Why Employers Should Support Continuing Education

Why the Certified Information Professional is Important.

I’ve been part of a debate for a little while around continuing education.  I’m a fan of owning one’s own ECM career and posted on this before, but organizations also need to support their staff.   I think continuing education is critical and all too often most services organizations forget the individual.  During one round of our debate, it dawned on me that organizations should look at the services employee as an asset and not an expense.

On the official books, professional services staff show up as an expense line item.  Expenses by definition are the costs of doing business.  Employees are paid a salary and therefore are an expense.  This means that in the accounting view, an employee has the same value as the paper that the employee uses.  It also holds the printer that uses the paper has more value to the organization than both.  I take offense to that.

Jeff Miller, former CEO of Documentum, used to answer to investors:

What keeps me up at night?  Every night my company’s most important assets go home.  I hope every night that they come back the next morning.

It didn’t hit me until recently that the key word in his statement was asset.  Of course, on the official books people are not assets.   This does not mean that we shouldn’t look at them as such.  You see, assets are the organization’s resources.  Assets also depreciate over time, or their “useful life”.  I argue, an organization should look at its professional staff as assets of the organization.

All too often the focus is on billable hours, but experience proves that over time services staff that does not keep up with technology has decreasing utilization hours.  Training has to be a priority to both the individual and the organization.  This ensures that the individual is up on the most recent technology and can easily be inserted into more projects.  Without continued training, the individual will fit into fewer projects over time.

Certification programs are a strong way to ensure that both the individual and the organization take an active role in keeping current.  Continuing education is a part of many other professional’s responsibilities.  Accountants, attorneys, doctors, nurses, contractors, etc. have professional certifications that require continuing education.

I close with a statement that Jesse Wilkens, AIIM’s Director of Professional Development, often likes to use:

What happens if they train them and they leave?
What happens if we don’t and they stay?

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