Impact Stories
April 11, 2024 – Future of Work

Michael Horn: The principles driving the future of work

Michael Horn: The principles driving the future of work

Michael Horn is one of the nation’s leading thinkers examining how learning and work need to evolve to create a system that benefits both organizations and the people who work for them. His podcast, “The Future of Education,” examines how employers, educators, learners, and solution providers can work together to achieve that goal.

In a series of episodes supported by the Charles Koch Foundation (CKF), Horn discusses the principles that should drive this vision of the future of work.

Openness: why employers should embrace alternative learning models

The current system is not working for all people, explains CKF Executive Director Ryan Stowers in one episode. Focusing on seat time and credit hours does not help people unlock their natural skills or identify a career they will find fulfilling. This failure is not just a problem for workers. For employers, it diminishes engagement at work and innovation.

While postsecondary educators must change how they prepare people for the workforce, employers also must be open to changing their mindset. Specifically, executives and hiring managers who are open to workers who have accumulated skills outside of the traditional college and university system will see tremendous value in return.

“Companies have relied on the proxy of degrees as telling them, for instance, what person they are finding in the marketplace and how that person is going to add value to their enterprise,” says Stowers. “There is a way to understand aptitudes and mindset and gain skills and knowledge … that has the ability to give a company a competitive advantage.”

The answers “are there,” Stowers says, and include innovative financing options, new types of learning providers and credentialing platforms, and organizations that help companies access untapped talent pools. Employers just need to be open to them.

Dignity: employers win when they believe each person can contribute

Chicago-based Cara Collective helps employers broaden their hiring mindset. The organization is built on openness and the belief that there is incredible untapped potential of individuals living in underserved communities. The nonprofit helps employers expand their talent pool and change their mindset about hiring people struggling with poverty and homelessness.

But there is another principle at play in the Cara Collective model too: dignity. President and CEO Kathleen St. Louis Caliento tells Horn that Cara Collective helps people “find themselves, and then find jobs.”

“We often think about that dignity of choice in a job and what that does to someone’s confidence and their ability to say, ‘maybe I can go for that next thing now,’” she continues. “That pride in creating your own path, in creating your career, creates that ripple effect in your family, in your community. You inspire others.”

The model works for both job seekers and employers. “We know companies miss out on thousands of motivated jobs seekers and employees,” St. Louis Caliento says. “Losing this kind of talent costs companies millions of dollars annually. But these are fixable problems.”

Cara Collective trains and supports job seekers to perfect competencies like teamwork, time management, professionalism, conflict resolution, and communication. Once participants have completed training, the organization works with more than 70 employment partners to find the right job for each person. While the average national retention rate is less than 50 percent one year after hire, for Cara Collective participants it is 65 to 70 percent. (Read about Cara Collective’s success with one employer here.)

Mutual benefit: creating lasting value for workers and employers

The goal of postsecondary education is to prepare learners for fulfilling opportunities in the workforce. But, as Cara Collective’s St. Louis Caliento articulates, there is another postsecondary education end user: employers. 

Innovative institutions like Western Governors University (WGU) are creating models that benefit both. In an episode with WGU President Scott Pulsipher, Horn dives deeper into how both learners and employers would benefit from new ideas surrounding learning and work. 

WGU is the country’s largest online competency-based college. It serves learners by aligning its education programs with the needs of employers. “We’re always making sure how we articulate the learning outcomes are relevant to the world of work in which our graduates are entering into,” says Pulsipher.

Specifically, WGU informs its curricula and instruction with insight from subject-matter experts and industry partners. It also powers continuous improvement by measuring students’ and employers’ satisfaction and by incubating new tools designed to build better connections between these two groups.

“When you are enabling an individual to have all the skills and competencies needed to access an opportunity, it’s the very skills that employers need to meet the talent for their workforce to advance their processes and practices and products into the future,” Pulsipher says. “There’s incredible alignment of the interests there … in serving the individuals first, you ultimately serve employers.”

Stay tuned for future Michael Horn podcasts supported by the Charles Koch Foundation. Learn more about CKF’s vision of the Future of Work here.