Management Articles


Business, Skills Training Is Becoming a Never Ending Process

By: G.A. (Andy) Marken

In his nearly 25 years in the advertising/public relations field, Andy has been involved with a broad range of corporate and marketing activities. Prior to forming Marken Communications in mid-1977, Andy was vice president of Bozell & Jacobs and its predecessor agencies. During his 12 years with these agencies, he developed and coordinated a wide variety of highly visible and successful promotional campaigns and activities for clients. A graduate of Iowa State University, Andy received his Bachelor's Degree with majors in Radio & Television and Journalism. Widely published in the industry and trade press, he is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

An organization’s ability to learn and translate that learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive business advantage … Jack Welch, chairman, GE
No technology in history has grown as quickly as the Internet. Backbone bandwidth demand has been doubling, not every 18 months as with Moore's law but every 3.5 months. That's a 10X growth or 1,000% a year.
With it has come a complete change in who we communicate with, the way we communicate with them as well as how we work and worst of all how long we work. While life here in Silicon Valley is akin to working at the edge of disaster, we like to believe that the rest of the country in fact the globe is in much the same state of chaos.

Education Environment Has Changed

When I went to college eons ago, we sat in a classroom, listened to the instructor, took copious notes and regurgitated the information on a test. With two degrees we set forth to conquer and change the world. Unfortunately we didn’t change the world. Technology changed the world. The rapid changes in technology are so prolific that it has forced us to become lifelong learners. Rather than rigidly structured process learning is becoming a self-directed process.
There has been more information produced in the last 10 years than during the previous 5,000. A weekday edition of The New York Times contains more information than the average person was likely to come in contact with in the last century in his or her lifetime. The change has been the Internet/Web as well as the value of and how we use information.
To understand how quickly life has changed and continues to change for us consider a recent study regarding e-mail conducted by Forrester Research and John Carroll University:
  • 1.1 trillion email messages sent annually worldwide
  • 3 billion messages sent worldwide daily
  • 200 million users sending messages daily
  • 250+ million corporate e-mail addresses
  • 100 million personal email addresses
  • 25 million subscribers to AOL
  • 15.6 million users of Lotus cc:Mail
  • average cost of e-mail per user per year-- $750
  • average value of email per user per year in terms of productivity -- $2,800
  • average cost of company to send 20 messages -- $1.05
  • average time spent daily reading e-mail 50 minutes
  • average time spent responding to email 60 minutes
In addition, according to a recent issue of BusinessWeek, every day 10,00 new Web sites are added to the Internet. All of this has forced technical people to broaden their knowledge areas and forced people to deal in a rapidly changing environment of uncertainty.

New Type of Worker

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Peter Drucker in his book, Post-Capitalist Society, notes that already an estimated 2/3 of U.S. employees work in the service sector. Knowledge is becoming one of our most important products. This calls for a different type of worker because a degree and technical experience are far less important than the currency of your business skills.

No one can say what technology platforms will dominate the next century or what lies beyond the Web and enterprise resource planning. As a result, corporations and educational institutions must adapt their training programs to prepare workers for unseen changes. Experts who track technically-based career development and training see some trends emerging including:
  • Business skills are becoming as important as technical skills in defining the success of professionals
  • New technologies such as Web-based learning and video-on-demand coursework is rapidly supplanting classroom training
  • Technical professionals must view education as a continuing and self-directed process.
Many organizations have begun to identify core business competencies for technical professionals and make learning them mandatory. Increasingly they have to learn communications skills, budgeting and finance, strategic planning as well as project and performance management. Firms are rapidly adding on-the-job training by matching people with appropriate learning tools. On-line video-on-demand courses, workshops and seminars are required for people at all levels and of all disciplines. Some firms have gone so far as to establish required courses, electives and degree certificates.

Addressing Larger Issues

While selected technical skills in almost every organization continue to be in critically short supply, organizations also understand that they must help employees understand larger business issues including finance and marketing. However, Gartner Group reported earlier this year that corporate technical staff skills will shift from 65 percent technology to 65 percent business and management skills by 2002. While technical skills will continue to be important, much of that work will be outsource and key internal personnel will be involved in business and technical management.

Because of the growing supply versus demand problem, traditional business schools are beginning to shift to competency-based education.

For example the governors of the 14 western states and CEOs of major corporations created the Western Governors University (WGU) in Slat Lake City two years ago. The University enables students to earn credits toward a diploma by taking skill assessment tests rather than courses. The goal was to respond to business and industry needs by providing a means of certifying that an individual can do the job rather than simply prove that he or she has a diploma.

Educational Shift

Gartner Group predicts that training delivery will shift from 25 percent technology and 75 percent instructor based to 50-50 by 2002. Video on Demand and Web based training will grow rapidly over the next two years. Organizations of all sizes are beginning to view training not as a cost but rather as an investment in key members of the organization.

For many, the accelerated pace of technology change over the past 10 years is straining their ability to keep up. Fortunately our generation X workers view skill development quite differently. For them, ongoing learning is a reality and part of the cost of participating in the world. They have become very adept at gathering, processing, analyzing and interpreting information retaining and discarding data as needed. It is all part of the “normal” day.

Employees who are planning their future in an uncertain environment have to realize that just as they need money for food, rent/mortgage and utilities, they also need to have money for education. When firms “re-engineered” themselves to become “lean and mean” they reduced their training programs. As a result, those who plan on being productive realize that they must invest in themselves.

While some may disagree, we feel that the shift is healthy. Today employer and employee loyalty is dead. As a result, employees don’t have to feel guilty or obligated to pay back the organization for the training since the individual is paying for tomorrow’s training himself or herself.

Expanding, Changing Our Skills

As we move into the 21st century, traditional technical workers will have to expand their business skills while other office workers will have to become more proficient in their understanding and use of technology. People across the board will need to not only know how the applications work but what the data means.

Increasingly the lines between technology and business practices will blur.

Good management skills will be more valuable and more respected as w move into the new century because they are a combination of courage and strong, genuine care for individuals, the company, society and the customer. Good management skills are based on the individual and how he or she executes programs. As a result they are more difficult to acquire than course-taught capabilities.

In today’s global business environment, business skills knowledge of your company, its mission, the industry and your competitors are becoming vital survival skills. They are skills which change with every tick of the clock.

Everyone today is under pressure to leverage knowledge and information in everything that they do. People must diligently leverage knowledge in innovative ways on an ongoing basis and people must become a critical resource of creating, maintaining and making available knowledge and information.

© Copyright 2000, G.A.Marken, Marken Communications

Other Articles by G.A. (Andy) Marken

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