Many parents dream of having their children finish college. They endure hours of preparation and waiting for that brief few seconds when their child goes onstage and receives their diploma, and takes a bow.
That precious diploma — in many families it is a relic of pride, often laminated or framed and hung on a wall. It supposedly certifies a person’s competence and qualification for a job in their field.
When I came back to Davao almost 10 years ago to get involved in our family business, one of the first things I did was to go over our employee application process. My dad had long ago designed a test for applicants to take which involved basic arithmetic — adding long rows of numbers, subtraction, multiplying by 3 digits, division, etc. I remember he made me take that same test when I was just a kid dragged to the office and being bored to tears.
I thought that test was no longer applicable. Who adds rows of numbers by hand anyway? And why would there be a need for that when calculators and computers can do the job faster and with better accuracy?
So I wrote a new set of tests. In my mind, it was simple and would simply serve as a simple baseline check of the skills of the applicants. Any college graduate ought to be able to pass the test, I thought. Heck, even an elementary graduate ought to pass the test.
The first part consisted of having around 5 words per number and all the person had to do was arrange those words in alphabetical order.
This had a practical application. We run a retail drugstore and one of the tasks of the employee was to arrange some products in alphabetical order.
The second part consisted of basic arithmetic. John buys 3 tablets of brand X at 3.25 per tablet. How much does he have to pay? He gives you 20 pesos. How much is his change? Nothing harder than that — just real-life figures with real-life examples.
We used to require that our applicants be college graduates, so over the years, we’ve had hundreds of people with diplomas taking that test and the results are dismal — more than half of those failed.
What does it mean when hundreds of college graduates can’t pass a simple test consisting of items that I would have encountered when I was in sixth grade? What does that piece of paper mean then?
These days, we no longer require that our applicants be college graduates. They come, they get trained, and what makes them succeed will be their attitude, their willingness to learn, and their ability to assess situations and solve problems that come their way.
If they perform and if they are up to the task, I don’t even need to know what that piece of paper says and I don’t need to see their transcript nor their grades.
In the business world, only results matter.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.