Employers want workers who are ethical as well as experienced

Personal ethics are as important to employers as technical competence and experience in the field, according to a Fresno Pacific University survey.

A study by the university business council and business work group shows a strong ethical sense is the personal characteristic most desired by the employers surveyed. In fact, it was rated the most important single item among all characteristics and skills mentioned in the survey.

Obviously, this finding is good news for FPU, which puts moral and ethical education at the heart of its mission. “That’s why basing a business program in a Christian liberal arts university is so important,” said Janita Rawls, undergraduate business chair, who was involved in the survey. Ethics is not a skill that can be learned on the job, according to members of the business council. “Business owners can more easily train employees in the technical aspects of their job, but to train someone to be ethical is far more difficult,” the survey report stated.

The goal of the “Business Programs Skills for Success Survey” was to determine what skills and experiences graduates require, and to ensure that academic programs provided those skills and experiences. “We asked how FPU can help businesses meet their needs,” Rawls said.

The four-page survey went to 690 members of the Bakersfield, Visalia, Fresno, Modesto, Merced and metropolitan Sacramento chambers of commerce. A total of 106 surveys were returned. Participants answered questions about the importance of specific skills within four major areas: communication, personal characteristics, computer and technology and college experiences helpful to employment. Respondents rated the importance of each skill on a six-point scale with one as “unimportant” and six as “of highest importance.”

The average rating for ethical behavior was 5.62 out of six. The mean for the most important communication skill (interpersonal skills) was 5.33, for the top computer and technology skill (word processing) 4.78 and for the top experiences (full-time employment in one’s field) 4.77.

Respondents included both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations in the sales, retail, wholesale, health care, manufacturing and service industries as well as government- and education-related agencies. Firms hired university graduates for positions in marketing, accounting, information systems, finance and general administration and management.

Here are the rated skills, listed in order of importance to respondents:

  • Communication: interpersonal, problem-solving, organizational, oral expression, teamwork, written expression, crisis management, leadership, presentation, sales, coaching and multilingual.
  • Personal characteristics: ethical, self-starter, responsible, flexible/adaptable, trainable/lifelong learner, quick thinker, motivated/motivator, sensitive to others, self-confident, imaginative/creative, street smart/savvy, change agent, risk taker, entrepreneurial, willingness to travel for business and willingness to relocate.
  • Computer and technology: word processing, presentation, spreadsheet, database management, computer networking, graphic design, e-commerce, computer programming and web page design.
  • Experiences: full-time employment in one’s field, part-time employment in one’s field, participation in professional activities, leadership in extracurricular activities, internships, involvement in extracurricular activities, cross-cultural experience, hobbies or other interests, network administration, e-commerce and computer programming.

The business council is made up of representatives from a variety of organizations and advises university business programs. “The council is a sounding board for ideas to strengthen our programs and a way to reach out in the community,” Rawls said. “We want to strengthen the service each provides the other by assessing business needs and our efforts to meet those needs.”

The business work group meets monthly to carry on the work of the council between its semi-annual meetings. The group consists of business faculty and Mary Willis, director of the FPU Career Resource Center.