New curriculum offers employees opportunities for professional and personal growth
From the Jan. 9, 2006, Princeton Weekly Bulletin
A new curriculum of learning and development classes for managers and employees across the campus will be launched in February by the Office of Human Resources.
The curriculum includes a selection of open-enrollment courses on topics employees have identified as critical to their development as well as a certificate program for managers who wish to participate in a more structured learning experience.
"For the past two years, we have been conducting a needs assessment through focus groups, our regular training programs and informal feedback," said Lianne Sullivan-Crowley, vice president for human resources. "This curriculum responds to what employees and managers are telling us they need to help Princeton support a more motivated, engaged and high-performing workforce."
The curriculum is based on a holistic approach to learning, according to Scott Willett, director of learning and development in human resources. "We're integrating both formal and informal elements to make sure that real learning takes place and sticks," he said. "The most effective way to learn and develop a new skill or behavior is to apply it and practice it on the job and in real-life situations."
The underlying philosophy for the curriculum is based on a formula of 70/20/10: 70 percent of learning and development takes place in real-life and on-the-job experiences; 20 percent comes from ongoing feedback and from working with role models; and 10 percent occurs as a result of formal training.
A key to the success of the program will be the implementation by
employees of a self-directed learning process that will help them
identify the gaps between where they are now and where they want to be.
"Closing those gaps is the real motivation for people to learn,"
The Office of Human Resources went through its own process of identifying gaps in preparation for launching the program. While the office has always had a training component, it began to take a closer look at its offerings two years ago when Willett joined the staff.
Along with the new learning curriculum, the learning and development arm of the office provides services in the areas of leadership development, coaching and advising; talent management; and organization development consulting and advising. "All along, we've been listening, gathering information and trying to understand what the real needs are," Willett said.
In addition to conducting formal focus groups, learning and development staff members sought suggestions from some recent initiatives on campus, such as the Diversity Working Group's interim report and the Institutional Compliance Program's Management Standards Guidebook. "These efforts helped crystallize the curriculum and validate for us what people are interested in," he said.
For a final check, the team shared the plan with senior-level managers and some of their direct reports. "Overall, the feedback was very positive," Willett said. "We received some great suggestions for modifications."
The result is a curriculum of some 25 offerings (see list above right) addressing everything from building trust in the workplace to creating an inclusive work environment. The classes are open to all faculty and staff members at Princeton, although some are intended specifically for managers.
While not required, employees are being encouraged to complete a needs assessment in advance of registering for classes or any other learning and development efforts. "At the heart of our learning and development philosophy is to have people define their ideal self first," Willett said. "It's going to be different for everybody, depending on their job and their personal and career aspirations. Then we're asking employees to compare their ideal self with their real self. When people see that there might be a gap -- it could be a technical skill or a type of behavior -- that's what's called 'creative tension.' That tension is the real motivator for people to learn and improve themselves. The return on people’s learning and development efforts will be much greater if they do the assessment first."
On a Web site launched this month, the learning and development staff provides several development tools and guidelines, including a fundamental process to help employees and supervisors establish and maintain an ongoing dialogue on learning and continuous improvement. "This ongoing dialogue between learners and supervisors is critical because both have responsibility to ensure that the entire learning process happens," Willett said. Other tools include guidelines for assessing personal needs. Results from the needs assessment can then be incorporated into a development plan.
Employees who identify one specific area in which they want to
improve might be better served by taking one or two classes. Those who
aspire to be a manager or a more senior level manager might be better
suited for the management development certificate program.
For the certificate program, employees must take five required
classes and three electives from the core curriculum within three
years. In order to participate, employees must have supervisor approval
and sponsorship. Employees and their supervisors will be expected to
work together through the learning process by discussing the employee's
aspirations, needs assessment, development plan and progress against
"For some employees, a certificate program gives them a target and more of a feeling of achievement," Willett said. "It might help others be more competitive for jobs, although there is no guarantee."
Most classes in the core curriculum meet once for four hours or less in New South. While a majority of the courses are offered through the human resources office, some are provided by other departments, such as the conflict management sessions run by the ombuds office.
Leading the classes will be Princeton employees who are either certified facilitators or subject matter experts. Many of the classes are free, although there is a charge for participants who fail to cancel without notice. Offerings are expected to change as needs at the University change and as more advanced courses are requested by alumni of the basic classes.
The last portion of every class will be devoted to asking participants to reflect on what they've learned and to choose at least one behavior or skill to practice when they return to the office. Facilitators will help participants create a simple one-page action plan -- based on the 70/20/10 formula -- so they can hold themselves accountable and share it with their supervisors.
Willett said he hopes that the curriculum will go a long way toward not only improving the University's workforce and its ability to help Princeton deliver its ultimate product to students, but also creating a more fulfilling environment for employees.
"Learning is critical in order for organizations to survive and thrive," he said. "People must be able to continuously try to learn what they don't know and to get better at what they're already doing. We're a learning institution, but are we learning ourselves?
"We also talk a lot about ensuring that this is an exceptional place
to work," Willett said. "So much of the climate of satisfaction relies
on if people feel like they're achieving their own goals and
continuously growing. We hope this curriculum will enable them to do