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Why digital badges matter for technology professionals and our new HPE training program


Last week, our HPE Education Services team introduced an exciting new HPE-branded digital badging program to recognize the skills developed by people taking HPE training courses. This program has been developed in response to demand from our students, who recognize the value of their skills and want something official from HPE that states what they have achieved.

We’re excited about these HPE-branded badges and this program! The badges are professional credentials, suitable for our students to share on social media, add to their profiles and resumes, and add to their community profiles. This introduction is just the beginning; depending on student response and where our customers tell us they would like to see skills development focused, we will be responding with new digital badging challenges, contests and achievement rewards.

We will introduce new badge challenges every few months – including something exciting for Discover Las Vegas!

As a way to kick off our public communication about our new program, I arranged an interview with Steve Sims, Chief Design and Products officer at CallidusCloud CX who helped us to design, structure and introduce this new HPE Peak Performance digital badging program.

Steve is a well-known gamification/Digital Motivation expert with experience leading delivery of 100’s of online behavior incentive systems for areas ranging from employee engagement, support communities, and performance management to loyalty programs.

Steve Sims.pngSteve Sims from Badgeville, CallidusCloud

My interview with Steve

Kelly: Hi Steve. Thanks for agreeing to this interview. I know that our community will benefit from hearing from an expert in digital motivation like yourself. I’d like to start with a question about the benefits that our students can expect to gain from the HPE-branded digital badges. What do you see as being the primary big benefits that they will experience?

Steve: Thanks Kelly. The benefits of the new Peak Performance digital badging program for HPE’s students will be validation of their skills development, providing them with elements of a portable reputation that illustrates the value of the skills they have acquired. HPE’s brand has economic and emotional value.

When people take courses from HPE they know that not only are they becoming more accomplished in a given technical area, but that through this program others will be able to see their personal growth as well. Badges are relevant when they convey meaning, and it’s exciting to see a company like HPE introduce this type of program. Hewlett Packard has always been known for great technology, great content and great instruction.

Kelly: Great – we’re excited to offer this program also, because we’ve had this request from our students quite often. Based on your experience working with other organizations like ours, what do you expect to see in the first phase of our program introduction?

Steve: In the first phase I expect to learn more about the pattern of adoption of HPE students. Usually, it takes some time for a student community to learn about the program, to come and check out what it offers, and then to start to participate.

That said, once students are familiar with everything, we expect to learn a lot. Are learners interested in clusters of courses or going deep on an individual subject? Would they be interested in shorter offerings or something longer? Other insights may include things like preference of delivery mechanism – for example, certain segments for certain course areas prefer instructor led training to e-learning.

Over time, the reactions and engagement of the people in your community will dictate what you need to do next to keep the program active and meaningful.

Kelly: This is a new type of way for our students to engage with us, isn’t it? What’s key for us to watch as our students start to work with our digital badges?

Steve: The way in which the student population acts and reacts to the digital badging program can help steer HPE to deliver more valuable content. The data that comes from course consumption and their interaction provides a low friction feedback mechanism for the HPE offering.

With digital badging, not only are you providing an earned achievement reward that validates the individual who achieved it, you are also providing a vehicle for others to find and try your content. People are pretty busy. Finding that next meaningful step in skills development is hard in the context of all of the information and activities which compete for attention for a typical technology professional.

In phase one we are starting out with the digital badging structure and social media sharing. But, when we get into some of the more advanced capabilities – like guided missions, challenges, test runs, and free-to-fee learning opportunities – then it’s going to get even more exciting and beneficial for all involved.

Kelly: You mentioned free-to-fee programs. Can you say more about that? What is that exactly?

Steve: Sure. Free-to-fee is a style of “try it before you buy it” type of program. In the case of HPE’s training, the benefit is that it would allow your students to get a taste of a particular course or curriculum before they commit to it.

This type of approach can also be helpful to HPE as more students end up being exposed to the content. And one thing to remember, free is not the same as reduced cost. It’s funny – when something goes from being low-cost to free –user response to an offer or proposition can totally change. Let me share an example. This comes from an academic experiment using chocolate, so completely unrelated – but the point is still valid.

In a study done a few years back*, people were asked whether they would prefer to purchase a piece of chocolate candy priced at $.01 or $.25. Funny enough, people chose the candy with the higher price because they perceived that the higher priced chocolate was of superior value and that it would taste better. Now, shift the question ever so slightly so that the lower-priced piece of candy was free and the higher priced candy was now $.24 (1 penny less). The difference between the lower and higher-priced candy was the same as before at $.24. However with this slight shift, the result was the opposite – the majority of the people responded that they would take the free candy.

Bottom line, people like a deal and there is something truly magical about the word free. Offering free-to-fee experiences is one way to encourage more people to try something and experience its value for themselves.

*Editor’s note: The study referenced by Steve, “Zero as a special price”, was conducted by Kristina Shampan’er and Dan Ariely at MIT.

Kelly: Can you say a few words, Steve, about why digital motivation programs work? What is it about a digital badge that gets people interested, do you think?

Steve: Digital motivation works because modern workforces demand digital progress and feedback, and want to feel good – validated – for the work they do. People are motivated fundamentally to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Human beings have thrived by working together and depending on one another. In some ways, a modern-day community is no different from the tribes of old and people want to be seen as important members of that community or tribe. Recognition validates people’s feelings of being successful, smart, and socially valued by the community. Digital achievements and credentials – such as the new HPE digital badging program – elicit the positive emotions of validation.

HPE badges and certifications represent experience and mastery of the various subjects that students take. The portable reputation that is built from a tangible sign of recognition sits easily within the digital communities which dominate their professional experiences.

Kelly: Digital badges are not a new concept, but yet they seem to have gained more attention recently with the recognition that millennial workers – or digital natives as we sometimes call them – are motivated differently. Which types of HPE students do you think will benefit most from our digital badging program?

Steve: I anticipate that you will see millennials or digital natives respond to this program. They will probably be the ones who not only participate, but provide HPE with good feedback on the program. Millennials often want feedback and proof of their accomplishments – and really respond positively to meaningful reward systems. Given this they should respond well to HPE’s phase one digital badging, in which credentials are tied to the courses that HPE students take.

In terms of the more experienced and established professionals, they may be interested in different aspects of a program like this although with a similar motivation.  While they already have established themselves in their fields of work, a system like this can demonstrate the effort they have put into their advancement. In addition, this type of program can also be used to illustrate that their skill sets are up to date.

Kelly: We also offer university programs for people still attending college, or people newer in the workforce and transitioning from university to professional environments. We’ve already seen interest from the teams running those programs in adding badging. Based on what you just shared, I expect you are not surprised by that.

Steve: That’s not surprising. I would add that I do think an important point when considering this is to think about it in a user-centric fashion, in other words from the perspective of the student. You want to reward students based on what they find of value, in their world. For instance, badging credentials for them might lead then to a job, or a grant, or the ability to lead a project, so the achievements should reflect that.

You also mentioned Systems Integrators when we were discussing the design of this program. I think a guided mission for SIs with badges built just for SIs, works as well. For systems integrators, badged credentials might allow them to qualify for different types of projects, put them at an advantage over their competitors, or to charge a higher rate to their customers.

In any case, in phase one of the HPE program, we’ve got the structure in place to get started for your communities and then build from there. We will introduce the program, use it to measure the health of your communities, work with you to transfer the perception of value to your students – so that they gain more value from applying the HPE brand to their story of personal growth. Then we will see what they tell us with their reactions, engagement – their feedback. We can take this program many directions, depending on where the HPE student communities tell us that they want to go.

 About Steve Sims

Steve has broad experience in game design, development and production across all major platforms – web, mobile, console and PC. He started his career at Electronics Arts and EA Online where he was an Executive Producer responsible for Madden NFL Football – the #1 selling sports video game franchise in North America. He led some of EA’s earliest forays into the online market, including Fantasy Sports and Casual Games. Steve also has experience in virtual worlds, MMO’s (massively multiplayer online games) and virtual economies.  Steve has a BSEE from UCLA and a Masters in Computer Engineering from U.S.C. Steve is currently a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Stanford University ( ).

About the Author


25+ years in high tech in various roles that include Consulting, Channel Mgmt, Product Mgmt and Marketing. Technology areas include storage and data management, high availability, cloud and hosting, networking, and mobility/wearable technology for enterprise, SMB , and channel business. Industries include healthcare, financial services, ISVs, Service Providers and telecos.

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