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The CLR: At the Intersection of Human Resources and Higher Education

HR teams are always looking for ways to improve recruiting and candidate evaluation practices in order to increase success rates and reduce rapid turnover. One new approach called the Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR) aims to transform how employers view and evaluate a candidate’s educational and work history, and it could be a big help in reframing your own approach.


What Is a CLR?

 CLR is a recent method of academic record-keeping and is designed to give a more well-rounded picture of an individual’s educational background. A CLR offers more in-depth information about an applicant’s coursework, activities, and work experience. It’s designed to be particularly useful for relative newcomers to the labor market, who may not have much for prospective employers to evaluate them on, other than their academic performance and related experiences.


Dr. Michael Simmons is the Associate Executive Director of Business Development & Strategic Partnerships of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), an organization at the vanguard of the development and adoption of CLRs. We reached out to him for a few of his thoughts on the topic.


“The CLR was first developed in the early 2000s by a group of educators and technologists who were concerned about the limitations of traditional transcripts, which are usually static documents that only show a learner’s academic achievements. The CLR, on the other hand, is a dynamic record that can be updated to reflect a learner’s ever-changing skills and abilities,” he explained.


“AACRAO believes that the CLR and related work can enhance learning mobility by providing a more comprehensive and accurate picture of a learner’s skills and abilities. This can make it easier for learners to move credits/skills between institutions, earn micro-credentials for their learning achievements, and showcase their skills and abilities to potential employers. In addition, the CLR can help learners to track their progress over time and identify gaps in their knowledge. This can help learners to make informed decisions about their education and career goals, which for us represents the point of the work – learner focus.”


CLR proponents envision the system as a means of record-keeping that is more in-depth but still has the same level of security and tamper-proofing as the traditional transcript. It’s intended to be a digital record that can carry over between different organizations and hiring systems to provide clear information at every step of the way.


How Can CLRs Solve HR Problems?

In contrast with a traditional transcript, a CLR reflects more than just a list of coursework and grades. Instead, it indicates information such as key concepts, learning objectives, and extracurricular activities. This type of record-keeping can offer prospective employers more information about the specific skills an individual has learned, rather than just a generic course title and grade, which in turn can help employers see more clearly how an applicant might fit into their organization.


With its focus on individual skills rather than more generic titles and degrees, a CLR could help HR teams filter more specifically to find individuals with the desired experiences and skillsets. The concept is especially relevant when searching for challenging or unique roles involving intersecting niches or creative, critical thinking. In these cases, a demonstrated history of pursuing learning and critical thinking, or an emphasis on niche certifications and micro-credentials, can be more relevant than a standardized degree. Therefore, a CLR could be a better predictor of who would indeed be a successful candidate, as opposed to an unsuccessful hire that requires a replacement search in a short period of time.


In some ways, CLRs may also be useful as organizations look to improve and build on their commitments to JEDI: justice, equality, diversity, and inclusion. When people come from different cultural, geographical, educational, and financial backgrounds, their resumes may reflect that. Evaluating based on specific credentials and skills can help open paths to selecting candidates with more unconventional but well-suited backgrounds rather than privileging traditional educational and career paths and the demographics that are most represented there.


Adopting a CLR approach can take time, as can learning to use the supporting technology. While not yet widely adopted, this skills-based approach is growing in popularity, especially as more people take unconventional education paths and career development journeys. AACRAO, for instance, has taken a leading role in championing the method and developing guidelines and best practices for adopting CLRs. Even if you’re not ready to take the plunge and entirely shift to CLRs as a primary source of information, it’s worth investigating more skills-based hiring approaches to build a stronger, better-suited, and more diverse team right now.


By Ruben Moreno


About the Author

After a 25-year career in Corporate Human Resources and HR Executive Search, Ruben and his two partners co-founded Blue Rock Search based on a simple but ambitious vision of creating a firm that would “Change Lives and Organizations One Relationship at a Time.” Ruben leads the Blue Rock HR Executive Search and Higher Education Executive Search practice specializing in identifying, assessing, recruiting, and onboarding key executives in HR, Diversity, Enrollment, Student Affairs, and Advancement. Ruben is a thought leader who has helped place hundreds of executives. His clients consider him a trusted partner who takes the time to understand their organization and add value beyond executive search.

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