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Southern California Job Market : Challenges Of The Working Life : Onward And Upward : Onto The Fast Track

September 18, 1988|ELIZABETH CHRISTIAN | Times Staff Writer

A crisp new MBA degree may get job applicants in the door at many companies, but it doesn't necessarily mean that they will know what to do once they walk inside.

As a result, many businesses are rediscovering an old-fashioned idea: They're training their managers in workplace reality.

"Our schools aren't training people to live in the world of work--the real world. And the people who are teaching young people are five to 10 years behind the time," said Dan Ciampa, a management consultant in Massachusetts.

Consultants recommend that young people who want to run things start at companies that will pay them to learn. Here are a few prominent Southern California employers that offer training:

IBM

Schooling for leaders at International Business Machines is intense and comprehensive. The New York-based computer giant runs 3,000 to 4,000 managers a year through its Management Development Center, which has become a model for other companies.

Managers from all departments spend a week at the center within 30 days of being hired or promoted. The curriculum stresses people-management skills, according to program director Mike Schore, and includes classes on such topics as performance planning, appraising workers, implementing salary plans and delegating responsibility. Courses are taught by IBM managers who are on two-year detachments from their regular jobs.

After the week, managers begin their real jobs--but they are expected from then on to spend from 32 to 40 hours a year, on company time, in refresher courses, some of which are broadcast to branch offices by satellite.

Douglas Aircraft

"Part of our new culture, part of our shift to empower people as low in the corporation as we can, includes management training," said Jac Meacham, director of organization development.

Section managers spend time in a classroom soon after being hired or promoted; they are then moved into their regular jobs for three to four months, then reeled back for more schooling. The process of alternating between work and classes takes a year. Later, managers can rotate into other departments in two-year stints; a manufacturing specialist, for instance, might move to human resources.

In addition, Douglas offers more than 100 courses after office hours in technology and management development. Managers' voluntary participation is considered when they apply for promotions.

Nordstrom

Nordstrom takes a more individualistic--and far less structured--approach to training the people who will one day run its service-oriented specialty stores.

Most managers, including high-powered graduates of business schools, start out on the floor.

"Working with the customers is the most important aspect of our business," said Lucy Hamilton, spokeswoman for the Seattle-based chain. "It's just an excellent way to get your feet wet."

After that, they're on their own.

Vons

Service managers--the people backstopping store managers--are put on a training track as soon as they're promoted to groom them for taking charge of a store.

According to Wendy A. Kennedy, director of training, the El Monte-based supermarket chain puts 50 people a year through a 13-week session of classes. The students spend a day a week during that time studying supervisory skills, management philosophy and profit-and-loss statements--and learning how to give presentations. "We do everything we can to prepare them," said Ken Sekella, senior vice president.

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