Big deal: IBM proposes basic change in training.

AuthorEllet, Bill

IBM did something really smart on July 25, 2007.

It broke the mold of corporate training. The current model is paternalistic: the company pays, but the company knows best so you learn what they tell you to learn. IBM has decided to put some of the decision making in the learners' hands--in return for them having some skin in the game.

The corporate technology giant will offer employees individual savings accounts dedicated to training and career development--similar to 401 K's but for a different purpose. The employees can put up to $1,000 a year into the account, and the corporation will match at a 50% rate. Employees will spend the money as they choose.

IBM acknowledges that some people will use its 50% contribution to facilitate career moves that will take them out the door. But Samuel J. Palmisano, IBM CEO, thinks that the accounts will help any company or organization that provides them attract talented individuals. And isn't the conventional wisdom today that attracting and retaining talent is a huge competitive issue?

IBM isn't leaving it at that. Under current tax regulations, employees can deduct out-of-pocket training expenses only if they relate directly to their current job or occupation. IBM is hoping to get...

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