University of Phoenix Study Reveals Employees Lack the Skills Needed to Succeed


Even though people are still stressed and strapped for money after two years of the pandemic, they remain optimistic and hopeful about the future of their careers.

That’s a key finding from the University of Phoenix’s just-released 2022 Career Optimism Index. The University of Phoenix surveyed 5,000 American adults who are currently working or want to work, as well as 500 American employers, between December 2021 and January 2022.

According to the report, four in five Americans (81%) are optimistic about the future of their careers, up 3% from last year. Employees feel they have more opportunities than last year: 75% of them say they are satisfied with the job opportunities available to them (compared to 63% last year).

But they are not necessarily optimistic about their current job. In fact, more than half (52%) are actively looking for a new job or plan to look for one in the next six months. Nearly one in three (28%) say they would leave their current job without finding another.

The research found some pretty significant perception gaps between employees and their bosses. And it is in these gaps that we can find good news for employers. Because whenever there is a gap, we can take action to close it and eventually create positive change.

I’m going to focus on this gap in particular: you probably think you’re providing employees with great upskilling and retraining opportunities. But your employees disagree.

Your upskilling and retraining opportunities are either non-existent or simply unknown to an employee base eager to learn and do more. It’s also possible that your systems don’t allow or facilitate employee recognition or visibility for the new skills they develop on their own.

Your lack of upskilling and retraining is hurting employee engagement and retention

While 82% of employers say they offer full or partial financial support for additional education or training, only 44% of U.S. employees believe their employer offers this, according to the report. Also:

  • Four in 10 Americans don’t see a clear path forward in their careers.
  • Workers are much less likely than employers to believe they have the right tools to succeed: 92% of employers think so, while 77% of workers agree.
  • Almost a third of Americans (29%) are not optimistic about the possibilities of learning new skills in their careers.
  • Employers View Workers as More Autonomous Than They Really Think: 91% of employers believe their employees are autonomous in their current jobs, while 78% of U.S. employees feel empowered.

Here is your opportunity:

  • About two-thirds of employed Americans say they would be more likely to stay if their company did more to upskill and retrain them.

It’s a powerful way to improve employee engagement and retention.

“People know they need to learn more skills, and they don’t know how to go about it,” said John Woods, provost and director of studies at the University of Phoenix. “They say they need to be aware of, to have access to, and to be supported in development opportunities. Employers think they provide it. Employees think they don’t understand.

I had two conversations with Woods. One is publicly available via the Personalization Outbreak podcast, and the second was a more recent interview to discuss this new report.

He told me that during his own graduate studies, he developed a passion for making higher education a better choice for working adults. He wants to help adult learners enter and through college, and use college as a way to improve their skills and change the trajectory of their lives and careers.

“People expect flexibility, mentorship, opportunity and support for development — and more than ever, they’re drawing hard lines and not accepting their situation,” Woods said. “They’re looking at the position they’re in and whether the organization they’re working with can do those things for them. People look much more critically at the support they receive from their employer.

The University of Phoenix does some cool things to make it easier for working adults to learn and to help them share those new skills with current or potential employers. They provide digital credentials in the form of digital degrees and badges, which help people communicate their achievements and career goals and tell the story of their academic journeys.

Woods said people come to school with the idea that they will get a better job when they finish school. But why wait?

“People want multiple better jobs as they progress through school,” Woods said. “It really guided our thinking [to examine] all courses in all programs to label them for all technical and soft skills you learn in a program. We can communicate this to you in a skills dashboard. In turn, you can communicate this to your employer or to your potential new employer. »

He said skills can be rendered as badges to show what the student has done in hands-on learning assignments. It helps students communicate what they’ve learned, and it helps the University of Phoenix be able to confidently say to an employer: We can help you get this job with someone who is learning these skills.

“It stems from a desire to make individual workers more satisfied and employers more responsive to workers’ needs,” Woods said. “And, so that we can be a bridge to help both sides understand each other better.”

Help people learn and help them share what they learn

“The studies are pretty clear that people with degrees have significantly higher lifetime earnings than people without degrees, but the dynamic we’ve created hopefully allows people to progress not just at the end, but in the process. road,” Woods said.

Here’s what it would look like: Let’s say I’m a student at the University of Phoenix. I learn new skills and I can show off those skills through badges that verify them. My boss can see how I’m doing. I get a promotion. I continue, I learn more skills. My boss sees my progress and I get another promotion. Finally, I finish my degree. But I didn’t have to wait until this day to start reaping the rewards of my learning journey.

Woods said he used skills, taxonomies and frameworks to be able to assess strengths and gaps when someone steps into a new role. He said it helps people see that “they already have these skills to draw on, and they will have these deficits. This could lead to much more personalized training and development, and much faster and more affordable ways to prepare someone to succeed in a different role. The worker is more satisfied. Employers will be more satisfied.

This addresses one of the biggest obstacles to developing leaders who know how to drive employee engagement and retention: we don’t know how to adapt the way we view people beyond our initial impressions or beyond of their current title or role. We have to learn to let people evolve and let our ideas about what they can contribute evolve. It’s an aspect of what I call releasing individuality.

Give your employees the opportunity to grow, make sure they know there’s room to grow, and give them ways to share in their growth – and then they could stay and grow with you.

Pre-order my new book, Unleashing Individuality: The Leadership Skill That Unlocks All Others.


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