Meeting the Need for Employee Development in the 21st Century

Article excerpt


As the business world has become more complex and jobs more technical, many large corporations have turned away from simple on-the-job training to more formalized education formats. Further, corporate structures are becoming more decentralized and diverse, so this new training is important not only to the success of the companies but also to their workers.

One of the major changes today is found in the values of workers. Employees say they want their companies to provide training that will help them do their jobs better. They also want to learn valuable skills they can take with them as they move up the ladder or switch to another company. According to a July 1999 survey by the Nierenberg Group, a New York consulting firm, as reported in The Air Force Times, 86% of employees see self-improvement as important to success while 97% see up-to-date skills as crucial. Only 72% reported they get enough training from their company. In this same article, Gary Pfieffer, a senior vice president and chief financial officer at DuPont Company, stated: "[Training opportunity] is a determining factor in attracting the best and brightest from universities." In April of 1998, his company launched DuPont Financial University to help employees improve their skills by a stated goal of 20% every year. Pfieffer said: "[New graduates] acknowledge that they haven't completed their edu cation. They've only begun it." People are making choices to find more meaning in their work and become more employable as job security decreases. Attracting and retaining employees in today's tight labor market is one of the main challenges as we begin the new millennium (Emde).

Along with changing values, workplace trends will also have a profound impact on essential knowledge and skills, requiring appropriate employee development programs. Such workplace trends include internationalization, corporate reorganization, frequent job movement, the loss of job security, organizational success based on intellectual capital rather than commitment to a company, and dependence on information technology. Alutto notes, for example, that internationalization and the effects of global operations have resulted in a greater need for individuals to learn the nuances of political, cultural, and language differences. In fact, he states: "... the recent trends in the workplace will have a profound impact on what must be learned in the new millennium and when it will be relevant." Competition is intense and markets are moving rapidly, requiring "fast-moving organizations that are continually refreshed with new talent" (Cappelli). Keeping this talent is not easy and companies are trying to instill commi tment in their people by designing and promoting long-term career paths through employee development programs.

A good example of where new strategies for employee development are needed to attract and retain talent is in the information technology (IT) field, the hottest job market today. Many firms are taking desperate measures to sign on individuals with the latest skills. This field is so new that many workers lack much of the expertise that is absolutely essential. Some firms now offer paid-internship programs through area schools to equip motivated and committed individuals with the latest skills and place them with IT firms that are in dire need of skilled workers. Their goal is to eventually turn the internships into full-time positions (Wells). It is a way for individuals to get the latest IT qualifications and for the firms to find the qualified personnel. This type of development program is highly beneficial in the IT field where the immediate need is so great. A 1998 study in the Northern Virginia information technology market found that companies anticipate the need for current IT customer service, managem ent, and engineering services to double, even triple, in the years ahead. This region's prediction is a good reflection of the entire nation's need (Wells). …