Re: Pay for Learning LO1461

Jim Michmerhuizen (
Wed, 31 May 1995 23:00:56 +0059 (EDT)

Replying to LO1452 --

On Wed, 31 May 1995, Tobin Quereau wrote:

> Replying to LO1441 --
> What I find of consequence, however, is that all too often the issue of
> what someone is "paid" to do can be an excuse for _not_ taking the time,
> investing the energy, or supporting the desire on the part of employees
> (and especially managers!) to learn something new which might be of value
> to their own development and the development of the organization.

Yes indeed. I'm almost embarrassed at the direction that my ramblings
took, at least if they're construed as a "direct" response to you. They
were "occasioned" by your post, not provoked by it.

Anyway, to the matter at hand: I have a story, from about ten years ago,
when my then boss quoted to me, with great admiration, the words of
someone he in turn had once worked for. The topic was software
engineering. "If I find someone studying on the job I fire him straight
off!" -- I guess that's an example of what you're referring to.

> I guess my thoughts on the idea were more focused on whether or not at an
> organizational level we aren't really demonstrating the value we place on
> learning by what we expect employees to do with their work time. If we say
> to employees, "The process and activity of learning is so valuable that we
> want you to spend some time each day, week, month, etc, engaging in it
> _and we will pay you to do it on "our" time_", I think we are giving a
> kind of support, encouragement, incentive and permission that can be
> helpful. In fact, we might need more and more to be saying to all
> employees that they have a "responsibility" to learn what they need to
> learn in order to be successful and that, while we will make available
> some resources and assistance, they are the ones who must take the
> initiative to "make it so!" No more excuses that "No one told me I had
> to!" or "No one ever gives me time to learn what I need to!" or "There is
> too much other stuff going on!"

Again, yes. Notice, though, that this stance weakens the connection
between "pay" and "learning". This is more like "pay, while learning"
than like "pay for learning". That was one of the themes of my ramblings
too. It begins to look more and more like the employer says "you're
important to the tribe here, so we'll give you money for working with us.
Oh, learn whatever helps you work better."

Of course, that can get diffuse. Tom Burke's comments are relevant, in
this context, because he keeps asserting what I think of as a central
focal point: if some kinds of learning (say, my work on a Ph.D. thesis)
_DO_ take time, real objective time (as opposed to the incorporeal kind I
alluded to), then necessarily their pursuit will have at least a temporary
impact on my immediate productivity. This may be as simple as a conflict
of resources: my ten fingers cannot simultaneously wash dishes and type
footnotes. I cannot simultaneously practice my tenor voice exercises and
deliver a line of sales patter.

     Jim Michmerhuizen
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