The Higher Ed – HR Paradox

According to Gallup’s Brandon Busteed, “barely one in 10 (11%) business leaders strongly agree that college graduates have the skills and competencies that their workplaces need”. However, he continues, “A whopping 96% of chief academic officers at higher education institutions say their institution is ‘very or somewhat’ effective at preparing students for the world of work”. Clearly, there’s a disconnect.

Furthermore, according to Gallup’s findings the vast majority of Americans think that the purpose of going to college is to get a good job (i.e. one that is best-fit).  Accepting that the collective will of the market is accurate and honest then it is so. The business of developing ability (the higher education imperative) is to enable people to be happy while they are being productive. The business of hiring ability (the human resource imperative) is to provide an acceptable return on investment.

Unfortunately, according to Gallup, “The vast majority of U.S. workers, 70%, are ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ at work, meaning they are emotionally disconnected from their workplace and are less likely to be productive. Actively disengaged employees alone cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity, and are more likely than engaged employees to steal from their companies, negatively influence their coworkers, miss workdays, and drive customers away”.

So, there’s a “chicken or egg” paradox which is this: Is learning quality being delivered to the population not valuable enough or are employer’s evaluation of ability developed disconnected with higher education’s learning quality? Whatever the answer it’s clear there’s a disconnect; a failure to communicate where both higher ed institutions and employers play the role of “boss man” at different times. 

Asking Better Questions

Modern society has been conditioned to measure things so that we can manage them. It seems to pervade everything in our lives. In turn, as we attempt to solve “big” problems the more important or valuable measurement becomes. As great a management principle as that is I do NOT think “What is my value?” is the right question to ask. The better question to ask is, “Why am I important?” because I believe that we are at the cusp of an improved understanding that we are here to help each other. Better questions improve that understanding.

I think that solution providers should consider designs that focus on us, as individuals, as benevolent rather than themselves as such. Jim Clifton writes in The Coming Jobs War, “The will of every person on earth is to have a good job”. Can new designs change how we develop and place ability that encourage a life well-lived

Winner Takes All

The development and placement of ability that serves us, as individuals, can be provided by higher education institutions or employers. Higher education is getting more efficient and effective at developing ability and employers are getting more efficient and effective at hiring ability. However, if they switched imperatives and higher education got very good at placing ability then they could subsidize development with placement revenue. On the flip side, if employers got very good at developing ability for themselves then they could be even more productive.

Okay, now you might be thinking that it’s unrealistic to expect higher education and employment leaders to create and scale solutions that push ability development and placement from 1.0 to 2.0 then towards 3.0. For each is too busy focused on eliminating their greatest pain point of today, that is viability. I agree. Neither will be the winner as a result.

The winner will most likely be a 3rd party solution that enables interactions that place ability at best-fit for us, as individuals.

Have you experienced a disconnect between higher education and employers in your own life?

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