The fundamental questions for business organizations today will be whether manpower will continue to lag behind requirements or whether management will act to close increasing qualification gaps. Root causes must be addressed. We can trace current failures to two causes – the widely felt decline in the country’s education system and the generally insufficient executive attention to employee education and training.
This article focuses on three underlying issues:
1. Basic education process is not tailored to meet the requirements of business organizations. A common complaint of employers is that universities no longer produce graduates who meet their basic skills requirements. The basic challenge for educators is, therefore, to re-align curriculum to meet current and future skills requirements of the business sectors and to urgently raise the quality of education.
2. Since improving the education system is a long-term process, a long lag time must be expected. The resulting challenge to business organizations will be twofold: first, to quickly fill the qualification gaps in their incumbent employees and second, for new hires to be trained to be effective and efficient on a sustained basis.
There is a risk that business leaders must face. Business organizations have somewhat little choice but to rely on the existing education system, even though the graduates may not entirely meet their requirements. However, most business organizations tend to regard spending for employee training as risky due to the fear of resignation soon after the training to become self-employed or simpy be hired away. Such leakage of the benefits of training weakens the incentive to any firm to undertake it, unless the organization is fairly large or without competitors for the skills for which it gives training. Except for the few large multinational companies and local conglomerates, there appears to be a general lack of management commitment to undertake employee training on the scale required.
3. The overriding issue for business organizations, of course, is to develop a competitive workforce, not only locally but inevitably globally. We must recognize the magnitude of the task since global skill requirements are well beyond the reach of most local businesses today.
The global reach of these issues indicate that solutions require coordinated involvement of government, businessmen, and educators. No single group can do it alone. The solutions will require a range of bold, decisive, and far-reaching approaches. Businessmen should take the initiative. Their first challenge is to bridge the qualification gaps of their own employees through company-sponsored training programs. Executive management should initiate or upgrade existing employee training programs.Employee education and training can be done in-house in large organizations, or through independent training centers which provide specific and specialized technical and management development courses. Large business organization and local conglomerates should intensify efforts to provide their promising staff career training so they can assume increasingly higher level positions. Secondly, business executives can assist to establish programs that move unqualified, unemployed, but eligible workers from unemployment to being qualified workers, such as job training centers and adult literacy programs. Thirdly, business movement is needed to improve existing education system. If a company does not have an active program of collaboration with universities or local school systems, it should investigate opportunities to engage in mutual consultations and cooperation. Government can support post-school education through financial incentives to businesses, possibly including tax concessions, as a means of persuading employers in priority industrial sub-sectors to undertake employee training program. Educators must, in any case, have the greater share of responsibility in the development of real solutions to education problems. But, the magnitude of the task calls for improved partnership between businessmen and educators. Business executives can, for instance, help define what a high-school graduate and a university graduate must know and be able to do after 12 to 17 years in school. Generalizations such as “know the basics” will no longer be sufficient. Specific skills and attributes must be defined. Obviously, business should not be the only contributor to this discussion, but its input will carry weight because it ultimately accepts or rejects the graduates through the employment process. The bottom line is that business should work with educators to create positive and measurable changes in the school system. Business, in fact, should be a demanding partner.
Successful Employee Education and Training
Employee education and training have become a most important driving force to the success of many large companies in highly competitive markets. Global or national competition, a changing workforce, rapid shifts in technology, and defects in the basic education system have all combined to make training an imperative response in order to succeed in the respective industries. Business executives are often skeptical about employees training programs. They naturally want a return on their training investment. If the process of training seems to be failing, the solution is not to impulsively increase the training budget alone. The training department staff should be asked to define the problems, offer solutions, and implement a plan of action to fix the process of training. Too many executives do not know the cost of their employee training, nor do they spend enough time to review their training programs. Executives must know what their company must invest in training and the results expected from the training department. Executives must look at their training budgets before looking at their capital budgets. Most organizations are now beginning to realize that their large budgets for training employees pay for too many unstructured courses. Chances are they will be shocked at how many their employees are not receiving the minimal training required for the company to meet its objectives. Others will be surprised to find out how much money is being spent for “nice to know”, instead of the “need to know” courses.
The Time For Leadership and Commitment Is Now
A major breakthrough to this serious problem will require enlightened leaders with vision of how to build a successful education system. First of all, they must be able to surmount the negativism that will be hurled at them by the skeptics, indeed by the “education experts” who will resist and will eloquently shout that “You cannot change the system. It may not be a perfect system, but this is how education is done. It is different from business. Measurements and performance systems cannot work.” Leaders of change must have the experience and a will to succeed. The best leaders will have managed major changes in their own business enterprises and will work in close partnership with the more open-minded and progressive education leaders who themselves have been advocating change for a number of years but have constantly faced futile been mere voices in the wilderness. These leaders must have a consuming sense of purpose. Long-term commitment will be necessary. They must be able to deal persuasively with people who can help their programs and with those who can hinder their programs. They must be able to cut through non-essential and weak excuses to reach the important decisions essential for change. The people who manage change must not only have visions; they must be able to see the vision and, most importantly, to implement the vision. Clearly, there is a need to raise education to the higher national priority. Business executives, government leaders, and educators have been saying for years that “people are our most important asset”. Confronted by change in the business environment, both the public and private sectors continually face new challenges in establishing and maintaining a motivated, trained and competitive workforce. Pressures from steadily advancing technologies, constantly changing government regulations, and the globalization of markets now affect every aspect of human resource management. We can no longer just pay lip service to addressing this mounting problem.