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03/03/2014

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It should come as no surprise to realize that academia has always operated distinctly differently from business. That's why publishers traditionally have two divisions. Academic books are for schools that want heavily footnoted relatively unchanging texts oriented on past history that can be easily taught from the same set of notes year after year, while companies dealing with the real world require Business approaches containing the best available most current methods. Business books are less interested in outmoded past practices and more oriented to immediately effective practices.

Hi Jacque,

Maybe I’ve been working in a different set of companies, but I have not seen compensation teams market price jobs based on education, unless education was a requirement (Doctor, Nurse,…), for many, many years. The only reason I would list education requirements is when the line managers demand it, and even then I will document something like “typically requires a college degree or equivalent experience”.

I think what people are looking for from candidates with a college degree is a broader knowledge base and critical thinking skills. Nothing will replace the additional learning from on the job training. There is a place for both technical training and broader education and not just one or the other. Look at the CCP certification, is it training people on the most up to date innovative thinking or past common practices? Without a broader understanding of psychology, sociology, motivational theory, and business knowledge is it complete?

There are functions where you can focus only on technical knowledge but saying course curriculum is out of date is not a reason to think a college education is going away. It speaks louder to the need to update content and approaches to education. Without on the job training I’d rather hirer someone with a college degree with a concentration in HR than a high school grad with a CCP.

Trevor thanks for your comment. I could write/talk on this topic all day there is so much to discuss. Somehow through the ages a degree has become an assumed requirement for almost every exempt/professional job regardless whether it's truly required or not. At least that's been my experience. No one ever seems to question it. Surveys follow the pack.

Businesses that I know today (granted as said above in start-ups or high tech) are now happy to look at non-degreed people. Job ready skills are everything to them. And the requirement for X number of years in lieu of a degree doesn't even come into the discussion.

The mantra about broad learning and critical thinking only being acquired with a degree is being questionned. Managers just don't see it.

Battle lines are being drawn between academia and the business world. Read the debate. It doesn't look like academia will change course any time soon. And the business world can't wait. In fact some companies have "adopted" a university and basically told them what to teach students so they can hire them.

I know some disagree with the
use of MOOCs but there is talk afoot that X number of certifications could replace a degree. Yes MOOCs have problems but doesn't everything when it begins?

Cost is another driver here. The cost is exorbitant and the value is questionnable--- sorry I had a chart to show this but space only permits so much content.

I'm not totally "anti-degree". Even in high school I remember Greek/Roman mythology that I loved and made so much of an impression on me. And now it's not taught. That's what would happen with colleges if they only taught job ready skills. No art, no literature, etc.

I don't have the answer but I do feel that we are at a crossroads. And hearing the debate is a learning exercise for me.

I'll weigh-in in support of Jacque. I'm so sure about the loss of absolute value of formal degrees, since as Trevor suggested - I do think degrees provide good foundational knowledge, and maybe even more importantly - training in the ability to think (logically, rationally, etc.).

I do believe that the era of our love affair with formal degrees is coming to an end though - for many of the reasons that Jacque articulated. The belief that education (formal education), and especially obtaining advanced degrees, is the only ticket to career success - will begin to unravel, both due to the increasing expense and their inability [of education providers] to keep their curriculums current and relevant. I believe the institutions of higher learning (colleges and universities) can already sense the coming "tipping point", as evidenced by their reported 23 percent increase in marketing/advertising, aimed at ensuring they continue to fill available seats - in order to keep the tuition flowing.

The most difficult obstacle in the future, will be the "loss" of degrees as the objective basis for satisfying job requirements. That's why institutions and entities that conduct certified learning assessment will rise in dominance and importance in the very near future.

Thanks all. It's a crying shame that academia and business can't sit down and discuss the problem and come up with solutions. Solutions that would not require a crisis in order to get serious. Decisions made in a crisis can't possibly be the best. And I think we owe it to our youngsters to come up with the best.

Education is changing there is no mistaking it. The main relating point to compensation is Jacque’s premise is that compensation professionals won’t know what to do in the mitts of change. From a compensation standpoint the type of education does not matter, it’s about the responsibilities of the job. You market price a job based on the job, not what type of education a candidate may have. Survey vendors don’t really care either and only have it in their descriptors for legacy reasons at least that was my experience managing surveys over 15 years ago.
Technology is changing education and with any change upstarts will lead the effort. Look at the Khan Academy and all the on-line universities. Traditional colleges/universities will either learn or struggle. I just think your jumping the gun with the obituary of higher education. There will continue to be hybrid approaches that I hope focus on life-long learning.

I love this article! As a Human Resource Professional, I do not have my degree, but have spent my professional career dedicated to keeping with current trends, laws, and best practices - things that college would not have taught be because they would have been obsolete by the time I entered the field. I constantly challenge my managers when they "require" a degree and provide case examples where degrees for the positions we hire for (many administrative healthcare and technology positions) do not really require the degree, they just feel it adds an air of aloofness that does not fit our company culture. I find hard work and persistance a better indicator then a degree. Show me progression and dedication in a field and I'll show you an employee who wants to be there.

Hi Trevor ---- appreciate your comment. No I'm not digging a grave just yet for degrees. I do think we need to find a compromise that will satisfy the needs of industry and that may mean increasing numbers of certificates, online courses, etc.

Hi akmegs! Don't know your name! I appreciate your comment. I'm glad you are pushing your managers to think hard about whether degrees are really required. Most of the time if it's written in the job description it's just never questioned.

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