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Eight ways Open Badges can provide real value in business

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By David Leaser

By now, you may have learned about Open Badges, the emerging trend in the credential space. (If not, please click here).

While the benefits to the badge earner are obvious (the ability to broadcast skills, build trust and a personal brand in social media), the benefits to your organization may not be as evident.

At IBM, we have developed an Open Badge program which recognizes the benefits to IBM, our clients and badge earners. When we started to develop the program, we interviewed our business units to determine the problems we were trying to solve and the use cases we see with Open Badges.

Eight Pain Points: What is the problem we are trying to solve?

We see Open Badges helping to solve a number of business problems which are typical to any organization. Here is a list of eight areas where we believe the program is working now. Importantly, these are areas where we can measure the impact of Open Badges. At IBM, it’s essential we can directly link the effects of our programs to provide maximum stakeholder value.

  1. Increase verified talent for our clients. Unlike simple digital emblems and logos, Open Badges are tethered, using built-in metadata, back to the actual achievement. So, when someone clicks on the badge, the badge provides information about the activity, skills achieved, date of accomplishment, links to evidence and recommended next actions.
  2. Drive skills progression toward advocacy. At IBM, we’ve found that fully 50% of badge earners return for a second badge, deepening a commitment as they see the value our programs can provide.
  3. Increase crowd sourcing of innovation. Open Badges can be awarded to inventors and community members who provide their expertise, skills and recommendations. When you recognize talent and innovation, you get more talent and innovation.
  4. Increase product sales and trials. We’ve found that, by linking product trial downloads to skills building activities, our product trials go up. Makes sense: First, show people the benefit, reward them for building their skills, and then give them an opportunity to try the product for free. Because they already know how to use the product, they are more likely to see the value and make a buying decision.
  5. Decrease support calls. Most of IBM’s support issues are squarely education and training related. By rewarding customers for building skills, you are also reducing support calls. Support calls cost an organization anywhere from $30 to $400+, not counting the lost opportunity for the client who wasted time struggling with the problem.
  6. Increase client confidence with demonstrated skills. It’s no secret a college degree has value to an employer, as does a certification. Clients should expect consultants and contractors to have verifiable skills. An Open Badge from a reliable source builds trust. IBM’s Open Badges are opening doors for consultants, developers, architects – really any talent seeking an opportunity.
  7. Motivate employees to drive their own development. According to arecent studyfrom theSmarter Workforce Institute, the engagement level of employees who receive recognition is almost three times higher than the engagement level of those who do not. Open Badges have real currency in the market, if they are tied to resume-worthy activities. This last point is important: IBM does not badge just for showing up. You must pass an assessment or a screening activity before you can earn a nanocredential from IBM.
  8. Map available skills and specific gaps. This is huge. With Open Badges, you can create a skills registry and heat map from diverse activities. For example, if a person attends a Bluemix hackathon in India and also takes an online BigInsight course, you can see both badges in the candidate’s badge wallet. That allows you to provide targeted recommendations to the candidate to progress talent. It also enables you to identify skills gaps and make changes to our programs.

Use Cases: What areas of the business will Open Badges provide value?

Your list of use cases will probably look similar to ours, which is squarely focused on expanding IBM’s leadership position, developing the skills our clients need most and attracting and motivating talent to deepen relationships with IBM. I’ve grouped the use cases into the broad categories which align with lines of business, then show where we see Open Badges providing a benefit to IBM, clients and badge earners.


I’ll be presenting a session atDevLearnin Las Vegas which goes into detail on IBM’s strategy around Open Badges. If you can make it to the event, please send me a note onLinkedInor Twitter @david_leaser.

And if you want to earn an IBM Open badge today, go toIBM’s Open Badge siteto get started right now!

David Leaseris the Senior Program Manager, Innovation and Growth Initiatives at IBM. Leaser developed IBM’s first cloud-based learning solution and is the author of a number of thought leadership white papers on talent development, including “Migrating Minds” and “The Social Imperative in Workforce Development.” Leaser has trained more than 4,000 clients and developed more than 30 technology training manuals and video tutorials. You can reach David onLinkedInor Twitter @david_leaser.

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