Not all experience is easy to describe on a resume, but a new generation of simulations can uncover skills that employees may not even know they have.
Recently, Muzzy Lane was honored to receive the 2022 Gold Learning Impact Award for our work on XCredit, which was made possible by a grant provided by Walmart. This project, a collaboration with Education Design Lab, focused on the importance of “human” skills in the workplace and how an employee, based on their abilities, can grow professionally, and how companies can nurture that talent.
Human skills like empathy, critical thinking, intercultural fluency, and collaboration are essential for workers to have and employers to teach, but they can be incredibly challenging to assess. Immersive simulations allow students to apply what they’ve learned, rather than simply recalling answers. In addition, they can help educators by providing automatically scored assessments for those complex skills. After years of developing simulation assessments revolving around these subjects, it is urgent, especially with the current staffing and training challenges felt across industries, that companies find their best employees and enhance their capabilities through continuing education.
Our partner in XCredit, Education Design Lab, is the creator of 21st Century Skills Micro-credentials. This program helps determine employees’ competence in high-demand human skills. The platform, with its ability to assess those skills, will be essential through the continuing trend of the “Great Resignation” and “Quiet Quitting.”
The automated assessment for the Critical Thinking micro-credential takes between 30 and 45 minutes, on average, to complete. It provides facilitators with a deep dive into the test taker’s overall skill performance. The program’s dashboard shows a count of both correct and incorrect answers for specific questions grouped in a way that helps facilitators spot potential skill deficits among their employees and make informed decisions about how to best close those gaps. Through these simulations, students can also gain realistic, real-world experience through simulated experiences that play out as they would in real life.
This sort of assessment is also helpful in discovering employees’ skills that may not have been expressed by their education or experience. These skills might come naturally to an employee or could be something they picked up through volunteering or other experiences that aren’t included on their resume. For example, an employee who is great at figuring out what customers need and providing them with those solutions might have picked them up through leading a Scout troop or kids’ sports team.
Giving Credit for Informal Experience
The XCredit project offers credit for the experiences individuals have acquired informally. Often, that experience goes undocumented, since it can be difficult to lay out on a resume. The focus of the program is on helping veterans transition into the civilian workforce and on helping unemployed or underemployed civilians look for jobs that actually fit their skills and their needs.
The program isn’t alone in acknowledging the importance of those informal experiences. In many cases, employees may develop considerably more skills than their employers recognize over time. Sometimes, employees themselves may not even realize the full extent of those skills and how they have developed them.
Tracking Improvement through Micro-Credentials
Micro-credentials “stack” over time as people master different skills. For example, many businesses prioritize strong communication skills. However, communication isn’t just about being able to speak well. It may involve a complex series of other skills. Employees may need to develop:
- Strong listening skills, which can help them clearly identify a problem or hear exactly what the other party is saying;
- Good writing skills, since modern communication often takes place via email, text, or another written form of communication;
- The ability to express things simply, without being patronizing;
- Good nonverbal communication skills, since many people will read as much into a person’s body position as they will other means of communication; and
- Good overall stress-management skills, since many employees may need to communicate with others under highly stressful circumstances. By learning how to manage stress, employees can often manage their overall communications more effectively.
Other skills, however, may tie into those communication skills and strengthen them. Take, for example, leadership skills. Effective leaders need to have an array of qualities and skills, including:
- Creative thinking, which can help them address problems as they arise;
- Conflict-resolution; and
- Time management.
In addition to all of these, leaders need to have those strong communication skills, since they must communicate clearly and effectively with employees both above and below them. As employees work on their leadership skills and become better, more effective leaders, they often become better communicators, as well—and better communicators will often make better leaders overall.
As they stack micro-credentials, employees often find themselves in a better position to move up within the company. In many cases, human skills prove more important to an employee’s growth and development than the hard skills they may have focused on in the past.
To identify employees’ strengths and weaknesses in those skills, micro-credentialing has a number of key advantages, including the fact that it can be completed much faster than semester-long classes often required for hard skills. Next-generation assessments like XCredit empower individuals to showcase what they really know and what they can do in ways that can lead to job opportunities, which can ultimately benefit both employees and employers. By taking this step into the future, many companies have discovered that they can get a better feel for what employees can accomplish, which allows them to more effectively guide those employees into the right positions.
Dave McCool is the President and CEO of Muzzy Lane, which helps educational institutions and companies identify and deal with the skills gap in the workplace through the use of simulations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via LinkedIn.
By Dave McCool