The Five Stages of Credential Program Maturity

Whether you're just starting to think about developing a badge program or you’ve been awarding badges for years, the framework below provides a summary of the journey you’re likely to follow as you grow your digital credential program. 

Phase 1: Set Goals

Launching a new program is exciting -- but it can also be overwhelming. The best thing you can do is establish a clear set of goals to indicate what you are trying to accomplish by developing a digital credential program. Here are some potential goals you might be thinking:

  • “We want to increase our volumes and increase new sign-ups.”
  • “I want to impact our brand awareness & allow earners to easily share their credentials.”
  • “I need to increase earner engagement and help candidates progress through levels.”
  • “We have seen lots of fraud and really need the added verification.”
  • “We want a database of verified skills for our employees and members.”
  • “Physical fulfillment is too expensive and we want to decrease those costs.”

Be sure to set specific goals and benchmark metrics. You can’t meet your organizational goals if you’re unable to measure them. While you may want to see all of the above goals come to fruition, getting hyper-focused early on will make it easier for your organization to hit its goals (in other words, less is more)! Armed with those goals in mind, you can move forward with developing your badges, marketing your program, and awarding badges to the deserving individuals.

Phase 2: Get Feedback

Now that your program has launched, it’s important to get feedback and stay informed on progress. You can do so in both quantitative and qualitative ways: with analytics available to you in the platform and through survey responses from your earners.

Credly’s badging platform provides you with overall analytics as well as detailed metrics for individual templates or collections so you can easily compare and contrast. Dig into the details and see what’s working and what’s not working. Are you making progress towards your goals?

It’s also really important to get qualitative feedback from your learners. Send a survey to individuals about their experience with your program and their digital credential. You may uncover an otherwise unknown communication gap or you might get some good responses that you can use in future marketing materials.

Phase 3: Iterate and Automate

Since you’re keeping a close eye on data, trends, and earner feedback, you’ll have valuable data to allow you to make informed decisions about where your program can improve. Have you created any recommended next steps for your earners? Are you interacting with your earners on social media when they share their badges? Take some time to review your marketing and promotional materials to adjust how you communicate with your earners. You have already done the hard work to know what is good for your program, now it’s time to think about what is good for your earners and consider if you’re doing everything you can to enable a good experience for them. Develop earner personas and work with your Credly CSM to know the tools and techniques to unlock opportunities based on those personas.

Another best practice is to look internally to see if there are any processes that you can improve or even automate. There are many ways you can automate your issuance workflow using web service API or existing integrations between platforms. Automating your program not only makes your life easier, but it also means that badges get into the hands of your earners quickly and that increases the likelihood that they will share their achievement with their network. Win-win!

Phase 4: Plan and Expand

With defined goals in mind, it might be time to look beyond your current credentialing program and determine if there are any other milestones or micro-achievements that will help drive towards your intended outcomes.

  • If you’re currently badging for certifications that require specific training, developing badges around those training activities would help drive more individuals towards certification.
  • If you’re currently badging for knowledge, competencies, or soft-skills, are there any milestones or combinations that would impact how learners interact with you?
  • Have your learning or training models changed as a result of COVID-19? Are there any new programs that would benefit from a digital credential strategy?
  • Are there other departments within your organization that would help increase overall internal buy-in?

As you expand your offerings, it’s important to have a framework that provides context to the achievements so that badge earners (and consumers) of your digital credentials know how they relate to one another. Also, keep in mind that any micro-achievements should still be meaningful in isolation. There are many ways to differentiate your credential types and levels, but it’s important to determine that framework upfront and be consistent with it.

Phase 5: Collaborate and Listen

At this point, your program is pretty mature. You’ve set goals, you’ve listened to feedback, you’ve adjusted your processes and you’ve potentially expanded from your initial offering. What’s next? Honestly, more of the same - you should never stop doing any of those things!

You can also start to develop a governance structure and look for ways to collaborate with other organizations, inside and outside of Credly’s ecosystem. A governance plan allows you to support your growing program in a consistent way with predetermined policies and processes.

You’ll be able to answer the following questions:

  • How do new badges get requested and developed?
  • How do we manage who has access to the platform and our data?
  • What are the policies in terms of rigor or requirements for earning a badge?
  • How do we differentiate a Learning badge from a Certification badge visually?
  • And many more!

It may be useful to look outside of your organization for ways to collaborate, too. Could you collaborate with training partners to issue on your behalf? Are there organizations or academic institutions that would endorse your badges or offer college credit? Perhaps you could work with a local employer to identify the skills needed for hard-to-fill positions and then develop training to fill that gap. The options are endless and they improve the network for everyone involved.

In which phase of the journey do you find yourself? Wherever you are, the Credly Customer Success team is available and excited to help you level up with your program and meet your goals.

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