Add Value to Credentialing With Soft Skills


Add Value to Credentialing With Soft Skills

Rory McCorkle, PhD.


Artificial Intelligence, robotics, automation, remote working – it was all happening before COVID-19. And the skills in demand by employers as they recruit and develop talent for the modern workplace were changing. Now, a global pandemic that has kept us in various degrees of social distancing and isolation has only served to accelerate the pace of change.

This presents an opportunity for credentialing organizations to add value for candidates and their employers by further enhancing their skills to make them more effective in their roles. By assessing them for non-cognitive skills – also known as soft skills–  credentialing organizations can expand the services they offer and add further value to recertification. With the right technology, expertise, and effective content, credentialing organizations can successfully engage credential holders by making them more marketable and, importantly, increase their effectiveness in employment.

Increasing Effectiveness in a Changing Workforce

Soft skills are the surface-level behaviors that reflect our underlying personality traits and characteristics. Sometimes referred to as non-cognitive or people skills, they add to a person’s professional competence and are the difference between what an individual can do and what they will do in certain situations. Perhaps most importantly, soft skills are often the difference between a good enough and an excellent professional.

Equally, as more tasks are automated in industries as diverse as healthcare, accountancy, and law, it is these uniquely human skills – collaboration, communication, empathy, and listening – that are in demand. So much so that 57% of senior leaders say that soft skills are now more important than cognitive skills, and soft skill intensive occupations are predicted to account for two-thirds of jobs by 2030.1

The good news for credentialing organizations and candidates alike is that soft skills are malleable and can be developed. This creates additional opportunities for credentialing organizations to develop their certification programs and add value to recertification.

By building the assessment and development of these increasingly important skills into their programs, credentialing organizations will help to advance the professions they represent. At the same time, they are able to enhance their brand and increase their relevance in the market.

Making Credential-Holders More Marketable

After the 2008 economic downturn, many graduating students chose to put their job search on hold and pursue further qualifications and credentials. And data shows that this decision did not delay their career progression. Now, in a shrinking job market, this presents an opportunity for credentialing organizations to support candidates in developing the skills they need to succeed and increase their marketability in a competitive and rapidly changing workplace.

In pre-credentialing, for instance, diagnostic assessments are used to identify strengths and development needs. These needs are then linked to learning and reinforcement through formative and summative practice tests. As a result, candidates are better equipped with the in-demand skills they need to get ahead of the curve as the economy recovers. In an environment where the skills gap has been a challenge for many employers, this has the additional benefit of a more highly skilled workforce.

Even though soft skill assessments are widely used in employment testing, more awarding organizations are beginning to introduce soft skills assessments both when granting and renewing certification or licensure. For example, in addition to the more traditional, practical, or technical skills, assessments for IT certification often require candidates to demonstrate communication, collaboration, and creative thinking skills.

While the assessment of soft skills in credentialing is in its early stages, this again presents forward-thinking awarding organizations with an opportunity to get ahead of the curve, demonstrate value to their credential holders, and expand their markets.

Adding Value to Certification and Recertification

The potential doesn’t end when certification or licensure is granted, or even renewed. Diagnostic tests and assessments can be combined with learning and development to present credentialing organizations with an exciting opportunity to apply talent assessment and management tools into their programs.

Awarding organizations in nursing and accountancy, for example, already offer a further credential for additional skills development. For nurses, this has traditionally been for skills related to prescribing or a particular specialty, such as diabetes. And for accountants, it might be related to specific sectors such as public or corporate accounting. However, this can be expanded to add value with further credentials for soft skills development.

Accountants increasingly need to be able to explain the meaning behind the numbers, and if an accountant wants to progress into management, they will need the skills to lead. Similarly, there is an increased recognition of the need for soft skills in allied health and nursing roles, not only to improve the patient experience with skills such as empathy, but also to improve patient outcomes with teamwork, communication, and collaboration.

Credentialing and Career Advancement

There are many benefits to introducing soft skills assessment and development into credentialing programs – from both sides. For credentialing organizations, there are opportunities to expand markets, increase credential holder engagement, and develop new skill enablement programs throughout their career. And for candidates and members, there’s the chance to better prepare for their chosen career, enhance their career prospects by keeping their skills relevant, and improve their effectiveness in their role.

Technology, content, and expertise are all needed to effectively deliver soft skills assessments and development in credentialing. As the only major provider working across talent management and credentialing, PSI is in a unique position to support credentialing organizations to take this opportunity and expand their services in this way.