Digital badges are the newest effort to help employees stave off the robots -- and major companies are getting on board

Office employeesShutterstockIBM invests about $US500 million annually on the professional development of employees.

Automation is swiftly transforming the workplace and has been called the greatest threat to human jobs and the economy.

To protect against massive disruption to the workforce, some experts suggest companies get involved.

“Its no longer adequate to study one thing and not learn anything else your entire career,” Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson told Business Insider.

Edmondson calls on companies to embrace ongoing skill-based learning programs for their employees, and some companies, like IBM, are starting to do just that.

“We are really reinforcing a culture of life-long learning and developments,” David Leaser, senior executive of innovation and growth initiatives at IBM, told Business Insider.

Leaser says IBM invests about $US500 million annually on the professional development of employees, and certifies these skills with a fairly-new concept called digital badges.

IBM launched an external website in 2015 called where employees, or other interested parties, can take courses free of charge.

There, individuals can work through courses like Big Data 101 or Machine Learning 101 and go on to earn an IBM badge. These badges are valuable digital transcripts and create what Leaser called a “skills registry” for the company.

Badges can be promoted on résumés, on LinkedIn profiles for recruiters to see, or viewed internally by IBM to see what skills their employees have. “They validate industry skills in ways we could not before,” Leaser said.

The concept of digital badges is growing. Other companies, including Ernst & Young and Salesforce, also offer digital badges to employees.

Perhaps the biggest advancement IBM has seen in its digital badge program is in the partnership its forged with Northeastern University. Certain IBM badges can be used toward Northeastern professional master’s degree programs.

“We can now capture industry knowledge developed at IBM and convert that into college credit,” Leaser said.

Get the latest IBM stock price here.

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