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Guide to Education

More businesses learning how to teach employees

Companies are adapting to the many
changes over the past few years

Monday, March 5, 2001

It's not enough for companies to excel at sales and marketing. Now they also have to be good at providing an education.

If you aren't invested in it, says Lorne Burns, chief human resources officer for KPMG LLP in Toronto, you're in trouble.

The whole business of learning has changed over the last 10 to 15 years. The number of players in the game has increased tenfold."

KPMG Canada is now spending $22-million on employee learning -- about $3,000 a person -- and that's not just "training." Learning, Burns says, is about developing a competent individual. "How I get it isn't important, it's that I get it."

From sponsoring executive MBAs to bringing college faculty into their workplaces, corporations are obviously grappling with the continual learning challenge. We asked several of them their views:

A University of Toronto professor visits the Toronto office weekly for a two-hour class, notes Maryann Baird, director of the in-house University of Sun Life Financial. One hour is company time and the other is the employee's time, "so it's a partnership," she notes. They can also go on to get university credits in degree programs.

Jane Hutcheson's title, vice-president of learning and development, is a first sign of the times. Factor in about 60 staff under her and you have a priority function.

With the acquisition of Canada Trust, TD now comprises 30 businesses and 45,000 employees, Hutcheson notes. The acquisition is itself a training challenge.

"Supporting integration and conversion has been 90 per cent of our focus lately because it's just so huge," she remarks.

"And this will not be the last acquisition. To do an acquisition efficiently and well is going to be a competitive issue."

At a company meeting in Berlin last July, academics from around the world were flown in to teach on everything from the economies of Latin America and China to recent advances in genetics.

"Our partners need to better understand what's happening in Asia or wherever, whether it's politically or economically, because our clients are doing business there," says Russel Robertson, Canadian managing partner in Toronto.
Andersen spends 6 per cent of revenue on employee education, and has brick-and-mortar campus facilities in several countries.

"As people stay with us, their learning needs change greatly," comments Robertson. "As their careers move on, the technical training will reduce somewhat and they need learning in administration and personal development, management skills, working with others, writing and speaking effectively."


With education at the pharmaceutical firm, "I think the key thing is that it's built into business capacity," says recruitment director Shelley Pearlman.

Seeding the future, Janssen-Ortho has senior people teaching at Humber College, and students participate in co-op work terms.

The company has considerable internal resources, including about 150 learning programs offered over the firm's intranet.

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