Education—The key to business innovation and quality
We've all heard the adage, "The best things in life are free." Although it might apply to some things, it simply isn't true in business and commerce. Getting anything worthwhile in business requires an investment, whether it's time, money, personal effort or all three. It also requires an understanding of what it takes to be successful; in other words, it takes an investment in knowledge.
I'm a lifelong learner and I encourage the people in my life to educate themselves to improve their lives. In fact, my wife has returned to school and is earning her Bachelor's of Communications.
As a manager, I believe in empowering employees so they contribute to the health of the corporation. One of the best ways to instill confidence and skill is through education. When you evaluate the obstacles, usually the problems are in the process, not the people—especially if your people are knowledgeable.
Encourage innovation with education
There are many benefits to having employees who are educated. Knowledge helps them create a foundation from which to operate. In day-to-day functions, it may be difficult to stay true to the goals of an organization and make good decisions when you're working in the moment. But, if you're educated, you may have the skills to prevent an expensive or time-consuming error.
Our global economy is changing at warp speed—and our work force must be prepared to meet the challenges of learning to navigate a completely different set of rules that will govern the industry of tomorrow. Although no one can predict the future, you can be prepared for a variety of likely scenarios if your education addresses real business applications.
That's one of the reasons why I love the education I received at University of Phoenix—because it was applicable to my business career. I disrupted my college studies when I got a job loading trucks for an international shipping and distribution company. I was promoted to a supervisor of pre-loading—but the schedule was tough and moving up would be difficult, especially with no formal education. The job selections were limited because managerial positions required a degree. I wasn't sure where my studies would lead, but I was certain that I wanted options that would further my personal and professional development.
I was fortunate to have a managerial mentor who suggested I go back to school and learn business skills that would help me be a better candidate for promotion. I had further incentive to return to school because my company also had a tuition assistance program. In 2000, I earned my bachelor's degree at University of Phoenix.
I really enjoyed the practical application of knowledge from my education. The instructors brought their work experience to the classroom, and the group assignments and team applications mirrored real life experience, so it applied to my work.
Gain new perspectives and opportunities
My education offered me views of the world that I didn't have previously when I was a pre-load supervisor. Even the courses that I didn't believe would apply to my work gave me a platform of knowledge that allowed me to explore different ideas and expand my world view.
In my unique career path, I was promoted to several managerial positions, including customer care, and was selected to be a key participant in my company's new e-commerce initiative. Afterward, I was offered an opportunity to open a department that would utilize a new international direct-trade model. Then, I received a promotion to Sales Director over a sales region.
In 2001, another mentor encouraged me to return to school and get my master's degree. After completing my Master of Arts in Organizational Behavior, I considered going for my doctorate, but decided that I can give back and continue my educational journey as an instructor for . I currently instruct in the University of Phoenix School of Business, and my career path continues to expand and offer new challenges. My favorite subject to teach and study is Quality Management and Productivity. I love the fundamental principles and concepts of quality management, particularly the approach and theory behind it. The curriculum that I teach at takes a Dr. Deming approach to managing a quality internal corporation, with systems that create a layer of knowledge to help guide an organization.
Today, I am director of a consultative arm that works very closely with our customers to improve their profits. We go into large organizations and evaluate their supply chain from start to finish, leveraging transportation tools. We'll also tap into our intellectual capital in my company's engineering and technology departments.
As an example, we might work with a large organization who wants to create a footprint in . We'll analyze their market and give them information to optimize their transportation network and integrate outstanding service into this new market. We look at financials and how to best drive profitability.
None of this would have happened for me if I hadn't continued my educational journey. It gave me that foundation of knowledge that allowed me to innovate, grow and be part of many new initiatives for my company.
I loved my master's degree program at University of Phoenix. Everything that I learned at that level of education was directly applicable to my work and the opportunities that were presented to me along the way. And, all of the coursework was interesting to me.
So, it's thankfully been an interesting journey. But, without the mentors who encouraged me to continue my education, a company that provided educational incentives and an institution of higher learning that provided a flexible format for me to earn my degrees, I might still be on that loading dock.
Look around your organization—which one of your employees has untapped potential to lead your organization into profitable innovation and continuous growth? It might even be you. Educate yourself and your work force and forge the direction of your future.
This article originally appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, UOPX Campus Viewpoints section. To review our current faculty articles, visit:https://chronicle.com/campusViewpoint/University-of-Phoenix/29/.