Learn and Earn

ipd Company, a small auto parts company in Portland, Oregon, pays its employees to read. And, not just business books, but a wide range of self-improvement books. And, not just books, but also tapes and audio/video seminars.

Richard Gordon, president of ipd, started the “Learn and Earn” program in 1988 when he began to wonder, “what would it be like if our people read the same or similar books?”

Maybe the company would become wiser as a whole.

Today, ipd has a library of over 1400 books, tapes and videos located in the company’s lunchroom. Each book is assigned a dollar value, most averaging $25 although the range is from $5 (“Liar’s Poker,” Bill Cosby’s “Childhood”) to $75 (Juran’s 800 page “Quality Control Handbook”). Employees can read any book that interests them but in order to earn the assigned value, they must write the equivalent of a book report, which is stored in a three-ring binder in the lunchroom. Gordon reads every report.

Gordon states, “It isn’t my job to force employees to learn, but to create an atmosphere that encourages continuous learning.” However, some books are required reading for managers who are expected to set an example for others. Also, “The Power of Ethical Management” by Norman Vincent Peale is required reading for all new workers within 90 days of being hired.

Gordon frankly assesses the program: “Not everyone at ipd loves the Learn and Earn program, but the ‘right’ people do, and they’re the ones who will help us build our future.”

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