Apply “Job to be Done” Concept to TAP and Degree Completion

A degree isn’t always the end goal. Sometimes it is a “job to be done.” If you are an employee seeking to advance in your company, your end goal is the new position. If you need a degree to get there, the degree becomes a “job to be done.” If you are an employer who needs highly skilled employees with advanced education, the education is a “job to be done.” Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School, who developed the “job-to-be-done” concept, explains it in his book Competing Against Luck. The “job to be done” concept means that people “hire” a product or service to do a job – to reach an end goal.

In today’s complex business world, both employees and employers need a job to be done: complete a degree or higher education. Dan Greenstein, director of postsecondary success at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation says, “Virtually all the jobs created since the Great Recession required some form of postsecondary education, from short-term certifications to postdoctoral studies. And that trend will only continue, as the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Economy estimates that, at current enrollment and completion rates, our economy faces a shortfall of 11 million credentialed workers.”

The solution to this need for educated workers is to “hire” postsecondary education. Southern New Hampshire University President Paul LeBlanc explains this in terms of the job-to-be-done concept, saying that students buy education for different experiences but at the core of education is a “transformational process by which a person increases knowledge or skills.”

LeBlanc says a school must meet the needs of students before they will hire the school to get the job done. Schools like SNHU that educate nontraditional students can’t explicitly define their “consumer.” They can’t define an average nontraditional student; there is no “average.” There is only diversity: they are a wide variety of ages, have children, are employed, and represent diverse socio and economic levels. Schools can only recognize why the students are hiring them: the common goal of completing an education.

Schools also have a great deal of competition for nontraditional students. “Higher education institutions aren’t just competing against other higher education institutions for students’ Jobs to Be Done,” says LeBlanc. “They are competing against the decision to do nothing rather than pursue a degree. They’re competing against students choosing to pursue credentials in different ways. They’re competing against an individual’s decision to simply change jobs.”

Changes in higher education that better serve nontraditional students make it possible for students to see that they can “hire” education for the job to be done – to reach their goals. “The job for them is about convenience (given their very busy lives as workers and parents), cost, and time to complete,” says LeBlanc. “The Job to be Done is, ‘Get me a degree as quickly as possible and in as convenient and affordable a way as possible.’ ” Schools that offer online courses, flexible schedules and starting times, and competency based education offer students a commodity they can hire for the job to be done.

Similarly, businesses that see higher education as the job to be done to strengthen their talent pool can see the benefit of “hiring” their tuition assistance program as a tool to help accomplish this job to be done. Putting the tuition assistance program to work providing financial assistance, career advice, academic counseling and other services helps both parties achieve their goal.