Tip #545: Is Docking Pay a Co-Investment in Training?

“Craft is common both to skill and deceit.” Winston Churchill

According to “Computerworld,” IBM apparently cut the salaries of certain members of their Global Technology Services group by 10% in September of this year. The stated reason? “Some managers and employees have not kept pace with acquiring the skills and expertise needed to address changing client needs, technology, and market requirements.”

The 10% salary cut was explained as a “co-investment in training,” despite the fact that IBM had traditionally paid employees for time spent in training.

This entire situation raises a number of questions and concerns for me.

  • Whose responsibility is it to see that managers and employees have the requisite knowledge and skills they need to perform their jobs?
  • Isn’t this something that should have been identified during performance evaluations and goal setting discussions?
  • Wouldn’t you think that conversations with clients, new technology and/or changing markets would have made the need for new knowledge or skills apparent to the employees and managers themselves?
  • Were the employees and managers aware that their expertise and skills were outdated?
  • Did they try to do something about that, but found that there were barriers beyond their control, such as lack of time for or access to the necessary training?
  • Since only “selected members” of the IBM Global Technology Services group were given this pay cut, does that mean that the other group members have successfully managed to keep their expertise and skills up to date?
  • If so, why were they successful while the “selected members” were unsuccessful?
  • Is it actually true that these “selected members” lack the necessary expertise and skills?
  • Was there documentation that objectively showed that their performance was unsatisfactory- and that their unsatisfactory performance was due to their inability to meet client needs in the current market and to use current technology?
  • Is this a mildly disguised attempt to prompt these particular staff to leave the company?

Other provisions would seem to indicate that this is really a form of pay for performance. The pay cut is only supposed to be in effect for six months. During that time, the employees are expected to devote one day each week “developing skills in key growth areas such as cloud, analytics, mobile and social.”

  • Since these “key growth areas” are continually changing and expanding, won’t all staff need this training?
  • This also begs the question, who will provide this training- or are the staff supposed to seek it out for themselves?
  • How will IBM determine that the selected staff members have satisfactorily attained the necessary knowledge and skills?
  • Are there specific observable performance measures the staff will have to meet?
  • Is there an assumption that, after staff complete the 23 workdays they are supposed to focus on learning and development, their skills will be where they need to be?

Obviously, I am not privy to the actual reasons for IBM’s decision and the provisions for its implementation. However, it brings me back to my first question. Isn’t it the responsibility of the organization to see that managers and employees have the requisite knowledge and skills they need to perform their jobs? And if that is the case, and I believe it is, then isn’t it incumbent upon the company to pay for the necessary training?

May your learning be sweet.


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