Adapt, or else, is apparently the new marching orders for employees of AT&T.
Faced with competition from not just from Verizon and Sprint, but also Google and Amazon, the telecommunications giant is working aggressively to make sure its employees catch up and get ahead of the changing technology of the times.
Its CEO and Chairman, Randall Stephenson, isn’t afraid to mince words about will happen if his employees don’t.
In an interview with the New York Times, Stephenson said those who don’t spend five to 10 hours a week learning online “will obsolete themselves with technology.”
“There is a need to retool yourself, and you should not expect to stop,” Stephenson told the Times.
Those five or ten hours spent studying won’t necessarily be on company time, though.
AT&T under Stephenson has launched an ambitious corporate education program to get its employees to start coding and understand the data generated by its products.
The pitch came from Udacity, an online learning startup, that teamed up with AT&T offers a Master’s program in conjunction with Georgia Institute of Technology.
The two-year program has several enrolled from AT&T already, according to the New York Times. To get more people involved, the telecom company also has a dashboard so its employees can see the career paths in the company and the courses suited to them.
AT&T will reimburse employees up to $8,000 for tuition, an amount increased in the last month. The company told the paper that more than half of its workforce has started training online, either through Udacity or other online courses.
Eventually, performance reviews will factor in an AT&T employees desire to learn, says the Times. Yet, the AT&T employees enrolled in the Master’s degree program still have to manage a course load of classes — one that has an employee spending weekends and off hours to finish.
Its HR chief believes that’s the way to keep up. “People are going to have to work hard, but it’s not insane,” said William Blase, AT&T’s senior executive vice president of human resources. “There’s going to be an expectation that your compensation will be tied to continuing to learn.”
It doesn’t mean that those who don’t take classes will be fired on the spot, but Stephenson is clear that its employees have to adapt to the speed of changing technology and keep learning, or else. “Demography is on our side”, Stephenson told the Times, so some of his ageing workforce might leave on their own volition, too.