Investing in People Revisited

  • September 20, 2011
  • Scott

Hard not to revisit this subject when there is so much material out there right now.  Vivek Wadhwa in the Washington Post:

American companies must be provided with the incentives to invest in their workers as they used to. As recently as the 1970s, America’s most respected companies would make significant investments in workforce training. IBM, for example, took non-technical workers and taught them technical skills. They then trained these technicians to be computer programmers, sales reps, or product managers. New recruits received a year or more of training before they were expected to become productive.

I don’t know any company doing this anymore.

Today, nearly all American companies, including IBM, expect new hires to be productive on day one. These employees are given a day or two of “orientation” at best. Companies routinely fire people whose skills are obsolete and hire replacements with the right skills to maximize quarterly revenue and profits. Employers often fear that if they spend too much on skill development, employees will become more marketable and leave.

I’m afraid we are guilty as charged.  At a small company, I can understand this problem more than at a larger company.  At a small company one might not have the resources to invest in training in the early days.  And yet, it is precisely at these small companies that many people investments are made.  Are being made. Right now.  If you’re one of those small companies making excuses about investing – stop.  Stop making excuses.  Just start figuring out how to invest.

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  • We also except folks to be productive on day 1, but with pair programming, it’s not that hard to do actually 🙂

    • Of course, by doing pair programming, you’re investing from day 1
      (whether or not that day is a net-positive, productivity-wise).  I would
      bet it pays off pretty quickly. 

  • Great article on the same topic in the WSJ today:

    “With an abundance of workers to choose from, employers are demanding more of job candidates than ever before. They want prospective workers to be able to fill a role right away, without any training or ramp-up time.

    In other words, to get a job, you have to have that job already. It’s a Catch-22 situation for workers—and it’s hurting companies and the economy.”

    and : “Some of the complaints about skill shortages boil down to the fact that employers can’t get candidates to accept jobs at the wages offered. That’s an affordability problem, not a skill shortage.” – spot on. 

    Great read. Thanks to @juliebhunt for the link!