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March 08, 2000
CLOs improve training, recruiting, and retaining
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ining just isn't what it used to be, and neither is recruiting or retention. In just the last few years, the notion of quickly training a new or established employee for a position has gone by the wayside. Now companies have to take a more holistic approach to their employees' needs and wants.

"It's because we are moving more towards a service economy with professional services, so human capital assets have become more important than ever," says Rick Horton, general manager of IBM Learning Services, one of IBM's Global Services business groups.

"There is a fight for talent that wasn't an issue two years ago. But, now, retention has become more important, and the types of things employees are looking for in their careers has drastically changed. They want growth and opportunity."

New view of training

Horton, who oversees not only the training and workforce improvement for IBM, but also for more than 1,000 customers outside IBM, has seen first-hand how important this new view of training is to companies competing in the job market today. One way that businesses have elected to deal with this new view is by hiring "chief learning officers (CLOs)."

Actually, they go by several other names as wellÑchief knowledge officer, vice-president of talent, etc. But the theme is the same: Ensuring that the company's human capital is in place to support the business strategy of the corporation.

One area where they prove extremely useful is in the area of recruiting and retaining, because they know that the old standards of training no longer apply.

"There is now a basic shift in the way we think of and deliver training, and this is the job of the CLO," notes Horton. "The need is for more training, given faster, and in smaller segments. We call it 'just-in-time' training.

"Whereas, only a couple of years ago, 99 percent of our training was in the classroom, now approximately 30 percent of it is done via distributive learning methodologies that are far more efficient. We have saved IBM about $175 million in the last year, and while the cost savings is great, the training is also better.

"This is a large piece of our recruitment, because people are no longer just looking at pay. Instead, they want to find a company where they can grow and get adequate training to enhance their resume to become more competitive.

They want challenging assignments, but more than that, they want an environment that gives them incentive to train and learn more."

Shift in delivery

That is one of the biggest cultural changes in the workforce, notes Horton. "The responsibility for training is now put upon the individual. If you want more training, it's available for you to take advantage of on your own time schedule."

For example, IBM has a virtual university, that it calls its "Global Campus," that offers over 10,000 learning events. So, if employees want to enhance their skills as programmers, they can go in and see a road map of how to do that, download the training information, and then schedule themselves for a hands-on laboratory at the next available classroom.

"Having a CLO who understands this necessity is crucial in today's job market," says Horton, "especially when so many people are enthralled with the riches they see in the .com arena. They look at a company like IBM and don't think it is capable of offering them the opportunities they want," he notes.

"But when we show them we can offer them the same type of possibilities to grow their skills, they definitely become more interested. It's one of the best marketing pitches we haveÑeven better than our products."

Reprinted from "Best Practices in HR" with permission of the publisher, Business & Legal Reports, Inc. Copyright 2000, BLR.

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