I spent my day at a conference on high school dropout re-engagement at a local college. It was very nice to have been asked to participate on the panel and I liked some of what I heard. The day was thought provoking if not slightly frustrating.

In the US 7000 high school students dropout every day

Are you shocked? I have never brought this up here before because I generally blog about the HR side of my job not the workforce development side. Get ready for a ride with me....... Here's my hypothesis (same as professional 2 cents):

I think the reasons students drop out of school and employees leave jobs are the same.

Employee disengagement & student disengagement have the same root. Employees leave managers and students leave teachers. They are bored, feel disrespected, treated unfairly, unchallenged, patronized, lack rapport and have personality conflicts. Both quit when they have seemingly insurmountable problems with peers or when the environmental drama is overwhelming.

People quit jobs when life gets in the way and they can't figure out how to stop it from interfering with attendance policies, competing with mental and emotional real estate, family obligations, etc. Students have the very same problems. They sometimes have to assume the role of sibling or parental caretaker and income earner. They have abusive families and significant others and they become parents themselves sometimes.

Employees check out on the job and collect the check doing the minimum to get by until they stop showing up physically too... Others are performance managed out. It's the same for many students.

So what's the lesson?

We know that good great companies, the ones with the hot employer brand, the ones people line up for at the career fairs and and try to network with on social media to get an "in" and have a candidate advantage - have great retention, career paths and prestige. They have reputations as innovative, fair, flexible and transparent. They give their employees autonomy and accountability, do employee satisfaction surveys and are prepared to hear the feedback - and act on it. They treat their employees as internal customers.

What if schools did that?

What if the public school model used best practices from exceptional companies in their organizational structure, policies and approach to education? What if it more closely mirrored (not that it does at all right now) corporate training departments? What if high school kids were treated a little more like individual learners and less like herded cattle?

Where are the work plans and clear expectations, team work and goal attainment as an indicator of performance metrics? If students have personal problems shouldn't they have personal LOA or FMLA like plans that wouldn't cause them to be held back?

Does it make sense to have disciplinary action that hurts students by out of school suspension that puts them further behind? Should school employees be allowed to verbally abuse students, belittle and berate them?

Motivation is unique to the individual. That's another thing top employers understand. It's not one size fits all.. shouldn't motivators be assessed, recognized and developed in elementary school? It might be helpful to chart their learning and motivational style in their records. The next teacher that gets them wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel.

Where is the S Sat Q12 survey? What forum or vehicle do students really have to provide feedback about their experience? Where's the 360? Report cards are a one dimensional performance review.

We all hate supervisors and systems that operate like that... They never make employer of choice lists..

What's your take?


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