Image Credit: <selfmadescholar.com

Image Credit: <selfmadescholar.com>

…So this morning I was reading a post from compensation expert Jacque Vilet on the difference between just-in-time versus just-in-case learning:

Just-in-case learning is that which we receive well in advance of the point we will have any practical use for it (think a gen-ed Polish history course). Conversely, just-in-time learning is that which we receive in preparation for immediately adding value in a role (i.e. getting a PhD in statistics, learning python and then stepping into a quantitative analytics position somewhere). The author argues that most non-technical 4 year degrees are just-in-case learning, and that the knowledge students in said programs gain during this time is not needed to perform the majority of jobs that they take upon graduating. This is a great piece, and you can read it here.

On the one hand, the author is right. The majority of jobs don’t require college educations. And to that point there are lots of really smart people capable of doing jobs that companies are (presently) exclusively hiring college graduates for. 

So why are we hiring so many college graduates?

Part of this phenomenon can be attributed to the fact that people possessing attributes commonly correlated with strong performance in the workplace self select into institutions of higher learning. If one is intellectually curious, an agile learner, self-directed, and/or achievement orientated then college is a logical step coming out of mid-adolescence.

…So to an extent, we find most of our talent pool in colleges because – controlling for cultural legacy and socioeconomic factors – that’s where most of the brightest, high performing people go.

But not all of them.

I suspect (know, actually) that there is a lot of great talent that many organizations don’t consider because they don’t have 4-year degrees. College grads occupy most decision maker positions, and they hire people like them. And so access to great jobs becomes a closed network available only to those with the right pedigree.

Unfortunately, this means that as a society we’re doing a very sub-optimal job of identifying top talent across the potential labor pool.

I would submit that as HR pros and hiring managers we need to go deeper, looking past the superficial and focusing on capabilities instead of credentials. In the process, we can help our organizations gain a competitive advantage over the rest of the market by identifying a deep talent pool of people that society is perhaps overlooking. And by helping those people to realize their collective potential, we’ll not only improve society but also enhance the diversity of our teams – which ultimately leads to greater productivity.

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.