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How the IBM Open Badge Program Is Transforming Workforce Training

By Destination Z posted Mon December 23, 2019 03:35 PM

Top performing IBM Z organizations recognize that they can only be as successful as their mainframe workforce is skilled. In an IBM study, 71 percent of CEOs cited human capital as more important than products, customer relationships and brands for sustained economic value.

As such, the March IBM release of 34 IBM endorsed mainframe skill and knowledge credentials is arguably the most important change in mainframe workforce training in decades.

The IBM Open Badge Program

Digital credentials have revolutionized the way the technical community assesses and promotes skills and achievements, and the IBM Open Badge Program is at the leading edge of this badging revolution. Utilizing the ‘nano credentialing’ that the Harvard Business Review identified as one of the four most innovative trends to watch, the IBM Open Badge Program has just received the IT Certification Council’s 2017 Innovation Award.

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. An IBM badge provides a verifiable measure of skills and knowledge.

The IBM Open Badge Program offers hundreds of badges across the spectrum of IBM products and technologies, but of specific interest to mainframe computing organizations are the recently released set of 34 badges specifically for mainframe computing professionals. View them in IBM Skills Gateway and search “mainframe.” These mainframe-specific badges benchmark an IBM endorsed level of skill and knowledge for the global mainframe computing industry, which makes them an important component of any mainframe workforce training program.

Transforming Mainframe Workforce Training

1. Badges Increase Training Participation and Completion
Mainframe managers have difficulty getting busy mainframe computing professionals to complete optimal amounts of training annually (numerous studies point to 40 hours of training per year being the ideal). IBM Open Badges offer a powerful solution as people are incredibly motivated by the game mechanics and psychology that underpin badges. Once they’ve earned one badge, they want to earn more.

As learning in the corporate sector has become more informal, the employee’s motivation to drive their own development has become pivotal to their performance, and to the performance of the organization as a whole. IBM’s own online training through Cognitive Class provided a good test case for the efficacy of Open Badges. With the introduction of Open Badges, IBM saw:

  1. 125 percent increase in new participants
  2. 226 percent increase in course completion rates
  3. 694  percent increase in course exam pass rates
The Organizational Benefits of the Increased Training

IDC’s Training Impact on Projects Survey, 2011, shows a distinct and direct relationship between the number of hours of training completed and project success. The study found that when preparing for a project, teams receiving 40 hours of training per member met significant project objectives three times as often as teams receiving 30 hours of training or less. It also found that project objectives are met 90 percent more often by increasing team skills. Increasing team skills by one-third increases the likelihood of stakeholders meeting objectives from 10 percent to 100 percent.

Increased training builds a more highly skilled and more multi-skilled mainframe workforce, which delivers improved performance and productivity, and reduces errors and down time. Also consider every new mainframe skill learned arms employees for the rest of their career, delivering decades of ROI.

2. Badges Offer Recognition for Mainframe Professionals
The desire for recognition is a powerful motivator and gaining recognition is a powerful reinforcer of habits. From Boy and Girl Scouts to recent digital games (i.e., Pokémon Go), badges have been overwhelmingly successfully used to set goals, motivate behaviors, represent achievements and communicate success in many contexts.

Open Badges take this recognition to a new level. They are evidence-based and information-rich. Each badge has important metadata, which is hard-coded into the badge image file itself that links back to the issuer, criteria and verifying evidence. This is recognition for the information age.

Mainframe computing professionals develop a powerful, personal brand in corporate forums and on social media, being recognized by managers, peers and the mainframe computing community for their IBM-endorsed Z mainframe skills and knowledge.

Organizational Benefits of Providing Recognition
IBM Smarter Workforce Institute analyzed data from over 19,000 workers in 26 countries, in a cross-section of industries and thousands of different organizations. Their analyses reveal recognition is not only important to engage talent but also to keep talent. Key findings include:

  1. Employees who receive recognition are more likely to be engaged at work. The engagement level of recognized employees is almost three times higher than the engagement level of those who don’t.
  2. Workers who receive recognition are less likely to quit. Without recognition, 51 percent of surveyed employees intended to leave. With recognition, just 25 percent intended to leave their organizations.
3. Badges Insure Verified, Industry Benchmarked Skills
Any badge program can only be as valuable as the entity issuing those badges. The IBM Open Badge Program provides a trusted IBM “seal of approval” that validates an organization’s mainframe workforce training program and benchmarks an organization’s mainframe workforce based on industry accepted, IBM endorsed, skill and knowledge levels.

4. Badges Offer Talent Mapping at the Nano Level
IBM Open Badges and the Acclaim badging system allow creation of heat maps of personnel talent and skills, providing unique insight into the organization’s talent pool. For any mainframe manager, having a measured and industry benchmarked insight into workforce skill and knowledge levels at their fingertips is priceless.

Get Involved

The IBM Open Badge Program is offering the world’s mainframe computing organizations the ability to validate their mainframe workforce training program and benchmark their mainframe workforce. It offers mainframe computing professionals IBM endorsed credentialing and recognition.

Only four months after the release of the mainframe specific badges, there were over 1,000 of the mainframe specific badges earned and issued, which equates to somewhere around 25,000 hours of mainframe training completed. This incredible level of motivation for training is creating a ripple effect across the global mainframe computing industry.

Get your organization involved in the IBM Open Badge Program.

Darren Surch is COO of Interskill Learning.