Should Young Grads Be Tested On 3R’s?

This post summarizes many of my thoughts in response to a Toronto Star article by Louise Brown identifying HEQCO (Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario) is calling for literacy and numeracy [3 R’s], testing for post secondary grads. Click here for that article.

Millennials will soon account for over half of the employment pool so we have to figure this out quickly – and I don’t think University testing is the right solution. I believe organizations can fix most of this problem themselves – and they can do it more quickly, more accurately and economically while building employee loyalty. Do Universities have a role to play? Yes, I suggest their reputation should be based on the soft skills and communication skills of their graduates – just like their reputation is based on their learning programs.

Sure many Millennials have challenges around soft skills and communication skills when they leave University. Sometimes their language styles resemble Snap Chat, Texting and other social media styles. But lets face it, Millennials don’t stand alone, many Gen Xers and Boomers also have sub-optimal communication skills.

Millennials don’t have a problem with teamwork or problem solving as the Toronto Star article suggests; they don’t do it the same way as some Boomers and Gen Xers, and often are better at it.

A Real Challenge

Millennials are only 20 – 30 years old so of course they want different things from their work experience. So when a 28 year old Millennial that recently graduated isn’t motivated the same way a 50+ Boomer is don’t be surprised. And if they don’t want a family until their mid 30’s… we shouldn’t be surprised about that either. Millennials are taking charge of living their life just like Boomers took charge of how they were going to live their life in the 1960’s.

I suggest one of the biggest challenges today is that organizations don’t try to measure soft skills, communication skills and cultural compatibility in a meaningful way when they are interviewing potential hires. Then, they are disappointed when Millennials don’t have the skills they want.

How can a standardized government-lead test evaluate the needs of a corporate position and culture?

Many organizations are already relying far too much on academic grades. How is another ‘grade’ going to help an organization find the right person? It doesn’t seem the HEQCO exam will measure cultural compatibility and soft skills like values, empathy, compassion, managing difficult situations, work ethic, commitment, drive and responsibility. As a corporate trainer and executive coach, these are the gaps I hear cause most of the frustration.

Companies Are Not Really Mentoring Or Training Employees

Many organizations no longer invest in their new employees to teach them writing / office communication skills. With little to no previous work experience, it’s understandable Millennials haven’t learned how to ‘operate’ in an corporate environment… and they never will from school. The next sentence isn’t a criticism – it is an observation. Managers are so busy running around punching messages into their smartphones and running to meetings they don’t have time to mentor new staff well.

I remember my first corporate job 25 years ago (yes, I’m a Boomer). I was deficient in how to navigate a corporate structure. Even though many of my electives were in English literature I also had a poor grasp of how to ‘write’ for a business audience. I do however remember being mentored by my boss and some of my coworkers. The company also supported corporate training and professional development.

Unless you are hiring C-suite level people, I believe organizations need to be prepared to consciously shape their future employees.

Millennials Aren’t Loyal’ Is A Bad Excuse

Lets be clear – loyalty means different things today than it did 40 years ago. Employee loyalty has changed – AND employers are far less loyal to their employees.

If we train them they will leave,” is a poor reason to not invest in your employees. Millennials are going to leave; the question is… when?Millennial Survey Results

If Millennials don’t feel they are contributing, learning something and doing meaningful work, most will leave within 2 years. However, a recent study I conducted demonstrated that most Millennials want to work for one company for a minimum of 5 years but want at least two jobs during that time. That same study confirmed most Millennials expect to change jobs in 2 years. This demonstrates organizations can more than double their employees tenure IF they offer what employees want most… which is little mentoring, training and recognition.

Summary / Solution

I agree with what David Lindsay, president of the Council of Ontario Universities says in the same Toronto Star article. He is quoted as saying, “assessing soft skills could be useful but warned against using one test as a be-all and end-all.

Organizations need to hire people with values, soft skills and communication skills that match their customers needs and the needs of the job… and few are doing this.

Academia needs to take responsibility. I do believe higher education has allowed students to get more relaxed about the 3 R’s. So, fix that! Universities have to pull their standards back up.

Sure – exit and entrance exams could have value, but they should be representative of the quality of student the University is putting out – not the individual student. Make the 3R’s all about the University reputation – the University reputation can be like wine – 2015 was a good year for XYZ University. Lets be careful university exams don’t begin discriminating applicants by basing acceptance on the 3R’s test.

Happy communicating… and hiring… and mentoring… and training.

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About Bruce Mayhew
Bruce Mayhew is a Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker and Corporate Trainer who builds strong client and co-worker relationships that give clients a competitive advantage. Our training and development programs include: ■Generational Differences ■Effective Business Email Writing ■Email Etiquette ■Phone Etiquette ■Behaviour Event Interviewing (BEI) ■Mindfulness ■Using Linkedin to Build Client Relationships ■Objective Setting Made Easy

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