WorkWise: Treating yourself to training

07/29/2009 8:42 AM

10/20/2014 12:06 PM

What better way to demonstrate initiative to your employer than by requesting training funded by the company or by you to make you more effective on the job? Teresa Hauck is now Organizational Change Management team lead over 16 consultants in a major university. General manager Erich Steinbock requested training to help him manage his luxury hotel through the downturn. Although both work in large organizations, the principles they used could apply at any company.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT

Emory University's Teresa Hauck, once an executive assistant, earned her baccalaureate from the University of Georgia at age 51. However, while studying for a graduate degree at the same institution, she's been managing the PeopleSoft Financial Project at the University, its health care system and its affiliates. The project, replacing software that is more than a decade old, has a substantial budget and impact over 26,000 employees. She was once the entire team.

Always on the lookout for professional development, Hauck recently approached her project director, who recommended researching programs related to change management. She found a program for change management certification at Cornell University's ILR School in New York. Her project director at Emory approved funding for six workshops in New York, requiring roundtrip airfare for each, tuition, lodging and meals - all expenses - over the course of a year. Total tab: just under $10,000.

"I learned how to build a business case for things we need," she explains, "and understand politics and culture - and how to navigate. We learned ways to increase understanding, through (avenues) that might not be typical. I also took a course on coaching - up and out (peers). This is the first time Emory as a whole has had a formalized organizational change management project. It was a wise investment, whether of me or someone else." She'll soon request more team members and funding.

OPERATIONS

Erich Steinbock, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton in St. Louis, faced contraction rather than expansion as advanced bookings for the first quarter of 2008 slid. On top of that, every floor of the hotel was scheduled for renovation the first quarter of 2009, which required shutting down several floors at a time. Meanwhile, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton's owner, invited him to a retreat for general managers, which included one day of Crucial Conversations Training conducted by VitalSmarts L.L.C., in Provo, Utah.

Steinbock learned how to identify high-stakes conversations involving conflicting opinions and strong emotions. He also learned to analyze and categorize the range of reactions people have, both passive and (non-physically) aggressive. He was hooked. At his own expense, he signed up for more training and then training for trainer certification. "I've always found that the best way for me to learn is to be a trainer," he says. He invested about $5,000 over five days, plus return airfare to Las Vegas and related expenses.

As labor needs declined, Steinbock wanted to "keep our people employed as much as we could. In exchange, they'd have to learn other jobs in most cases. We had a hiring freeze and trained people in other areas." His Crucial Conversations training paid off in a general session for all employees, during which he gained trust and motivated many employees to sign up to be trained in their new jobs.

Ritz-Carlton benefited from the normal attrition in the hotel industry. "We furloughed (only) a handful of employees," Steinbock says. The employee base constricted from 340 to 300. Today, 75 percent of employees are trained in two jobs or more.

Steinbock wasn't immune: "I had to learn some more computer programs. I moved my desk to the lobby and help out the front desk people." An unexpected bonus from the training is that it led to esprit de corps.

Both Hauck and Steinbock took the initiative to get training they wanted to meet demands in their changing workplace. In both cases, they and their employers are continuing to reap dividends.

Dr. Mildred L. Culp welcomes your questions at workwise@comcast.net. Copyright 2009 Passage Media.

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