How does a wise company develop a creative, resilient and adaptable workforce in this complex and frenetic era of business?
One way, according to a 2012 IBM study, is to study the “outperformer” companies. These companies consistently develop innovative business practices, bring new and successful products to market and are conspicuous in their revenue growth and profitability. The study considers these the “wise companies.”
During the next 30 years, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, more people will graduate with a bachelor’s degree than ever before. And as traditional college education continues to become more expensive, some might suggest that an education “bubble” is on the horizon.
Moreover, recent high school graduates have found ways to educate themselves more efficiently, using the Internet to learn new skills and even earn degrees. Stanford, MIT and Princeton, among others, offer online courses for free through Academic Earth, a provider of online education courses for a variety of subjects including business, humanities, science and engineering.
Meanwhile, companies themselves have contributed to overemphasizing a formal undergraduate degree. Some might argue that companies use the college degree as a qualifier for a given position without considering if the degree is really necessary. Wise companies, the IBM study suggests, have already started looking past a diploma for new hires.
Is this the right approach, or should a college degree always be a prerequisite for employment? Each side has its pluses and minuses.
On the one hand, some argue that many traditional universities do not teach students how to deal with organizational complexities, such as resiliency, adaptability or creativity. But university-trained students do know, by and large, how to memorize large amounts of data, take standardized tests and write papers.
On the other hand, a corporate learning leader could engage true talent from the opposite perspective: to find people determined to learn the corporate culture and infuse creativity into a complex social environment. These individuals have a true drive to learn and work through nontraditional formats, all while motivating themselves.
These are the same qualities needed to innovate in organizations that are wise. The university’s role is not always one of creating a perfect employee; it is to round an individual to fit into corporate society. That means a wise company should look beyond academic credentials to find talent. Start the process by deleting “degree required” from the application and replace it with “How did you educate yourself for this position?”
Before the Internet, a university degree proved that a person had the ability to dig deeply into research, analyze data and integrate it into something useful. People had limited options to educate themselves outside the traditional academic setting. Today, a quality education can be obtained in other forms. A four-year degree and high grades might prove that a person can focus on a goal and take tests, but test mastery is not necessarily important for developing creativity.
Learning leaders must work to balance and seek out candidates with a dual approach to their development — degrees provide some skills, but self-education develops others.
Organizations must also rethink the fundamentals of how companies are run and what type of talent is needed. Wise companies are empowering employees to develop free-flowing ideas and loosen rigid controls. Learning leaders should also look for new approaches to self-education and pass that knowledge on to their people, so they can duplicate the process.
Search for all the nontraditional routes available. If a degree is required, ask how much time will be needed to retrain the thought patterns away from an old-school philosophy. Is the degree crucial, or should we be spending more time in understanding the person’s talents and how he or she has acquired those talents?
Melissa Luke is author of Life in the World of YOMO: Start the Adventure to Your Perfect Calling. She can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.