By Todd Dagenais
UCF Forum columnist
My friends in the Human Resources world are noticing an alarming trend. Colleges and universities are pumping out thousands of highly qualified students eagerly awaiting their first paycheck in the workforce. Unfortunately, simply completing the necessary coursework and earning a high grade point average isn't enough to make them a productive member of today's fast-paced and complex global economy.
We live in a world where clear, crisp communication is a must, where community and customer relations are critical to building and maintaining a loyal customer base, and teamwork is so important that corporations are actually consulting with successful athletics coaches to train departments to function as a team.
This brings up some very important questions: What is the cost of a bad hire? How much does the "bottom line" suffer when a new hire has difficulty acclimating and functioning in a team environment?
According to my colleagues, one bad hire can cost tens of thousands of dollars, not to mention the reduction in productivity and lowered company morale. Just think how much easier it would be if an employer could simply select from a highly qualified candidate pool already vetted over four or five years?
Critics seize every opportunity to say that "entitled" student-athletes receive preferential treatment because they score points or bring in booster dollars.
Completely lost in the message of "what is wrong" with college athletes is the monumental and uplifting story about "what is great" about collegiate athletics. UCF Athletics is pioneering an innovative program that will revolutionize how colleges and universities treat their student-athletes.
Thanks to a generous gift from the Wayne Densch Charitable Trust, work toward the UCF Student-Athlete Leadership Institute has begun. We are identifying our best and brightest student-athletes as freshman and sophomores. Once identified, we are investing significant amounts of time and resources by placing them in highly specialized seminars and training sessions. With the mantra of "Developing World-Class Leaders for a lifetime of Service and Success," the concept of the leadership institute will transcend the importance of wins and losses on the field of play. The only focus is to prepare those student-athletes for their first four years after graduation.
Once these high-potential student-athletes complete the four to five years of training, UCF will create an entire genre of student-athletes who are "market-ready graduates." Through several partnerships, our athletic department has created the "First Round Draft Pick" program in which companies have the opportunity to mentor and track these elite student-athletes, and be among the first to offer them employment upon graduation.
Now back to the question I asked you to ponder earlier: How expensive is a bad hire? And then consider: What if you had a candidate who has already proven beyond a shadow of a doubt he or she can be a synergistic leader in a cohesive team environment? What if you could hire a person who has already demonstrated the mastery of communication skills in a stressful and competitive environment? What if you had first pick of a candidate pool that has already lived up to the standards of excellence and achievement demanded by their coaches and teammates?
My job isn't just to win games -- that's only part of my job. The most important part of my work is to make sure that I help shape and mold the mind of my student-athletes in a way that prepares them for life after their collegiate experience. Believe me, they have already survived and prospered under the toughest boss they will ever have. Balancing life issues, coping with stress, managing time and working with a team are already programmed into a student-athlete's character. Competitiveness, excellence, respect of authority and problem solving are already a part of their work culture.
Hire a high-achieving student-athlete and the chances are you will never have to worry about making one of those dreaded bad hires.
Todd Dagenais is UCF's head volleyball coach. He can be reached at email@example.com.