“If you have a college degree, you can be absolutely sure of one thing . . . . you have a college degree.” ------ Author unknown
There have been lots of discussions/articles lately questioning the value of four year college degrees.
It’s a battle between “Just-in-Time” versus “Just-in-Case” learning. Just-in-Case learning is done well ahead of the time that it’s needed for practical purposes. This is the 4-year college degree. Just-in-Time learning occurs at or very near the point of need. This represents educational courses --- formal and informal ---that can be taken when needed. Just-in-Time says college degrees aren’t necessary.
Example: If a person takes a course in the Java programming language s/he can immediately "sell" that skill to a potential employer. It's a skill that can be directly applied to the job. Just-in-Time. This is very different from taking American History or studying Chaucer as part of a four year degree in case the knowledge might be needed in the future. Just-in-Case.
There is so much I would like to talk about here because there are so many angles to this debate. But space does not permit and much of it doesn’t affect Compensation professionals until/unless the dust settles.
Some companies have already tossed degree requirements out the window. Granted most of them are in start-ups and the high tech industry but “green shoots” are beginning to emerge in other industries as well.
Why are degrees being tossed? The fact is technology changes so rapidly that what students learn during a four-year degree program may be obsolete by the time they graduate.
In fact college curriculum may be obsolete for non-technical degrees. Case in point: I know someone who is taking a graduate level course in Compensation. The on-line training module (2013 edition) states that “seniority based pay is decreasing in popularity among employers . . . . most private sector companies are moving toward merit pay systems as a basis for increasing pay”. Now does this sound current to you?
So what does this have to do with Compensation? If Just-in-Time beats out Just-in-Case in the current “battle” (and if businesses have their way it will), the need for college degrees will be a thing of the past. The business world is moving just too fast to accept degrees that don’t provide job ready skills.
If this happens, will it send Compensation professionals into a tailspin when --- truth be told --- most jobs have never really required degrees to begin with?
The end of degree requirements for the majority of jobs would not happen overnight. There would be a period of time where the workforce would include employees with and without degrees. Is Compensation going to get hung-up on whether the non-degreed should be paid as much as the degreed? How will Just-in-Time affect job descriptions and survey job-matching?
In my opinion Just-in-Time isn’t the same as the old skill-based pay system. That system paid employees for skills they became certified in regardless of whether their current work actually required them. The focus was mainly on career development --- skills for the future. Just-in-Case.
Companies are faced with uncertainty, changing business strategies and the need for rapid response time to meet customer needs. They cannot afford the complexity of HR programs developed yesteryear. Compensation is not the only function having to deal with this. HR people who drive succession planning programs have dropped the old 2-3 year development plans. They’ve found that the jobs that candidates have been “primed” for change/disappear before they “graduate”. So Just-in-Time succession plans have/are being developed.
Whatever pay system Compensation comes up with will have to be flexible and easy to re-configure. Just-in-Time. Today’s business world moves too fast for anything else to succeed.
Take a deep breath----- this won’t be easy. Simple is definitely harder!
Jacque Vilet, President of Vilet International, has over 20 years’ experience in Global Human Resources with major multinationals such as Intel, National Semiconductor and Seagate Technology. She has managed both local/ in-country national and expatriate programs and has been an expat twice during her career. Her true love is working with local national issues. Jacque has the following certifications: CCP, GPHR, HCS and SWP as well as a B.S. and M.S in Psychology and an MBA. She belongs to SHRM, Human Capital Institute and World at Work. Jacque been a speaker in the U.S., Asia and Europe, and is a regular contributor to various HR and talent management publications.