A College Degree Doesn’t Guarantee Employee Engagement

We all want employees who are willing to go the extra mile.

Are you one of those employers who is seeking to fill your positions with college-degreed candidates? Seven in ten Americans currently believe that a college education is necessary to succeed in life. However, if you’re looking for a high level of employee engagement to improve your company’s bottom line, you may want to reconsider your stance on this issue!

First of all, let’s refresh our recollection of what constitutes employee engagement: It’s more than simple job satisfaction. Employee engagement is what happens when employees feel connected to their work and their company to the extent that they’re willing to give discretionary effort.

Gallup research shows that while keeping employees happy or satisfied is a worthy goal that can help build a more positive workplace, simply measuring workers’ satisfaction or happiness levels
 is insufficient to create sustainable change, retain top performers, and positively affect the bottom line. Satisfied or happy employees are not necessarily engaged employees. Engaged employees have well-defined roles in the organization, make strong contributions, are actively connected to their larger team and organization, and are continuously progressing.

In a Gallup poll conducted between 2010 and 2012, analysts found that just because a person has a college degree doesn’t guarantee that he or she will be more engaged and find more satisfaction emotionally at work. In fact, the poll found that people who had received a high school diploma or less are actually slightly more likely to be engaged in their work. And the study showed that the higher the level of education, the higher the percentage of people who fell into the “not engaged” category. (The poll listed three categories: Engaged, Not Engaged, and Actively Disengaged.)

While it’s not known for sure why this might be the case, Gallup’s analysts conjecture that people who have spent the time, effort, and money to acquire a degree have higher expectations for their managers and workplaces, expectations that may often go unmet. For instance, many degreed employees believe that a college degree is important in order to earn more money, yet this doesn’t always turn out to be the case. On the other hand, it could be that those employees without a college degree who are more engaged are just grateful to have a job at all, given the high unemployment rates.

Of course, there are many possible factors such as a poor culture fit, lack of skills, training, or tools, or mismanagement that could contribute to lower employee engagement. Before rushing to judgment about the cause of low engagement, it’s wise to conduct a gap analysis. But if Gallup’s statistics are correct, when you’re hiring, it’s still best to screen candidates for the three Cs (Character, Competence, and Cultural fit) rather than just select the first college-degreed candidate you see.

Are first impressions reliable? Read this before interviewing your next candidate.

By Marcianne Kuethen

Amtec Bitz Newsletters

Essential industry highlights & expert insights every month.

Latest Posts

View all posts