In a May 3rd column titled “United Technologies, quietly teaching a lesson” in the Washington Post, Allan Sloan, Fortune magazine’s senior editor at large, gives us insight into a United Technologies Employee Scholar Program. Sloan tells us “the company would pay for any college or graduate school degree any employee wanted to pursue, regardless of whether it had any connection to a UTC job. The company not only paid for tuition, books and fees but also would give employees $5,000 worth of stock when they got a degree.” The program has helped 32,000 employees earn their degrees and currently has 10,000 people enrolled. Sloan quotes Tom Bowler Jr., head of UTC’s human resources department, saying “this program is a big differentiator for us.” Seems like a bit of an understatement to me.
So the question we should all be asking is:
Do staff enrichment programs like tuition assistance, skills training, and leadership development really make a difference?
I’ll let you come to your own conclusion, but before you decide, answer the following questions.
1. Would you like your staff to have more up to date technical skills?
2. Is it important that your leadership team take on more responsibility for corporate success and more ownership of company challenges?
3. Would your staff be more engaged if they felt the company were interested in their overall professional development?
4. Should your employees know how money is made so they can make better decisions in the marketplace?
5. Could anyone on your staff benefit from more soft skills like negotiating, interviewing, closing sales or handling difficult personalities and would that benefit the company?
United Technologies started their Employee Scholar Program years ago. During my time at the Boeing Company, they had a very similar and popular program. Each company has to decide the best place to invest. Real estate, plant and equipment and technology are important, but perhaps the best investment is still in human capital.