The Univer­sity-work­place Gap: A Re­la­tion­ship Long Past Due

Trillions - - In This Issue - By Dr. Chance T. Ea­ton

When I com­pleted my Bach­e­lor’s De­gree in Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion in 1999, I vividly re­call much of my ed­u­ca­tion not be­ing very ap­pli­ca­ble to work. I fully rec­og­nized that there was great ben­e­fit from the solid theme of crit­i­cal in­quiry that ran through all cur­ricu­lum, but there seemed a dis­con­nect be­tween the spe­cial­ized up­per di­vi­sion cour­ses and what I was ac­tu­ally see­ing at work. Ap­par­ently, I am not alone. In a re­cent Gallup blog (Fran­cis & Auter, 2017), 96% of chief aca­demic of­fi­cers be­lieve their univer­sity and col­leges are ef­fec­tive at pre­par­ing stu­dents for the work­force, whereas only 11% of busi­ness lead­ers agree. Stu­dents also rec­og­nize this mis­align­ment; only 35% of col­lege stu­dents feel they are pre­pared for the work­place. Fur­ther, col­lege en­roll­ment rates con­tinue to fall across the coun­try, largely due to in­creas­ing cost of higher ed­u­ca­tion, and stu­dents are be­gin­ning to ques­tion the value of a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion. It is easy to point fin­gers at higher ed­u­ca­tion for not ef­fec­tively pre­par­ing stu­dents for the re­al­ity of to­day’s work­place, but I would ar­gue that cor­po­ra­tions are not do­ing much bet­ter at pre­par­ing their cur­rent in­ter­nal em­ploy­ees for ef­fec­tive­ness in the work­place ei­ther. It is es­ti­mated that train­ing and de­vel­op­ment costs U.S. com­pa­nies be­tween $50 Bil­lion (Keller­man, 2012) and $156 Bil­lion per year (Amer­i­can So­ci­ety for Train­ing & De­vel­op­ment, 2012). Of this, lead­er­ship train­ing alone is es­ti­mated to be around $20 Bil­lion per year (ASTD, 2012). De­spite the large dol­lars spent on train­ing, the re­turn on in­vest­ment doesn’t ap­pear to be pay­ing off. The Con­fer­ence Board has been sur­vey­ing job sat­is­fac­tion for the past 25 years, and they have found that job sat­is­fac­tion has de­clined at a steady rate from 61% in 1987 to 47% in 2012 (Adams, 2012). HR con­sult­ing firm, Mercer, has found that across the globe be­tween 28% and 56% of em­ploy­ees want to leave their jobs, and 32% want to leave their jobs in the U.S. alone (Adams, 2012). Gallup Or­ga­ni­za­tion con­tin­ues to find that

em­ployee dis­en­gage­ment num­bers re­main steady around 70%. De­spite the sig­nif­i­cant dol­lars in­vested in em­ploy­ees, the ed­u­ca­tion is of­ten soft fluff lack­ing in ba­sic rigor.

When I ask higher ed­u­ca­tion ad­min­is­tra­tion about the need to im­prove work­place en­gage­ment and bridg­ing the gap be­tween higher ed­u­ca­tion and cor­po­ra­tions, the only re­sponse I hear is us­ing in­tern­ships. Though they can be part of the so­lu­tion, they of­ten re­sult in lim­ited scope and sub­tle in ben­e­fit. When I ask cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tives about the need to im­prove work­place en­gage­ment and bridg­ing the gap be­tween higher ed­u­ca­tion and cor­po­ra­tions, the most com­mon re­sponse is to bring in an­other con­sult­ing firm to sur­vey needs and make rec­om­men­da­tions for work­place ef­fec­tive­ness.

It is my opin­ion that many cor­po­rate train­ing firms are not versed in the rig­ors of so­cial sciences, and higher ed­u­ca­tion is not versed in the rel­e­vance of what busi­ness needs. It would seem nat­u­ral that these in­sti­tu­tions work to­gether in strate­gic part­ner­ship de­vel­op­ing cur­rent and fu­ture em­ploy­ees. Let me be clear, I am not re­fer­ring to tra­di­tional re­la­tion­ships seen in fund­ing re­search or mar­ket­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties at sport­ing events, I am talk­ing about mean­ing­ful strate­gic re­la­tion­ships that di­rectly ef­fect ed­u­ca­tion.

I am propos­ing a sim­ple yet po­ten­tially pow­er­ful so­lu­tion to this mis­align­ment be­tween higher ed­u­ca­tion and the work­place – make it com­mon prac­tice for cor­po­rate train­ers to be con­tracted as ad­junct higher ed­u­ca­tion fac­ulty. Uni­ver­si­ties pos­sess a rig­or­ous process for val­i­dat­ing cur­ricu­lum, and most im­por­tant are at the cut­ting edge of re­search; cor­po­ra­tions know how the in­for­ma­tion needs to be de­liv­ered for rel­e­vance and rep­re­sent the ul­ti­mate prac­tice of the­ory and re­search. Fol­low­ing is a sam­ple de­scrip­tion of what a univer­sity ad­junct-cor­po­rate trainer may look like.

Ashley is a cor­po­rate trainer, and from in­ter­nal analysis, she has iden­ti­fied the need for men­tor­ing and coach­ing train­ing for her com­pany. She is also an ad­junct for a lo­cal col­lege; not as se­cond em­ploy­ment, but as a con­di­tion of her em­ploy­ment. She works in con­junc­tion with the col­lege in de­vel­op­ing cur­ricu­lum that con­tains both the sci­en­tific rigor and busi­ness rel­e­vance. As a re­sult, she cre­ates the fol­low­ing cour­ses to­tal­ing 36 hours to be de­liv­ered over 6 months: Ex­plor­ing Emo­tional In­tel­li­gence, Myers-briggs Type In­di­ca­tor, Men­tor­ing-coach­ing Foun­da­tions, and Strength-based De­vel­op­ment. In ad­di­tion, she cre­ates 18 hours of ac­tion learn­ing as­sign­ments where em­ploy­ees will prac­tice men­tor­ing-coach­ing with real em­ploy­ees with a trained men­tor-coach su­per­vis­ing the ses­sions. The col­lege helped Ashely build valid and re­li­able as­sess­ments into the cur­ricu­lum, course ob­jec­tives, pro­gram eval­u­a­tions, rel­e­vant aca­demic ref­er­ences, and most im­por­tant, lat­est re­search on best prac­tices for men­tor­ing and coach­ing. Now that the col­lege has con­fi­dence in the cur­ricu­lum, they also val­i­date the pro­gram with a “Cer­tifi­cate in Men­tor­ing-coach­ing”.

The cor­po­ra­tion that Ashley works for re­ceives high qual­ity re­search based cur­ricu­lum that will ben­e­fit its em­ploy­ees at a sig­nif­i­cant level. Not only does the cor­po­ra­tion ben­e­fit from hav­ing con­fi­dence in the qual­ity of the ed­u­ca­tion, but the pro­gram is also val­i­dated by the col­lege adding tremen­dous mo­ti­va­tion for par­tic­i­pa­tion and sta­tus of ob­tain­ing a col­lege cer­tifi­cate. The col­lege ben­e­fits from earn­ing tu­ition from the cor­po­ra­tion be­cause the pro­gram con­tains a val­i­dated col­lege cer­tifi­cate. Fur­ther, by work­ing with the cor­po­ra­tion, they are learn­ing first hand the needs of to­day’s work­place, and will in­spire them to sup­ple­ment their cur­rent cur­ricu­lum with learn­ing that is more rel­e­vant.

There are lots of lit­tle, and I mean lit­tle, nu­ances to build­ing these types of ar­range­ments; find­ing univer­sity fac­ulty will­ing to work di­rectly with com­pa­nies, adding cour­ses to School of Record, Board of Re­gent ap­proval for cer­tifi­cate pro­grams, and con­tracts for cor­po­rate trainer to be ad­junct. These are nat­u­ral chal­lenges and doable. The big­gest chal­lenge will be for both sys­tems to think out­side their fa­mil­iar com­fort zones, and more im­por­tant, each party must be will­ing to let their tremen­dous egos down. It is not news to any­one that both uni­ver­si­ties and cor­po­ra­tions silo and de­part­men­tal­ize to sat­isfy im­por­tance and sig­nif­i­cance – both of which are low ma­tu­rity and sur­vival men­tal­ity. Next gen­er­a­tion com­pa­nies and uni­ver­si­ties must move to higher lev­els of ma­tu­rity and con­stantly look for nat­u­ral col­lab­o­ra­tion ef­forts.

There is a need to rev­o­lu­tion­ize how ed­u­ca­tion works, and not just higher ed­u­ca­tion, all ed­u­ca­tion. Higher ed­u­ca­tion possesses the rig­ors for qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion, versed in re­search, and has the abil­ity to gen­er­ate val­i­dated cer­tifi­cates. Cor­po­ra­tions pos­sess de­mand and ap­pli­ca­tion of ed­u­ca­tion, versed in rel­e­vance, and has the abil­ity to put col­lege val­i­dated cer­tifi­cate to good use. The Univer­sity-work­place gap is well past due and strate­gic part­ner­ships are a key to the fu­ture of em­ployee pre­pared­ness, growth, and de­vel­op­ment.

Adams, S. (Nov. 10, 2011) Em­ployee Loy­alty Drop­ping World­wide. Forbes. Re­trieved at https://www.forbes. com/sites/su­sanadams/2011/11/10/em­ployee-loy­alty-drop­ping-world­wide/#3c0e13bf5d61

Photo by UBC Learn­ing Com­mons, CC

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