HIP Invests In Employees, Too

Executives at HIP Health Plan of New York know that investment in IT can make or break a company. What they're learning is that IT also can serve as an investment in employees.

Last year, the HMO created HIP University. Employees can choose from a variety of general-business and technical subjects and take interactive courses to advance their knowledge. Some classes are taught in groups, with each person at his or her own computer in a classroom. Others are offered online. Students access the material through a custom-designed portal and click through a hyperlinked landscape of animated screens.

Each course, custom-designed by HIP in Macromedia Dreamweaver and Flash, is bubbling with video. One popular class, "Listen Up -- A Listening Skills Course," features play-acted videos of co-workers interrupting and ignoring each other. Other topics include leadership building and ethics.

New hires must take five classes by a certain date, and employees are expected to take at least two a year, though many take more. Even president and chief operating officer Dan McGowan has taken courses, including a mandatory sexual-harassment class.

For HIP, the benefit of the program is better-informed and highly skilled employees, while workers benefit by developing their careers faster. Says McGowan, "If you've taken the curriculum, you can chart your own career path."

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