ATD Blog

Digital Badge Program at IBM

Monday, July 2, 2018

All over the world, talent development professionals work every day to help create a world that works better. They do this by developing the knowledge, skills, and abilities of others. Each year, the ATD Excellence in Practice Awards celebrate the efforts of individuals and organizations whose commitment to excellence sets them apart.

Practices that use technology and learning to develop, connect, and engage the workforce. Recent award winner IBM, based in Armonk, New York, developed a digital badge program that shows the best of learning and development.

The IBM Digital Badge Program addresses the changes in the talent market, as employees and customers alike are accustomed to personalization, simplicity, and speed. This, combined with rapid, continual learning that needs to keep up with the constant changes in technology, has created an environment that has outstripped the traditional pace of learning. Thus, IBM created the IBM Digital Badge Program, a fresh, modern approach to building and deploying skills and knowledge while engaging their workforce.

The program framework optimizes organizational alignment by identifying strategic objectives and value propositions for all stakeholders through the broader activity areas of governance, communications and marketing, and tooling and automation. There are five badge types: knowledge, skill, proficiency, two professional certifications (one for internal and external use, the other linked to IBM Professions Certification, such as Data Scientist), and achievement contribution.


The Digital Badge Program’s pilot was a success: 92 percent of pilot participants reported that digital credentials were an important way to verify skills; 87 percent reported they felt more engaged with IBM as a company and were eager to learn more; and there was a 70 percent increase in course participants for badged development programs compared to non-badged development programs. Digital badges provide IBM employees with a flexible, contemporary skills road map, and signal the skills most valued by the company and the overall marketplace. All badges are defined by the business, which determines the required skills and experience to support excellence for its clients and achievement of career milestones. Badges are awarded only for certifiable successes, and the program governance ensures all badges are validated against a set of agreed upon standards, truly establishing a new digital skills currency in the organization.


To date, the program has resulted in increased employee engagement, with 223,000 employees earning nearly 500,000 badges aligned to the key strategic skills critical to IBM’s business.

The 2018 application will open on July 1. Entry deadline is Sept. 21, 2018.

About the Author

Kristen Fyfe-Mills is the director of marketing and strategic communications for the Association for Talent Development. In her role, she works with an exceptionally capable ATD team to plan and execute marketing and strategic communication strategies on behalf of the association's business priorities. Kristen is a published author, coach, and speaker. She attended Northwestern University where she received a bachelor of science degree in radio-TV-film and a master’s degree in journalism.

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