Education or experience — Which is better?
The general consensus is that attaining higher education presents one with more employment opportunities. Consequently, the more advanced the accreditation achieved, the more a candidate will have his or her pick of attractive positions. While this is mostly true, there are numerous cases of college dropouts leading Fortune 500 companies. The irony of it all is that often, less academically qualified individuals are the ones hiring personnel with master’s degrees and doctorates, which gives rise to the question: Which is more important, education or know-how? The reality is that HR practitioners can attest that a healthy balance of qualification and experience is ideal; but which one is more likely to get you that job?
The catch-22 of that overused word ‘experience’ is that you have to first be employed to gain it. Therefore, if as an academically qualified candidate your Achilles heel is your lack of actual, on-the-job experience, potential employers are going to have reservations about whether you can hit the ground running or will need time to match your theoretical knowledge with real world applications. Employers of choice unanimously seem to favour candidates with a ‘high ceiling’ or upside, that is to say, those with great potential and with most of the right qualities and qualifications, as opposed to those who are experienced but might have already passed their professional peak. This is where HR professionals and CEOs have an opportunity to create the environment for their employees to be continuously learning. By facilitating higher education and training opportunities, staff members not only become more competent at their jobs but tend to feel a sense of loyalty to the company. Inevitably though, while organisations should in their own self-interest and that of their employees seek to encourage skills and competency upgrades, the bulk of the responsibility lies with the individual if in fact they are serious about climbing the corporate ladder.
Moving On Up
It then becomes a matter of who most applies him/herself in all the ways that affect the company’s core targets and objectives. This means that some objectives may have different benchmarks than others. So, while a sales associate will be revenue driven, someone in quality control may be assessed based on how few complaints are recorded. The new approach to leadership now requires managers to always be in succession planning mode, constantly testing and preparing their charges to become upwardly mobile within the organisation. This paradigm dictates that any leader who isn’t hiring team members who can or will replace them are either stuck in the old ways or out of touch with what is required to make a business successful and sustainable in the long run. Recruiters and HR partner companies are recognising that organisations with a clear path to promotion opportunities and transparency, where documented cases of the company filling management positions from within the organisation are evident, those companies lead the way in attracting the best, brightest and more experienced candidates. But make no bones about it, one way or another, the rules of engagement must be learned and strategically applied if the office mail delivery person is to one day occupy the CEO’s chair.