Since their inception, Credly and Degreed, both founded in 2012, have targeted large organizations through enhancements to those organizations’ talent management systems. However, each of the two companies offered separate services. Credly used workforce analytics to help employers see the full range of skills a worker had accumulated, whether inside or outside the present workplace. Degreed has focused on the present, offering to “connect all the content, apps, and data your workforce needs to learn in-demand skills and take on new challenges.”
The gathering of attained credentials and the highlighting of further learning opportunities served as complementary services to organizational customers, many of whom used both Credly’s and Degreed’s services. So, it makes sense that the two companies have announced an “integration” of those services. That integration provides a “pathway completion” so that Credly digital credentials are now visible in Degreed’s talent development programs, thereby helping organizations to see a wider range of gaps and opportunities for future employee learning.
I had an opportunity to talk with Jarin Schmidt, Chief Experience Officer at Credly, Rob Wellington, Director of Experience Partnerships at Degreed, and Sarah Danzl, Head of Global Communications, also at Degreed, on their hopes for the announced integration. I first spoke with Jarin Schmidt.
Michael Arthur: I see words like partnership and integration. May I ask, is there a merger or acquisition in the air?
Jarin Schmidt: It’s a straightforward collaboration. From Credly’s viewpoint, a credential is a third party claim on what an employee has done. The traditional hunting ground for Credly has been in working with certification providers and academic institutions. This data allows employers to know what’s already been going on before an employee was recruited. We offer richer data that the employer can trust.
Just to be clear, a credential is the training provider saying what you can do. We facilitate the articulation of a training program in a way that makes sense for every training certificate, from a short training program right up to the Project Management Institute’s PMP (Project Management Professional (PMP) certificate. It takes a lot of years’ commitment and money to get that certificate, and Credly attests to the effort behind it.
MORE FOR YOU
However, a credential in an emerging field could be worth a lot more than one in an established field. One example is with HVAC installers. The tools and knowledge to do that work have shifted dramatically toward computer literacy and cellphone communications. The wider shift we are seeing is in the way people think about career ownership. Credly documents what people have done. Sometimes a college degree is seen as a top qualification from a top 5 school, but there are alternative pathways today.
Now Credly and Degreed have worked to tie things together. An employer wasn’t able to know when someone was getting trained at Salesforce, Amazon, or the Project Management Institute. Now, that employer can see what you’re doing on your own behalf.
Arthur: You work with certification providers and academic institutions. What’s in it for them?
Schmidt: The most basic benefit is the affirmation of the value their programs provide. However, we are fundamentally shifting the way learning experiences are viewed. For example, if you don’t complete an academic program, the courses you completed can still be valuable. So, we’re looking at training in a much more granular way than before. Another shift we are seeing is when training providers and academic institutions blend – for example when a course includes earning an industry certification from, for example, Microsoft.
Arthur: What about when people let their knowledge fade, or don’t keep up with new developments”?
Schmidt: Our job is to provide transparency about when the training was completed, and to let employers and employees decide on what’s still valuable. For example, someone might have taken a C++ programming language course ten years ago but shows no evidence of any follow-up. If that person had been brushing up recently on the popular programming language Python, you could see progression within the programming field. Similarly, in the fast-moving world of photo-editing, it is important to know when any training was delivered.
Arthur: Thank you.
My next stop was to interview Rob Wellington and Sarah Danzl together. I asked them, what does the collaboration mean for Degreed?
Rob Wellington: Degreed and Credly are very mission-aligned in terms of helping people to upskill, own their careers, and be better able to better transact on their skills and achievements within the organization. We had symbiotic products and offerings and a large overlap in mutual customers. So, this was a partnership predicated on mutual client demand, and us wanting our two products to better speak to each other. Credly is creating a better badging system for credentials attained. Degreed provides an enterprise-level platform for learning and employee upskilling.
Sarah Danzl: Right now we’re dealing with employee burnout. But it’s never been more important to have people upskill for their employers or themselves. Credentials give a reason and purpose for people to do some upskilling, not only in their technical skills, but also their social and cognitive skills. Organizations are centralizing learning systems. Where Degreed is unique is people learn in more ways than are typically recognized, for example from articles, podcasts, and discussions.
Wellington: In terms of mission alignment both Degreed and Credly see that the individual employee owns their own profile. It’s not just inside your organization, it can go on your LinkedIn page. The employer can be nervous about that, but it has access to the same full profile as well as being at the front of the line to engage in a career conversation with the employee.
Arthur: So all employers buy into this, do they?
Danzl: It’s the old question “What if you teach them and they leave?” revisited. But the sobering question is “What if they don’t learn and they stay?” We’re talking about a “lifelong learning transcript.” Employees need to be able to drive their careers, and so their skill sets. We have a customer, a Canadian HR Director who asserts “We all benefit from a raised waterline. All boats are raised higher. Everyone should be invested in helping knowledge grow.” We’re talking about people as “a collection of skills” rather than where they came from, where they went to university, or their job titles.
Arthur: Let’s return to the subject of talent management systems, are you still seeing top-down decision-making?
Wellington: It’s both bottom up and top down. We’re providing a “marketplace” of the skills employees have demonstrated and helping them position themselves within the organization. At the same time, the employer has a fuller picture of what people can do, and what skills the organization has overall.
Danzl: Degreed also brings knowledge of what skills go into a job, and will point out the gaps in people’s learning. An example is Behavioral Analytics for a top Marketing officer who came out of school before that subject was being taught. Also, Degreed recommends skill paths that are independent of any single employer.
In summary, the organizational customers of the Credly-Degreed integration are building transparent, centralized records of what employers can do to help their employees pursue new learning and qualify for a wider range of positions in their careers. That is a very different mentality than any old mind-set of shielding employees from competitors for their talents. The organization benefits from a privileged opportunity to hold regular career conversations with those employees. Both parties are better served.