Customized success Featured

5:08am EDT April 29, 2003
Columbus offers local businesses a wealth of educational opportunities for their employees. Whether it's a mini master's of business degree program through The Ohio State's Fisher College of Business or teaching English to non-English speaking employees through Columbus State Community College, the resources are many and varied.

The Online Computer Library Center Inc. (OCLC), an international nonprofit membership organization serving more than 43,000 libraries around the world, is one organization that took advantage of these opportunities. With nearly 1,200 employees, its goal is to be the No. 1 worldwide source of online information to libraries, and it earned more than $178 million in revenue in the past year.

OCLC president and CEO Jay Jordan felt the company needed a training program to meet its leadership needs, and worked with The Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business to create the company's own Center for Leadership Development.

"The Center for Leadership Development has had some anticipated and unanticipated benefits," says Jordan. "Among the anticipated benefits for the participants were improved leadership -- particularly more accountability for performance -- and increased business acumen regarding business planning, understanding OCLC's markets and the leverage points for product performance."

Joseph Marth, manager of organization development and learning for OCLC, says nearly 90 mid-level and top executives attended the five modules -- strategy and planning, marketing, organizational changes/issues, developing people and project sponsorship -- co-developed by OCLC and Fisher College experts.

"We were looking at succession and what traits our future leaders needed when we developed the training," says Marth.

OCLC not only financially backed the training, which took place in a classroom setting on site, but also tied its management incentive plan compensation to how well departments perform in these areas.

In addition to the expected results, OCLC gained some unexpected benefits.

"When we brought together managers from various levels -- managers, directors and executives from various parts of the company -- product development, research, finance, systems, marketing and sales, and from various regional and international offices -- the result was a shared and synergistic view about our organization and a realization of how critical leadership was to the successful implementation of our global strategy," Jordan says.

The results are measurable in dollars and cents.

"In addition to traditional evaluations, we also used a return on investment measured utility program," says Marth.

According to Marth, OCLC has seen a $2 million return on a $400,000 investment. The program looks at positive and negative changes in employee performance since the Center for Leadership Development started two years ago, and it has had a positive economic impact.

"Thirty-six percent of the executives that went through the program say they have a better understanding of our goals," says Marth. "And the executives evaluated the classes on average at 4.3 out of 5. That's pretty darn satisfied." How to reach: OCLC, (614) 761-5125 or www.oclc.org