Impact on Employers

If the digital environment we are entering is disruptive to colleges and confusing to learners, it poses equal challenges and opportunities to employers. Historically, a college degree and a resume were the documents that employers looked at when screening potential candidates for a position. But both are proxies for the eligibility and “fit” between a person, a job, and the culture of the receiving organization. In reality, after reviewing the documents and interviewing the candidate, the HR department and supervisor would make an educated guess about the best candidate, in many cases relying on informal data and information, and hope for the best.

Now, however, there are seismic shifts in the employment environment, including the following three examples:

  • Increasing numbers of employers indicate that the college through which the degree was offered is less important than the person’s behavior, skills, and abilities.
  • We have the ability to analyze a person’s resume, transcript, or a specific job description for actual knowledge, skills, and abilities possessed or required, not just as an academic or experiential record. This ability to “curate” a person’s profile in multiple dimensions gives more and more valuable information to the employer.
  • Gallup and other organizations have developed behavioral assessments that inform how a person approaches situations and processes information, creating a more empirical approach to evaluating a candidate’s “fit.”

These developments put enormous pressure on the college transcript to do more than report courses, majors, and degrees. At Kaplan University, as one example, course descriptions and evaluations go beyond the learning outcomes related to the course title. They also “matrix” through each set of course outcomes both General Education outcomes and professional attributes. So the “academic” record will soon include direct assessments of cross-cutting intellectual skills as well as information on behaviors pertinent to success in the field.

As a result, employers have far greater access to a lot more information about both the jobs they are advertising and the candidates who are seeking those jobs (See the first bullet above). But moving beyond a reliance on the “proxy” that a particular college, degree, and major represents will require change and courage in the workplace. For example, if it turns out that a job candidate without a degree has the right combination of talents and is the best candidate, will s/he be hired or will the employer default to tradition? Or if a candidate from a less prestigious college has a profile more highly aligned with a job’s requirements than a candidate from a more prestigious college, who will get the offer?

We are entering an age when the transparency available to see “through” the proxy documents to the facts and data that they and their holder represent will erode traditional hiring decision-making and put similar pressure on licensure requirements and standards. Transparency in the digital dimension is more than being open. It also includes “seeing through” to better data and information that inform more accurate selections. Stay tuned for more on the power of transparency through data and analysis later on.

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