IBM Offers Employees New 'Learning Accounts' And Global Training Programs

The company will invest $60 million in its Global Citizens Portfolio programs to encourage employees to expand their skills, leadership abilities, and global experiences.

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee, Senior Writer, InformationWeek

July 26, 2007

3 Min Read

IBM wants more employees to take advantage of opportunities to advance their skills, leadership abilities, and global experiences. And the company is putting money where its mouth is.

The company announced yesterday that over the next three years it will spend $60 million for new Global Citizens Portfolio programs that encourage employees to expand their learning.

The investment in the new programs is in addition to the $600 million that IBM already spends annually on employee training and development, says Stan Litow, IBM VP for corporate citizenship and corporate affairs.

Among the new programs are matching learning accounts, in which IBM will match 50% of employee contributions for learning. Employees who have worked at least five years at IBM can contribute up to $1,000 each year into an interest-bearing account. The funds can be used for training of the employee's choice. "These are flexible learning and training accounts," says Litow. So, a programmer for instance, could use the funds for project management training, "or even for going into a different field to improve employment" opportunities, says Litow.

In addition to the new learning accounts, IBM introduced the Corporate Services Corp program, which Litow says is akin to "a corporate version of the Peace Corps" and aims to help employees develop their leadership skills

Under the Corporate Services Corp program, IBM employees can sign up for short stints on global, non-governmental projects in emerging areas of the world, including Africa and Latin America.

The assignments could include environmental projects, food programs, or other efforts that tackle difficult problems in developing areas of the world. Participation in the Corporate Services Corp program can enhance leadership skills, but isn't meant to be a substitute for IBM's other leadership training, he says.

Litow says IBM officials wouldn't be surprised if other companies follow its lead in offering similar training accounts or global service opportunities. "We've had a lot of experience as a pioneer in this genre," he says. "We could've gone to 12 or 14 other companies, or to the government and asked them what they think about this, but in this competitive world, you need to be a leader," he says.

In fact, most companies don't provide paid training opportunities to their tech workers, according to InformationWeek Research's National IT Salary Survey of 7,281 IT professionals, Spring 2007. Further education and training were part of compensation packages for only 40% of the survey respondents, and only three out of 10 IT professionals receive tuition reimbursement from their employers.

The survey found that IT professionals say technology training is most valuable. More than a third of staffers and 22% of managers would like to take certification courses.

Only 16% of IT staffers and 32% of IT managers would value business skills training. About 20% of IT pros say they pay for training out of their own pocket, without reimbursement from employers.

In just a day since IBM announced the new programs to employees, it's received a lot of interest from workers, says Litow. "We've gotten close to 1,000 e-mails," he says.

About the Author(s)

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee

Senior Writer, InformationWeek

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee is a former editor for InformationWeek.

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