Talking to some IT managers around the Toronto area, I found them generally in agreement that their training opportunities seem limited and broad in nature.  As well, their training dollars are primarily directed towards helping the teams be successful in role by project.  What this usually means is their teams are learning as they go.  Sometimes, on a project by project basis and generally self taught.   Listening to their comments, it seems at times this approach can pose an employee retention challenge.  Employees get the feeling for them to grow, they have to move on.   They all commented that they can’t create projects just to keep employees and finding training for them on any ongoing basis was difficult and time consuming.  I suggested that, perhaps giving them a fixed time to learn, putting a focus on an individual’s growth, helping them create a plan and using certification as training roadmap may help keep them around longer and a little happier. 

 

Once back at the office I did some more looking into this subject and the IT Managers feedback really resonates with our understanding of the Broad IT Pros learning traits.  It seems that IT Pros really have two journeys when it comes to learning: Project or Career.

 

Project or initiative led journey: This usually is driven from a timely requirement to get something done in their immediate role.  The key drivers are a technology project, cost cutting initiative, business value initiative or architectural/solution discovery.  The benefit to the IT pro in this journey is being successful in their current role and getting rewarded for delivering on a specific set of deliverables.  Ad hoc feedback indicates that this is the primary learning channel and usually addressed via in house training, self taught (experimentation) webcasts, and some classroom training.

 

Career journey: This is all about each individual’s future, career path, and growth. This journey is usually the one that gets put aside to get an immediate job done and pay the bills.  Yet, investing in this journey secures an individual’s ability to long term employment and satisfaction in role.  This journey is the most varied and can include technical and soft skills, growing business acumen as well as building a broader solution understanding. The benefit is that it builds on the project based learning’s and allows an individual to grow, contribute more to the organization, expand their knowledge and potentially move up the ladder.   This journey usually is more of a focus for individuals that have been in the business for a while and are looking past the simple base technical skills.  Not surprisingly, the training is usually outside of work.

 

Investing in your employee’s career may seem to be a risk as they could leave at any time.  While it’s true that this will always be a possibility, not investing surely guarantees that you will have to deal with them leaving.  Given that there are not many “training courses” that help individuals create a path on this journey it’s challenging to know what to do.  To address this challenge, I have taken an approach over my career that uses my experiences, their input and shares broad industry learning’s. I’m sure many managers do something similar. My approach, I schedule, one to one meetings on a monthly basis where I collaborate and work with my employees on their career path.  I try to help them create a path, based upon my experiences, pass on the feeling that they are valued and instill the importance of having somewhat of a plan.  This one hour of what I call “It’s all about you” is something I try not to move or shift as much as possible as I don’t want to diminish the importance.

 

At first it was a little scary as I wasn’t sure what I had to offer.  Yet I was surprised to find that the more I took this approach, it helped me just as much as the individual. Today, I use it as part of my career journey.  It has been wonderful to see people grow and sometimes even go on to better things.  What I’d like to call positive attrition J 

 

When I came to Microsoft, just over 5 years ago, it was exciting to see that I was on the right track. At Microsoft, for a manager helping your team and individuals with their career is mandatory.   (Hmmm, tell you what….  I’ll talk more in future posts on what we do and how I manage my team with respect to their careers.  If you’re interested, I’ll also share what I’m doing WRT to my career journey.)

 

Now, it still doesn’t solve the availability of training issue and I think that I may be able to help with that challenge.  With TechNet (yes, it’s more then just a technical database), we always have some ongoing training.  I know that you don’t have time to search for it and it’s true that at times is challenging to find specific content as our site offers so much information.  Using this Blog, I’ll try and keep you informed as to our IT Pro events, online and scenario based training that is offered over the course of the year.  Some of the content is delivered by my team and others will be the same stuff that I share, use and suggest for my team. 

 

I’ll try and make it clear with “Training” blog posts, so you can quickly decide if it is applicable for your group.  I know time is money and as a bonus, most of the training has no or minimal costs.