Page 15

T&D_APRIL2017

That often meant significant on-the-job training that could be less than effective at times and ate into the productive hours of another employee. Each year, only about 20 percent of degrees conferred in the U.S. are business related. But it’s safe to say that nearly 100 percent of graduates will end up earning a paycheck doing something that requires business acumen. Whether in a for-profit or non-profit organization, finance, accounting, management, leadership, marketing and strategy will play a significant part in the day-to-day operations of virtually any entity. Unfortunately, besides the on-the-job training, giving hires the opportunity to gain further knowledge in a given discipline required sending them off somewhere at great expense for a professional development event, asking them to get degrees that were more of a shotgun solution instead of a rifle one, or telling them to fend for themselves. None of these approaches led to great outcomes and in the end the employer and the employee were left equally frustrated about how best to help the company and the individual thrive. This is not an esoteric concern. As noted here, last year 41 percent of employers had jobs that stayed open twelve weeks or longer and the average cost of an extended vacancy was $14,000. The long duration for the average opening suggests that the labor pool is not as prepared as it could be and so solving the “skills gap” problem has real economic benefits. Conversations addressing the challenge of closing the gap in business have changed substantially in just the last five years with the advent of ubiquitous, low-cost online options. But there is much that still has to be worked out before we can be confident that this new channel and method of education delivery will be the holy grail of what I once heard described as “just-in-time” learning (a single, discreet course meant to confer a particular skill) versus “just-in-case” learning (manifested in the traditional degree which has a “whole person” element to it). I believe that there will continue to be a place in the world for both options: the skills-focused, shorter online program and the multiyear, in-residence (and online) degree. But the question managers and HR professionals need to ask themselves is what instrument is right for what job. In general, this question is easier to answer in the realm of technology hires. Companies like Google have been clear about their bias toward skills vs. general education (see here). But it’s relatively easy to assess a candidate’s ability to, for example, code in Python, a programming language. On the other hand, when it comes to general management, leadership, and business skills, this can be a bit trickier. One reason is the inter-relatedness of many business disciplines. Accounting by itself is good to know, but it’s much more beneficial if the bearer of the knowledge also has some understanding of finance and operations. And when it comes to softer skills like “management” and “leadership,” the task is even harder. Often, possession of these traits is signaled to an employer through a combination of formal education and success in driving results in a previous role, not solely from some competency-based testing. So where does that leave us when trying to determine if a candidate’s nontraditional educational experiences in the online world has value to an employer? There are a few things to look for. 1. Did the candidate complete the program? Listing an online course on a resume does not necessarily mean the interviewee went through the complete curriculum. In fact, given less than 10 percent of students enrolled in a typical online program complete their course of study, it’s likely that the candidate did not finish. 2. Did the candidate pay for the course? The data shows that completion rates go up substantially when a student pays for the experience. 3. Was the program one that focused on real-world application? A savvy interviewer could determine this before meeting with a candidate; most online courses have detailed descriptions available on the Internet and spending a little time determining whether the offering has a structure that allows the learner to think holistically and apply what they’ve learned immediately can be very beneficial. At HBX, we’ve seen very high completion rates (between 80 and 90 percent) by making programs based on real-world case studies that students report are exceptionally engaging and have rigor. We also charge admitted students so that they have the proverbial “skin in the game.” We felt that doing these things was important so as to signal to employers that those who completed one of our programs did something of value and would be able to make an impact immediately. I’m biased of course, but think that this is the right strategy if online programs are to gain more traction in the marketplace. With the market for new digital offerings as crowded and confusing as it is, I expect that there will ultimately be a shakeout that helps to distinguish programs with rigor and those made for “tourists.” In this regard, the online world will end up like the brick-and-mortar one: several programs will rise to the top by conferring skills to students that actually matter in the workforce. Others will be seen as places to go for the “joy of learning.” In this future, it’s likely there will also be some standardization around the meaning of a credential, certificate, micro-masters or any other sort of packaging that comes along. This will probably happen through an accreditation body. This method of standardization through accreditation has worked well for the traditional university, allowing consistency in what it meant to hold a bachelor’s degree, for example, and I suspect it will do the same for online offerings. Some may fight this sort of standardization, but I firmly believe that it will actually drive growth in the online space as more are able to justifiably claim that their programs meet learning objectives and employers then become comfortable with alternative educational experiences. In the meantime, the online business education space will continue to be a noisy, crowded, and confusing one. But this is the sort of creative spasm that ultimately leads to revolutions and I have little doubt that we are seeing the beginning of one related to how we educate business leaders. That said, there is some sorting out that still has to happen. In the meantime, when it comes to evaluating the value of an online business education program, HR professionals should take an approach stolen from the playbook of diplomats: trust, but verify. T&D What Employers Need To Know About Online Business Education Patrick Mullane is the Executive Director of HBX. He brings over 20 years of management experience across several industries to the position. As Executive Director, he is responsible for managing HBX’s growth, expansion in global markets, and long-term success. Connect Patrick Mullane Follow @Mullanetwit Visit www.hbs.edu Would you like to comment? Training and Development Excellence Essentials presented by HR.com | 04.2017 Submit your Articles 15


T&D_APRIL2017
To see the actual publication please follow the link above