Re: Professional development; employer expectations

19 Jun 2005 - 11:31am
11 years ago
2 replies
595 reads
Wendy Fischer

As I said, this is where I get cynical from employment a previous company....if I wanted UI training-- forget it; if I wanted to take classes on java, JSP and become a developer, I'm sure I could have swung that, but I have completely no interest in that

>From an employer perspective, it is less expensive to train existing employees, considering the improving market. However, I think it is wrong to advise designers to go into a situation and think of professional development on the same level as "medical benefits" and demand that. I think that it's important, I think that it's something a designer should consider and talk to a potential employer before taking a job, and I definitely think that it is something that an employer should consider offering to keep knowledge workers. However, it just isn't on the same level as "medical benefits".

Most professional development for an employee is at the employer's discretion; the employer or manager decides what an employee can take/what they can't and what the budget is for; there are companies that have professional development included in their budget and as part of their benefits, again I think that this is the rarity.

Employees have to have spent a certain amount of time at a company usually before this benefit becomes active; and it's still at the employer's discretion, ultimately.


19 Jun 2005 - 12:51pm
Nick Ragouzis

I really wanted to quote all of Wendy's comment.

Designers really have to think deeply, and act forcefully
on the dissonance in the reality that Wendy presents:

> UI training vs Java

>From an employer's standpoint, what's the difference
between these investments? In the least, one is more
objectively measurable in tangible corporate results
earlier. Implications for a designer: how will you make
your UI training an explicit good for the organization,

> employer perspective ... less expensive to train
> existing employees ...

I think it's better to note this as an assumption, not an
axiom. In a disturbing way although research shows it *can*
be, we see repeated evidence as well that it isn't.
Variations about, but it's useful, for the question of
designer training, to focus on the differences in
organizations (capabilities, markets, processes) and the
particulars of the design practice. In making that
assessment do not overlook the question of efficiency and
effectiveness (or lack thereof) in the hiring process.

Implications for a designer: Assume your argument needs
a basis on some other, more solid, ground.

(A corollary of the above re hiring, your own investment
in improving your organization's ability to quickly and
efficiently hire only great people will improve your
chances for success in advocating training.)

> I think that it's important, I think that it's something a
> designer should consider and talk to a potential employer

Sure, talk about it. I've advised companies to set aside
between 2% to 9% in training, depending on strategic
emphasis. (Naturally this is a conjurer's trick: I expect
them to find their own organization using design very
strategically, the implication is they should pick a number
in the middle.)

But in talking to the potential employer, assume they have
made this calculus, and do this (you can ask, but don't trust
the answer) ... assume it, and in the discussion with the
potential employer, tell them specifically how you have made
other's investments in training valuable for those organizations,
then ask the potential employer to share how similar things
happen there. By similar specifics.

> Employees have to have spent a certain amount of time at
> a company usually before this benefit becomes active

I can't argue that this is not often seen. But it is the most
foolish approach imaginable. To have seduced a prospective
employee, then put them in the scullery, apart from the lords?
A new employee is one of your most energetic fans ... you
should get them out talking about their new organization --
and especially since you are hiring up, aren't you. A new
employee is the one most likely to absorb new knowledge without
prejudice against the unlikely application, and to hold a high
expectation for such application (your best bet against
organizational inertia). A new employee is the one most likely
to not be seduced away by recruiters from other companies at
the professional sessions. And so on, in the struggle among all
similar paranoid delusions.

And, following the topic of having an approach to bringing
that knowledge into the org., a new employee is one of your
most important sources of new ideas ... you should set them
to bringing that knowledge and experience into the organization,
as if they had just had a long training event (employ at a
relevant competitor, or best practice org, or fresh from

But, you will see, it depends most on the employee, on you.
So, what will you do to demonstrate you will rise to that
challenge? That is the central issue, none other.


19 Jun 2005 - 2:49pm
Wendy Fischer

There's theory and then there's reality.

Unless we actually have a survey of companies; their core values; the types of companies (size, type of business; type of company, the types of jobs people have; the number of years they've been with the company; the types of professional development benefits (tuition reimbursement, conferences, etc) the companies provide; and personal anecdotal evidence about the professional development designers on this list have received; all this is assumption.

Certain things are "nice" to have and for companies to do; what's the reality as it pertains to the improving economic situation in 2005?

While the outlook at many companies is improving, and they are starting to provide more benefits again, many companies still do not show improvement at a fiscal level, or they don't show a change of outlook regarding employee hiring and retention, considering the improving job market and economy, because they are still caught in the 2001-2003 economic mindthink of "you're lucky you have a job."

I agree with Nick that the central issue:

But, you will see, it depends most on the employee, on you.
So, what will you do to demonstrate you will rise to that
challenge? That is the central issue, none other.

Within my new company (which is a startup), I've raised the issue of tuition reimbusement and professional development to both my manager and also to HR. We don't have professional development as an expected benefit. However, if the employees requires professional development as it relates to a project or job function and gives a reason/cost why, more than likely it will be approved. In addition, HR is constantly improving our benefits as the company grows so they can retain and hire more workers.

>From an internal professional development, the team is focused on cross-pollination of ideas and knowledge between team members. We promote informational brown bags. As part of my UX strategy for the company, I will be providing education around UCD process, thinking and strategy. As we hire more UX designers in the future, my goal is to have a budget in place for professional development; however, it's really up to me or whoever is in that position to communicate the benefits of having that budget in place. I'm also learning a lot about product management and mobile technologies from other team members.

>From a personal standpoint, I am reading more as it pertains to HCI literature, working on starting Mobile Monday within the Triangle, and networking more within the local IX community as it pertains to interaction design and mobile device design.

>From a mentoring standpoint, my boss is not an interaction designer and doesn't have that background; however, I am learning a lot about ROI; strategy; product management; software lifecycle and better presentation/communication skills from him.

I plan on attending 1 or two conferences this year. My company might pay for one, I will definitely pay for one if they don't.

Ultimately it's in the hands of the designer to decide what they want for professional development and to pursue a strategy personally and professionally. My other point is that there are other opportunities for professional development; they don't have to be expensive conferences or seminars.


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