Fast Track Career Plan and Career Management

On the surface, it might seem that a major electronics company and a publishing firm have little in common. Yet, Motorola, manufacturer of electronic components and radio equipment, and McGraw-Hill, producer of trade magazines and newsletters, have much in common when it comes to training.

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First, both companies have drawn training directors from line management, choosing company generalists rather than career training and development professionals. Second, both have an active and effective performance appraisal system, using both supervisory judgment and other tools to select high-potential employees. Third, both companies are committed to a philosophy that makes employee education and training important ingredients for success.

In 1976, Motorola Communications Group appointed John Mes-serschmidt, a marketing specialist, as director of training and development. Working closely with Dr. Paul Patinka, director of human resources for the Communications Group, Mes-serschmidt revamped Motorola’s training and development function, bringing it in line with budget re-quirements and the needs of a compet¬itive marketplace.

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Dr. Patinka administered a battery of questionnaires, lasting eight hours, to a group of managers covering a range from those considered highly successful to those considered not so successful. Based on a comparison of the responses of these two groups, a scoring key and subsequently a shorter experimental battery was de¬vised. Efforts are now being made to determine the extent to which this battery has value as an indicator of employee potential for management.

The results of the battery are also being looked at as a possible aid in helping employees find out what skills they are deficient in and must remedy. They help management identify those employees with the potential for ad¬vancement. And they can hopefully help the training department design programs to improve the skills of in¬dividual employees.

But, Patinka warns, the battery, still in the experimental stage, is not an absolute indicator. “Any techniqu¬es, such as tests, biographical data in¬ventories or assessment centers, are merely probability devices. The best you can say is there’s a reasonable probability that this person has what it takes to be a manager— as well as we can measure. And that’s a powerful qualifier.”

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“Potential” vs. “Performance”

Patinka distinguishes between “po¬tential,” as measured by tests or as¬sessment centers, and “performance,” governed by a number of factors other than potential. “Take a high-performance engine, for instance,” he illustrates. “It may have enormous ca¬pacity for power, but if it isn’t tuned right or has broken parts, it may never realize its full potential. In a similar way, some high-potential employees may also have to be ‘tuned’. It takes a very special kind of supervisor to nur¬ture employees who may be abrasive, aggressive—and brilliant.”

Motorola’s Communications Group uses several methods to identify high achievers— the judgment of super¬visors, past performance, and current rate of growth. “There is a good corre¬lation between battery results and judged potential,” Patinka concludes. “But the real value of the scores is what they add to other methods, either reinforcing or calling into question what performance and observation show about the employee.”

As a former line manager, Mes-serschmidt knows weir what skills were required by Motorola. As director of training, he set out to see that those skills were available to employees.

“Although we have a policy of edu¬cational assistance that makes it pos¬sible for all employees to attend col¬lege or graduate school at little cost,” Messerschmidt says, “we insist that the education be job-related. In the past, when schools enrolled one of our employees, we just had to accept their degree and the curriculum that went with it. But now, with the downturn in enrollment, schools realize they must tailor their product more closely to what business needs.”

Messerschmidt contacted several area colleges, outlined Motorola’s needs and asked to review their cur¬ricula. “The results were pheno¬menal,” he recalls. “Based on such devices as Patinka’s battery, we could determine what courses our em¬ployees needed. And many colleges began to modify their programs to meet those needs.”

In addition, Messerschmidt advo¬cates a different program for advanced education than is offered by many graduate schools. As ah employee de¬signs a career plan, he or she consults with the training department to see what skills are needed for the next step up. Then the employee enrolls in the school that offers the best courses in that area. After several job trans¬fers, an employee may have course-work in several disciplines.

“Many universities don’t want to work this way,” Messerschmidt says, “because they can’t plan on ha ring a student’s tuition money continually over the next few years. And the say, the degree will be outdated if it takes several years to complete. I don’t agree. The employee may not have had an accounting course for several years, but probably he or she uses that knowledge every day. I’d like o see a program based on a under standing among the college, the training department and the employee that an employee will receive an MBA at an appropriate point in his or her career if he or she follows a career path and continues to take courses regularly.”

Under the Motorola model, as out¬lined by Messerschmidt and Patinka, a few trainers can administer several programs. “I prefer this system,” Patinka explains, “because it means I can always hire expert help from out¬side for special projects. And I can sus¬pend such help during budget crunches and still maintain my permanent staff.”

Motorola’s training and develop¬ment is presently managed by Jerry Moch, who took over from John Mes¬serschmidt (promoted back to a mar¬keting spot). Like Patinka’s develop¬ment division, Moch’s department has a small staff that administers many programs. “We use the community col¬lege system extensively,” Moch ex¬plains, “so we don’t have to rely on our own experts to be available all the time to teach classes. In addition, many community colleges supplement teachers with an adjunct staff of ex¬perts from the business world, so we get the benefit of their experience.”

Moch adds that community colleges are quite responsive to business needs. “Their charters usually indicate that they must offer courses that meet the demands of the community,” he says. “As part of the community, businesses can help determine what bourses should be included.”

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Meanwhile, at McGraw-Hill Ralph Denton, like John Messerschmidt, came from a line division to training. Again, like Messerschmidt, he has returned to a line division after completing a revision of McGraw-Hill’s performance appraisal and management development department.

“Our program is about 70% devel¬opment and 30% performance apprai¬sal,” Denton calculates. “First, we de¬signed a set of job standards and criteria to measure performance. Then we developed an individual develop¬ment plan (usually consisting of after-hours education) and a series of in-house training sessions to respond to general needs.”

Those with top management poten¬tial get priority for training sessions. [n addition, McGraw-Hill has a successor program that identifies who will take over specific management jobs about 18 months before that job becomes vacant, thus giving the successor time to increase skills before ;hey are required.

Within the organization, there are two distinct employee groups — editors and sales representatives. For editors, McGraw-Hill offers many programs, both designed by the com¬pany training department and pur¬chased from outside vendors. Also, each new editor becomes part of a “buddy system.” A senior editor, not involved in supervision, provides an easily accessible source for information and answers for a new employee. This also helps groom senior editors for future supervisory positions.

The sales organization uses a com¬bination of formal training and field experience to develop future sales managers. Sales reps are frequently brought to New York for seminars or special courses and often work with regional managers to learn new skills. In addition, a different region’s sales force gathers each month to discuss a current sales problem. These “consen¬sus reports,” based on tapes of that discussion, are sent to the other re¬gions as possible solutions to selling problems.

For both editors and sales reps, a four-page performance appraisal and assessment tool is used:

Page One: Personal identification and three summaries— What the employee does well, what he or she does not do well, and what is being done about those areas that need im¬provement.

Page Two: Performance factors— How does this employee measure up to the standard?

Page Three: Performance Sum¬mary— Is this employee promotable? If so, when and to what job? What plan of action must be followed to prepare for that promotion?

Page Four: List of seminars and courses offered— What courses has the employee taken? What are recommended?
This performance appraisal goes up the management chain and then to the training department, where it is coded onto a computer. The computer readout helps management and training identify high-potential employees and suggests who should attend what courses.

“McGraw-Hill’s senior manage¬ment really makes this system work,” Denton believes. “The computer can pump out data. But unless management is willing to fund the programs required, nothing much will happen. “Arlene Anns, Denton’s replacement as director of training, agrees. “We look at people as a Venture fund,’ ” she explains. “And that fund provides the ideas and abilities McGraw-Hill needs to continue growing. As trainers, our job is to provide the day-to-day environment for training and the skills people need to move ahead”.

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Source :
Training Magazine. September 1978.

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