MNC Consulting Group Newsletter
June 2015
Essential Skills

 

In 1959, Peter Drucker said that the knowledge worker will be "the most valuable asset of a 21st Century institution, whether business or non-business."

 

Drucker was correct. The vast majority of work in the 21st Century is knowledge work. In fact, over 88 percent of employees are in this type of work. However, Drucker had no way of knowing that today's knowledge worker would be lacking in fundamental proficiency.

 

A recent report by the Canada West Foundation indicates that "40 percent of employees could perform better if they improved on basic skills like math, reading and writing."

 

Janet Lane, coauthor of the report further states: "We are probably missing out on some major productivity gains that could be realized if people didn't have to take so much time to work out things, if people didn't have to do things over."

 

While the report found that essential skills are missing in those that did not finish high school, it also found that 30 percent of university graduates are lacking critical job skills.

 

These findings are not only surprising, but they should be raising serious concerns among educational institutions, especially universities. Churning out graduates that do not meet the "fitness-for-use" test in the marketplace is a blemish on the conferring institution. If your graduate does not have the necessary job skills, why are they getting their degree?

 

Educational institutions should stand to account for their 30 percent of under-qualified graduates - these same graduates that comprise a major part of the workforce.

 

While there are many ways to improve productivity, there is only one way to gain essential skills and that is through education.

 

If your organization is suffering from low productivity, conduct a job skills analysis to determine what skills are required in specific jobs. Then, determine if your employees have the requisite skills. If they don't, provide your employees with training to bring their skills in line with the job requirements. This is much less costly than going through a new hiring process.  

Technology's Curse

 

While technology seems to be the "be-all and end-all" for anything that ails, technology is actually not helping the newer generations.

 

Using a computer to get answers to math questions or using spellcheck to correct grammar is not learning. Learning requires one to use their brain/intellect, not computers, to solve basic problems.

 

Until about the 1970s, children solved math problems in longhand, wrote essays without a spellchecker and read books that did not come in a Kindle or iPad. Today, with computer power in the palm of a hand, students can easily get answers to any problem. No need for brain power if the computer can do it for you!

 

Employees can also easily find answers using computers. However, to look up a correct answer requires that the employee is aware that they don't know the answer in the first place. Can't read a word? Ask Siri. Can't put together a grammatically correct sentence? That's a whole other problem.

 

While some may argue that computers are aids to help find answers, they are aids only if the individual is aware that they had incorrect answers in the first place.

 

And therein the problem lies - those without essential skills likely are not aware that they are lacking essential skills.

 

According to The Atlantic, technology's primary effect is to amplify human forces. For instance, in education, technologies amplify whatever pedagogical capacity is already there. In other words, individuals need the basic foundational pieces - reading, writing, and arithmetic - before computers can help improve skills.

 

Basic skills, not computers, are the building blocks to success in both life and career. Society's over-reliance on computers may indeed be creating a world of dummies.

 

In My Humble Opinion (IMHO)
I'm a child of the sixties. Grade school smelled of paper, pencils, crayons, and teachers. There was the clanking of typewriters and fear of straps. We saw teachers as demi-gods and we worked and studied hard to learn everything that was assigned. We never complained about too much to do. We memorized chunks of textbooks and tried to ace all of our tests. We accepted the mark that we got. We played outside a lot. The good old days? Maybe. I'm sad for today's generations because they won't ever get that experience - they are over-doted, over-protected, and confined to screens and keyboards indoors. Some also feel entitled. When they get a poor grade on an assignment, they complain to the teacher, without considering that their work is flawed. They expect to pass all of their courses - whether or not they deserve it. Our education system needs to push the reset button. IMHO.
 

"The foundation of every state is the education of its youth."

- Diogenes Laertius

 

About MNC Consulting Group
Our goal is to help you to dramatically increase efficiencies that immediately boost your profit margins.

 

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Extreme Profits is a monthly electronic newsletter discussing how leaders can be more efficient and areas where organizations can save more money. 

 

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