed every three years. If HR has these digital credentials on file, the organisation can meet compliance standards by re-enrolling employees in the appropriate course in a timely manner.

Digital credentials for maintaining professional standards

Industry bodies can also use digital badges to review and update CPD status. Professional bodies not only require specific qualifications to become a member or certified practitioner, members need to show they are actively maintaining standards of the profession through ongoing training, course completions and conference attendance.  Digital credentials are emerging as a robust and trustworthy system for education organisations, industry associations, professional groups and corporates of all sizes to independently award and verify qualifications, certifications training and experience.  These badges have a range of uses both within a business and outside of it. Internally, HR can use digital credentials to understand staff capability, check that employees are ‘fit for work’ with the right checks – for example, vaccination status, a current Working With Children Check, valid driver’s licence – and monitor for expiring credentials that need renewal. Externally, badge holders can showcase their skills and knowledge, so that potential clients or talent can see you are an employer of choice, which reflects well on the organisation. Digital credentials have endless use cases, and as more organisations adopt credentialing strategies, and unpack what the pain points are in their organisations, the more useful, portable and critical they will become. 

About the author: Nicholas Robert (pictured above) is the co-founder and CEO at Australian digital credentialing agency Learning Vault. Prior to Learning Vault, Nicholas spent seven years as managing director of a private training company.  Nicholas has extensive experience within the edutech and management consultancy sectors, including a deep knowledge of compliance, technology, and customisation. He is passionate about scaling and future-proofing organisations, including the role of technology in learning and how digital credentialing can drive efficiencies and enhance security for businesses and industry bodies alike. This is an opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of this publication.

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