Vol. 46, No. 5
Employee, Sculpt Thyself ... with a Little Help
Most employee development activities offer some benefit to both employees and employers. But not all development initiatives are perfectly balanced. When development favors employees more than employers, HR professionals need to make some decisions.
Many companies try to accommodate at least some part of an employee’s wishes concerning development. For example, Van Kampen Investments in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., holds different standards for different types of development.
"A graduate degree needs to be directly relevant to the job," says Jeanne Cliff, senior vice president of HR. "However, the company is not as strict with undergraduate degrees. We would certainly go along with an attorney, for instance, who said that a bachelor’s degree in theater arts would help his presentations."
Sears Credit in Hoffman Estates, Ill., takes a somewhat different approach. "We have career paths that are keyed to the customer requirements we have, and jobs that were developed to meet these needs," says Bob O’Neal, SPHR, director of human resource development. "These tracks were developed in partnership between the business and HR, with lots of input from the field organization.
"When associates decide what kind of career path they want to go on ... they have the training and development to get there," says O’Neal. "Everyone is in a career path somewhere."
But the company does try to be flexible. "If an associate wants to switch career paths, that can be done if the switch also meets the business’ needs," says O’Neal. "The associate would get additional training at that point, as well."
Michael Simpson, senior consultant in the organization practice at Watson Wyatt Worldwide in San Francisco, agrees that it’s important to balance what the employee wants with what the organization wants. "Cost is the ultimate factor, whether it’s financial or opportunity cost. While Joe’s off at his art history course, should he be doing something else that would be more beneficial to the company?" Simpson asks.