Re-Evaluating Your Entry Level HR Strategies: State of Education
By Al Berrios (contact Al Berrios)

(Editorial Note: This Report was modified in Feb. 19, 2004 from a single paragraph into this easier to read and print format.)

In the last of our 4-part analysis on entry-/retail-level HR practices, we will review the most fundamental problem with the workforce of today and tomorrow: their education.

"On January 8, 2002, President Bush signed into law No Child Left Behind, the reauthorized version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). According to the president, this landmark piece of legislation 'will ensure that no child in America is left behind through historic education reforms based on real accountability, unprecedented flexibility for states and school districts, greater local control, more options for parents, and more funding for what works.'" What it basically does is transform school districts into businesses, with permission to do everything from compete for the best teachers to sell their allocated broadcast spectrum for funding. This works well for affluent communities, but what about rural and urban areas with fewer resources to support an ideal educational environment?

During the fall semester in 2002, I taught k-12 at multiple public schools in my local district. It was disturbing to talk to teachers that typically assigned busy-work to kill time in between paychecks, 4th graders that couldn't read in English, and high schoolers in their 20s.

Teacher unions that control the nation's curriculum appear to be anti-learning and I often spent more time discussing music, video games, and wireless texting the English language incorrectly just to get their attention.

In this short-attention-span, learning-ain't-cool, indoctrination-not-teaching, kids-of-kids, peer-manipulated environment, children aren't the only ones that lose. As employers, you lose, too. (Editorial: In my particular situation, I found it further discouraging that teachers don't take the time to use real world examples to demonstrate to students that there are other professions outside of singing and athletics.)

The state of this system is endemic of many cities, and should concern you as they enter your workforce and governments. Fixing it shouldn't simply be a matter of throwing money at it, but fundamental changes in what is taught and why, how it's taught, how learning is gauged, and obviously, who does the teaching. (Good luck, Mr. Welch.)

Let's assume though that the system works the way it's supposed to, and more students graduate and move on to college, now they have to deal with the extraordinary cost of paying for higher education. Most make it and drop out mid-way. Most don't make it at all because their families aren't rich enough to donate huge gifts that guarantee admission and are not poor enough to qualify for financial assistance. And with unemployment reaching 6% and national hourly wages unchanged in over 10 years, parents find it increasingly easy to not send their kids to college.

Colleges depend on government subsidies, gifts, tuition, corporate sponsorships and sales for their $300 million per in average revenues. Without it, they wouldn't be able to attract the best professors or facilities. However, all the pricey technology in the world doesn't matter when a student cannot pay for using it.

The bottom line is that most U.S. children fail to become effective members of society (and most times, it's not even their fault). This may appear like a very general statement, but only 26.1% of persons 25 years old and over attained a bachelor's degree or more in 2000, according to the Census Bureau. This statistic holds up in entry-level employee interviews and offline focus groups conducted by al berrios & co.

However, there is an interesting quality among well-trained workers without higher education: job enjoyment. When asked about their job satisfaction, 100% of well-trained workers like their job. But when asked about future prospects, 80% are not sure. Both statistics decrease when the employee is pursuing higher education.

At young women's retailer, Forever 21, a store manager who is also in college, has plans to leave her position within the next five years. She believes education and training for her staff is important, "I personally feel that training (in a hourly wage environment) is important because that makes an associate feel as they're part of a team, contributing to store performance." And there is a clear difference among pay-per-performance employees and wage-employees in how they service customers.

At a commission-paying Radio Shack, I encountered an incredibly rude store manager upon requesting some time for an interview. Although my request may have taken up valuable time to help a customer, this particular store manager was moving boxes around on the sales floor. (Editorial: Since discussing company policy is typically forbidden, I made it clear I was only interested in his opinions as a store manager). As I explored in part 2 of this series, the store manager is essential in setting the tone for customer service, and at Radio Shack, if you're not a paying customer, they don't have answers. Consequently, Radio Shack's stock performance has consistently under performed next to non-commission based retailers over the last 52 weeks.

Bottom Line

The level of education achieved and age is inversely related to the enjoyment of work at entry-level. And the level of employee enjoyment of their work is directly related to the value consumers associate with your brand.

Recently, I asked professor of HR Management, John Lynch, at Baruch College Zicklin School of Business his thoughts on motivating blue-collar employees. Basing his comments on his experience as an attorney, he believed motivation is something that comes from within and could not be controlled by company executives. al berrios & co. Analysis of Entry-/Retail-Level HR Practices during the last four weeks has clearly demonstrated otherwise. Happy employees are not necessarily the best paid or the most educated. They are those with a clear conception of their contribution to the firm and a strong sense of empowerment as a result of the firm's commitment to keeping them satisfied with the firm through training and team-building duties. And the results of these hr practices always increase consumer and shareholder returns.

<< Love Your Customers? Then Love Your Service Reps
<< Re-Evaluating Your Entry Level HR Strategies
<< Re-Evaluating Your Entry Level HR Strategy: II
<< Re-Evaluating Your Entry Level HR Strategies: Unions & EEOC

<< Analysis of Toy Industry's Survival
>> Practicality vs. Requirements: What Should We Teach Our Kids
<< A Case for Skipping Grad School

For an assessment of your firm's entry-/retail-level HR practices and whether or not they're contributing to your bottom line, visit our Organizational Behavior Service or contact Al Berrios.

> "No Child Gets Left Behind" Act
> Rural schools at a disadvantage in the current education-reform climate
> MEAP gives schools headache
> The union that killed education
> Study: Medical consent forms confusing
> An United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development study says education key to growth
> More Students Line Up at Financial Aid Office
> Don't waste your money on an expensive college
> Student suspensions leap in state
> Circuit City takes e-learning up the ladder


Disclaimer: The recommendations, commentary and opinions published herein are based on public information sometimes referenced via hyperlinks. Any similarities or likeness to any ideas or commentary from any other sources not referenced is purely coincidental. al berrios & co. cannot control any results occurring from advice obtained from this publication nor any opinion(s) conveyed by any reader of this publication.

(c) 2001-2005. All Rights Reserved. al berrios & company, inc. Published by al berrios & co. This Report may not be reproduced or redistributed in any form without written permission from al berrios & co., subject to penalty.