HR Magazine, May 2001: An Expanded Role for HR

May 1, 2001

HR Magazine, May 2001Vol. 46, No. 5

Employee, Sculpt Thyself ... with a Little Help

Getting involved in staff development involves more than just pushing employees into formal classes.

For proof, take a look at Van Kampen Investments in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., which has won the prestigious Dalbar Mutual Fund Service Award (given to companies that exceed industry norms in the core areas of investor service) for 11 consecutive years.

Jeanne Cliff, senior vice president of HR, explains that her department works with managers at the start of the budgeting cycle to look at openings and talk about internal candidates who may be qualified to fill them. "We look at what these candidates are lacking and what we need to do to build their skills," she says. "We also encourage managers to develop their replacements so they themselves can be promoted."

During the review process, managers ask employees about their goals. "If an employee wants to go from customer service to finance, for example, what’s the next step? Managers outline that for them, and give employees written goals and performance development plans," says Cliff. "We want to understand our employees’ career aspirations so we can partner with management to help them with those next steps."

At USAA—a San Antonio-based insurance and financial services company—the HR department provides education advice prior to employee self-development activities.

"We can tell employees what the development preference is for their line of business, according to their own senior management," says Jan Collins, manager of workforce development services. "We can also discuss options like online courses versus traditional classroom study, or whether they should get a professional designation before their degree, and so on. We help employees make informed decisions about what will work best for them."

Collins maintains there isn’t much HR value added to simple tuition reimbursement. "That’s just a financial transaction."

Another way her department adds value, says Cliff, is by reviewing the evaluations from its 360-degree feedback program. "We may get back with a manager who has identified a problem with an employee but hasn’t indicated the appropriate training," she says, "or it may come out in review that a manager doesn’t delegate and we’ll suggest some delegation training." Cliff says, "We look for patterns and do a needs analysis based on reviews and employee feedback."

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