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W. Miller, 45, Cherry Hill, N.J.

Shaping Their Own Careers

May 19, 1997

I'm the customer service manager for AtoHaas Americas Inc. We sell Plexiglas in a joint venture with the French firm Els Atochem. AtoHaas is a subsidiary of Rohm & Haas, a specialty chemical company based in Philadelphia with $4 billion in annual sales.

The employees I manage take orders over the telephone for our products and answer questions about product availability and requests for specialty items.

In the past, we relied on a reactive system of employee training at AtoHaas where an employee would ask to take a class to update his skills and it was a "yes" or "no" proposition. We didn't have a cohesive system in place to ensure everyone had the right skills to do his job.

I realized that this fragmented method of employee training had a built-in disconnect between employees' short-term goals and the steps they followed over the course of a year to meet these goals.

While some of our employees took a lot of interest in their career development, others assumed the firm would take care of them.

To hold our employees accountable for goals they set in their annual performance evaluations, we decided to take a proactive role in helping people direct their careers.

We hired a management consultant to help us revamp our performance evaluation process and did a case study to determine what training and job enrichment programs our staff needed.

Some of the survey results surprised us, such as the fact that training wasn't so much an individual issue as it was a departmentwide problem where products or programs would be rolled out and no one realized there was a need for training.

Our consultant helped us organize a workshop, where we talked about how employees can determine they need a skill and how they should approach management and ask that some kind of training be developed so they can acquire this skill.

Now everyone must manage his or her own career to ensure that they reach their short- and long-term career goals.

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