Uganda, Africa's first teaching hospital devoted solely to HIV/AIDS is under construction. Within a few years, the hundreds of professionals trained there will, in turn, train thousands of people in AIDS prevention and care with the goal of preventing more than a million cases of HIV.
What do these seemingly remote corners of the world have in common? Both operations belong to Pfizer, the No. 1 ranked company in our 2002 Training Top 100 (March 2002). As I listened to Rob Norton's award acceptance speech on behalf of Pfizer at the inaugural black-tie gala we recently held to honor this year's Top 100, I was struck by the sheer impact that training can and clearly does have on all aspects of our lives.
Of course, most of us in this field have known this for quite some time. We spend most of our waking hours, even some in dreamland, proclaiming the virtues of ongoing personal and professional development and the enormous benefits that such efforts yield on key business drivers. Still, listening to Norton's speech reminded me, and the 400 training, HR and upper management executives in the audience, that the commitment, energy and passion we possess for all things learning does, and always will, make a real difference in this world. And this difference stretches far beyond the confined walls of corporate environments.
For Pfizer, this is particularly true: "Somewhere around 90 percent of our market capitalization—now more than a quarter trillion dollars—reflects our people and their collective genius...Our job is to give them the tools, the incentives and the inspiration." No sooner had Norton, senior vice president of global HR, completed that thought, the audience broke into applause, and echoes of affirmation filled the ballroom. Not since John Chamber's infamous rounding error quote, has such a buzz infiltrated a group of top executives, that in this case collectively employs more than 17,000 full-time training professionals.
One could argue that Norton was preaching to the choir—that with any other management-level audience, this heartfelt speech about training's importance would have fallen on deaf ears or would have been met, at best, with an exaggerated rolling of the eyes. I, for one, do believe in the strategic advantage of investing in human capital development. But I'm also a realist, and I know that not everyone shares that view.
This is painfully obvious in times of fiscal uncertainty when people become redundancies and training is slashed second only to marketing budgets. No one feels this pain more than you, our readers, who along with several thousand other professionals from vendors to suppliers and consultants, form the crux of a community. A community that is made up of people who do believe in the power of training. And a community that is made up of people who have invested a great portion of their personal and professional lives to prove just that by helping others succeed.
As I listened to Norton's speech that night and looked out at the faces in the audience who were soaking up his much needed words of affirmation like a rainshower in the desert, I was struck by a sad, albeit enlightening thought. Training professionals simply don't take the time to celebrate their ongoing achievements the way they should. The would-be moments of glory or simple pats on the back get lost somewhere amidst the daily hustle and bustle of putting out performance fires, defending return on investment and dealing with ubiquitious "training problems." As 2002 unfolds, don't wait for someone else to celebrate or even notice the work you do and the lives you touch each and every day. Stand up and be counted. You deserve it.