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.