Micro-Credentials Guide: Why Are They So Important?

Have you ever considered taking on a 10-hour course on a subject you weren’t as familiar with? Or have you ever wondered if volunteer work on a weekend could be included in your resume?

These opportunities can – and should – be a part of how you showcase your professional history and experience. They can give you micro-credentials, a certificate that shows the job market that these opportunities are valid and make you a more well-rounded professional.

This article will enlighten you on what micro-credentials are and how they can benefit your professional life or your business as they change the job market landscape. 

What are micro-credentials?

Micro-credentials are the outcomes of a short learning experience assessed against transparent standards. A micro-credential might be issued based on an assessment of prior learning or issued after you have taken a course and passed the evaluation. Micro-credentials can thus complement your formal qualification. They don’t replace or substitute formal education but certainly provide more information on existing skills, which can further lead to a promotion or a salary increase. It can also be beneficial if you are looking for a new job or if you are simply a lifelong learner.

Micro-credentials can be issued to people of all ages and levels of education. Unlike diplomas, micro-credentials are often skills-based and demonstrate you have completed a more focused and shorter course in a skills area. Micro-credentials can be issued as a certification (e.g. in cyber security) or credit and can be stackable. Different micro-credentials have in common that they are given after an assessment following transparent standards.   

Volunteering in a charity, participating in a workshop or taking a short online course are all examples of things that can potentially be rewarded with a micro-credential after what you have achieved is assessed with transparent standards mirroring what you have learned. 

Due to the very diverse nature of micro-credentials, a number of different institutions can provide this type of certification. For example, companies can offer micro-credentials to employees taking a day-long course on a specific topic. However, it is often the case that they choose to issue a badge of completion instead, as they do not want to design and implement a test.

How do micro-credentials work?

One of the goals and advantages of micro-credentials is to provide learning opportunities to people who want to upskill and re-skill in a particular area and have little time to dedicate to more intense studies.

Since micro-credentials certify that you have passed a transparent examination and assessment process, they can be a way to stand out for recruiters. It can also help you in applications to universities or colleges, as micro-credentials are proof of your competence. 

These credentials also offer the advantage of being easily verifiable, traceable and shareable, meaning they can reach more people interested in getting the same qualification.  

Since micro-credentials can be issued to certify several different skills, they can also be offered in return for proof of competence. Imagine you want to ensure future employees are aware of the quality of your experience creating PowerPoint presentations. You can submit specific evidence of your expertise to an assessor, which can be part of a portfolio-based assessment form. 

What are the benefits of micro-credentials?

Micro-credentials offer an invaluable opportunity to turn an ability you spent years developing into something traceable and proven. 

A credential provides information about the extra educational or professional steps someone has taken in search of constant improvement. If vocational, they will often be tagged with terminology related to skills and competencies. When finding qualified or dedicated professionals is increasingly challenging and time-consuming, micro-credentials can give individuals an edge and indicate to recruiters that they are committed to constant learning. 

For companies and educational institutions, offering micro-credentials can be a means of commitment to celebrating all types of experiences and learning opportunities, valuing these moments and outcomes as part of a professional journey. Here are some of the arguments in favour of issuing micro-credentials to students and employees.

They encourage and nurture constant learning

Hanne Shapiro, who wrote the report that has become the backbone for the European approach to micro-credentials, says:  It is clear that micro-credentials are ultimately situated in the business models of companies and how they compete. For companies, whether private or public, that operate in a volatile and fast-changing environment, the commitment and the ability to continue learning are key aspects of customer quality and competitiveness. For employers, the implications are they have to organise work in ways that give employees opportunities to use their competencies in full and to further learn through work, as well as more structured learning. Giving people an opportunity to grow in their job and showcase their achievements is an excellent way to encourage personal and professional development and the DNA of customer centricity and innovation.

Micro-credentials can boost engagement and motivate people to transform their skills into shareable achievements, and for employers having insights into the competence-base increases company agility.

Micro-credentials can also highlight a learning path for a dedicated learner, being the first block of learning and a stacked credential in a shift to a new occupation or a step up the career ladder to a new job role. This can motivate and encourage the learner while helping the education institution nudge the learner to the next level, building stronger partnerships and having a visible role in professional communities and the labour market.

Since micro-credentials are not about time dedicated to learning a craft or the amount of money invested into improving, this type of certificate is more inclusive and respectful of people’s time.

They are cost-effective

Companies that aim to invest in their staff are often held back by the mere costs of a training program and left wondering how it will pay off. Micro-credentials offer an opportunity to ease the cost of learning. More importantly, they drive a culture of continuous development for employees, adapting to shifting business needs.

Offering micro-credentials is also a great way to promote your business and educational activities in-company, highlighting your commitment to supporting your staff and encouraging professional growth.

They are more customisable

Micro-credentials respect individual development and value personal experiences. Degrees take longer to complete and require a lot of investment of money and time to achieve. At the same time, micro-credentials are complementary to full qualifications and can be completed more quickly. They can be deployed in ways that recognise professional abilities acquired through experience.

Due to the modularised and flexible nature of micro-credentials, professionals can learn more concurrently. If offered online or in a blended format, people can pursue skills in courses that fit their schedule and necessity.

They help companies to attract and retain talent

Creating a micro-credential program can effectively attract talent and encourage employees to seek development inside your company. They are assured that whatever skill they pursue will be recognised and valued as long as they work and progress in that company.

A micro-credential program will also allow companies and managers to indicate what employees should seek to further their careers. Often people will feel undervalued and underappreciated in their work. Determining a clear career path through certifications and learning opportunities motivates people and gives them a clear idea of their future in the company. 

Hanne Shapiro also states that in what was seen as a pandemic of resignations, multinational companies such as Unilever have increasingly invested in talent platforms such as GLOAT to build and support career pathways. The solution helped retain employees.  

Examples of micro-credentials

If micro-credentials are still not a clear concept for you, maybe a few examples will help you have a better idea of how learners can acquire this type of achievement.

As discussed, micro-credentials are short and focused learning programs that allow individuals to acquire specific skills or knowledge in a particular subject area:

Marketing Certificates

Marketing courses may cover various aspects of digital marketing, including social media marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO), email marketing, and analytics. With these specific skills, learners will feel more confident about taking on marketing tasks.

Management Credentials

Short courses on management skills can cover principles and practices of agile project management, emphasising flexibility and collaboration in project development.

By teaching these principles, professionals will have better results in project management, software development, or any field that requires adaptability.

Public Speaking

This is a perfect example of a short and focused course that can significantly improve results, teaching workers better public speaking skills, including effective speech writing, delivery techniques, and overcoming stage fright.

Of course, in order to create an effective and useful micro-credential program, understanding gaps and needs is essential.

How to create a micro-credentials program?

The first step in creating a micro-credential program is identifying what skills your employees or students need to develop and what can benefit your business.

Once you understand what can be offered, you can partner with institutions like Diplomasafe, which will help you issue reliable and verifiable credentials.

How can Diplomasafe help your micro-credential initiative?

At Diplomasafe, we use of blockchain technology to enhance the authenticity of digital credentials. This provides a decentralised and tamper-resistant method for verifying the legitimacy of micro-credentials.

With every package Diplomasafe offers, clients can customise the design of their credentials, having full control over aspects, such as fonts, colours, and backgrounds.  Our design builder allows you to customise diplomas to fit your brand and include the information you wish to promote in an easy and efficient way. 

For companies wanting to gather insights from the micro-credentials they issue, Diplomasafe offers several analytics and reporting tools.

Our platform may provide insights into how recipients interact with their digital credentials, including views, shares, and downloads. Organisations are also able to generate custom reports to extract specific data relevant to their objectives.

Final thoughts

Micro-credentials are a way of valuing professionals and their experience, highlighting their skills and stimulating their interest in growing.

While the job market gets increasingly competitive, offering and taking micro-credentials can be a business advantage for people and companies looking to stand out among competitors. Micro-credentials are more cost-effective, easy to accomplish and more respectful of people’s time and abilities.

Furthermore, some markets are more interested in skills than educational background. According to SHRM, organisations in the United States are encouraged to look further into what applicants have to offer regarding their skills and abilities and not so much what they studied or for how long. In this context, micro-credentials provide an opportunity to assess and attest to these skills.

For professionals, micro-credentials offer an opportunity to quickly acquire new skills and knowledge, making them more attractive to recruiters and future employers. For companies and educational institutions, micro-credentials can be an invaluable way of staying ahead of industry changes, ensuring that employees and students have the necessary skills to thrive and further develop in a rapidly changing environment.