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Training and IT Management - The Next Big Investment Should be Training

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When you receive your budget and it's less than last year, what is the first thing you do?

You cut 'something' out. You measure and weigh, spend hours agonizing over your decision, and if you are like most IT Managers, you finally decide that your staff really don't require training; after all they've been using computers every day for the last several years of their working life - right?

When workers do the same job day after day, on the same computer they develop habits. You may have received training on how to use the computer when you got Windows 95 several years ago, but how much of that training do you remember? How many of those features do your users actually use? How many features have changed from version to version and is your staff using their computer systems efficiently?

Let's face it, when we get into habits, we tend to lose skills that we could be making use of. Our worker productivity could be greatly improved when companies invest in ongoing employee skills upgrading and training.

As a trainer, I know that the first thing cut in any budget is funding for training. This is something that I would like to see turn around - and soon. With the new operating systems, office productivity packages and collaboration tools due out from Microsoft some time in the next year, I see a great opportunity for employers to increase the productivity of their workers by offering up to date customized training.

Many professional associations require continuing education to maintain your membership status. If an insurance professional is not keeping current with changes and trends, or regulations in the insurance industry, how can they offer the best they can to their clients? That same principle applies to your employees. If you aren't investing in them to make them the most productive and provide them with the most relevant tools, how can you expect your employees to be giving you their best?

It seems the younger generation was born with computers and gadgets attached to their hips while the aging workforce still requires education to keep up to date with the latest features of the office productivity or other software they are required to use on the job.

As an example, I recently completed training for a Canadian oil company. I have never been so well received as I was at this training session. It was the first time in over five years that productivity, Microsoft Office, internet and project management training had been offered to the staff. Every person attending was thankful to be there and to have the opportunity to learn something new and to do their job better.

One attendee told me, "Everything I learned I learned by doing myself, plundering my way through, or watching over someone else's shoulder. And really that was just no good."

Every day we increase demands on our employees to offer better service, to sell more, to retain more customers, to process more paper....and on and on...We push the newest gadgets like handheld devices, PDA's, and Smart Phones that do everything but clean the kitchen sink; meanwhile, we fail to provide more than just the basics on how to get the most out of the tools we provide.

As an IT Manager, 2006 may be the year to change that. If your company likes to stay on the leading edge of technology and embraces new hardware and software, or sees technology as necessary to its very existence, then investing a little time and money into training for your employees to make use of the new features is going to be more than worth the return on investment you make.

New hardware, new and improved Windows, new Microsoft Office Suite, new collaboration (MSN Messenger, LiveMail) and internet and computer searching tools are just the tip of the ever changing IT world.

Why not give your employees the opportunity to move forward with the "right" foot? Provide training to allow your staff to meet and even exceed the expectations you have place on them.


Thanks,
Jacqueline

Comments
  • The title says it all!!
    The past couple of weeks, and the week ahead of us, have seen some great things...

  • Jacqueline, a very warm welcome to the CIM blog. Since your world is also my world, ie. teaching office, etc., I can only wholeheartedly endorse your sentiments. I now have someone that I can directly interact with and I very much look forward to that.

    I would only like to add one comment. All too often when people are sent for training they are rarley given adequate practice time when they get back to their workplace. Let's face it however good the training, most people will truely retain at most 10-15% of what they heard. The rest is vaguely there and they perhps now no where to go and find out how to do it. I have emphasised the importance of teaching how to use help here a couple of times.

    Practice, practice, practice is the only real way to learn new material and change those acquired bad habits. Even if the employee's company understands the need for practice, all too often the employee is expected to do it on their own time. Clearly, some will and some won't, or their personal circumstances makes that very difficult.

    I believe that we have a challenge to try and convince employers, that if they invest the money to send people for training, to not waste that investment by thinking that the process is over, when in fact it is just the beginning!

    Again, welcome to the CIM blog.

    Cheers
    Graham J.

  • Jacqueline,

    Welcome to the Canadian IT Managers (CIM) blog. It is good to see the training sector represented here in the CIM.

    Your points strike home from my current/past two roles: board director/officer in organizations, and past teacher.

    I sit on the boards and operate as an executive where I see the direct and measurable impact of investment in employees. There is definitely a tie into the bottom line. Training is a key contributor to business agility, increased performance/productivity, and reducing the pronounced productivity gap such as with the US.

    I am a past Certified Technical Trainer (CTT), MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer), CNI (Certified Novell Instructor), PLAA (provincially certified, Prior Learning Assessment Assessor), and college educator. From these roles, it became clear that training is an effective means of catalyzing employee satisfaction and their ability to provide effective solutions. The idea is to have them concentrating on moving the organization forward and not the intricacies of the technology. Continual training creates this empowered workforce.

    I’m looking forward to seeing your blogs.

    Cheers,
    Stephen Ibaraki, FCIPS, I.S.P.



  • Hi, Stephen:

    I agree training is very important, not just for the business value it brings, but also for the feeling of care it brings to employees in training.

    In the meantime, I think self-initiated training is even better, as it shows the drive, initiative and self-determination of the individual. If a professional truly believes his career is his "business" (as you said on this blog), then corporate training will not be *That* necessary or important, but merely a benefit to take advantage of for the advancement of individual goals. Where the corporate training falls short, the individual will happily make up himself.

    Sorry I may be the minority here on this blog, since I am a freelancer and don't believe anyone has any responsibility for me except my family. :) So I buy books and go to seminars for all my training needs. And when I feel compelled enough to invest my own money on a training topic like Sales, I learn amazingly fast. :)

    So for corporate training to maximize its impact, the corporation may need to seek out those who really really want to learn about this specific topic. In other words, to match willing students with their favorite topics. When that happens, the trainer will be able to take on more of a facilitative role to make sure that he is not really teaching per se. But rather, to help the learners to learn.

    According to Carl Rogers, one key goal of teaching is to help the learners to be self-driven and gain the habit of learning by his own effort. The scenario where learners sit back and the teacher does all the hard work, only makes the learners more passive and dependent on the corporation. This may not be the best way to promote personal growth and maturity, in my humble opinion. :)

    Thanks!

    Jing

  • Hi Jing,

    If you recall, in one of my recent blogs I emphasized the importance of self reliance. This is precisely why when I am teaching I try to give people the tools to work towards that goal.

    Realistically, however, only a fairly small percentage of my students and indeed employees in general are strongly self-motivated. It is difficult for those of us who are, to understand that because we know the value and importance. Like yourself, I am largely self-taught. If I feel the need to learn something I research and study it. It has always been like that and generally I do fairly well at something that I put my mind to. It just comes natural to us!

    However, it is easy to forget that people like us are a very small percentage of the population. The fact that you are a freelancer in part speaks to that. Companies face an entirely different problem. They have to deal with the majority, who may be perfectly good employees, who expect their employers to train them if they want more from them. Let's not forget that the majority of employees exist outside the professional ranks. None the less, the arguements for the value of training are just as powerful, especially today where the use of computers is endemic.

    I teach at a union training centre. My students are invariably very nice and reasonable people. Thankfully, many of them are starting to recognize the need to take a foreward looking attitude to computer skills for the benfits of future employment. However, very few would ever think of simply grabbing a book to learn about it like you and I. Without wishing in any way to put them down, they don't have our intellect, motivation or education to work from.

    Cheers
    Graham

  • Jing/Graham,

    That’s an interesting dialogue about self-motivation and self-training.

    There is a big focus on motivation and creating avenues for retention on training programs for trainers. The reason: it’s that Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule applying here. about 80% of the population needs to have incentives and a teaching environment whereas 20% can more readily self-initiate. However, in my earlier days I read a study that indicated only 5% could self-study effectively with no mentorship or coaching. They could train themselves on any topic to any level of sophistication. So what about the 95%--they represent a tremendous resource that can fuel any organization.

    I started teaching in the 1970s’ and have taught both corporately and at the college-level in a degree program. Much of my experiences come from the “school of hard knocks” of seeing what works and what doesn’t. I managed to snag a few awards for teaching along the way by putting what I learned into practice—sort of a dynamic improvement model. From this backdrop, I discovered that essentially everyone wants to work to become effective employees and training can definitely add to their experience and their value. For those who can learn by themselves, attending training sessions will still give them added insights or perhaps a new trick or two for getting something done faster. So I always encourage all to engage in training: those who need the classroom environment and those who don’t. In fact, those who don’t can also act as mentors in the classroom for others and in doing so, gain more knowledge. There is really no better way of learning something than by teaching it since you have to come up with models which deepens your knowledge.

    The training does need to be carefully tailored to meet the learning needs of a diverse population. There are rewards in supporting people to reach their goals in a collaborative effort. Interestingly, the same principles that apply in teaching also apply in managing and in raising a family.

    Cheers,
    Stephen Ibaraki

  • Thank you all for your kind words and input!

    I look forward to contributing to this portion of the blog and connecting with you at various events. Don't hesitate to introduce yourself!

    Graham and Stephen, I'm glad there are more "me's" out there! And your points on mentoring in the classroom Stephen are correct. Now if only more people would ACT on that instead of just SIT! :D

    Jing, when it comes to the free-lancers it is often difficult to come up with the funds to pay for training. Most do it because they HAVE to in order to land that contract, not because they truly have a choice. I'll have to work on that for a future post. What a wonderful idea.

    Take care all and thank you again,

    Jacqueline Hutchinson

  • Jacqeline,

    It's good to meet in this virtual forum, exchanging ideas and learning. I hope to meet you in person too!

    Best regards,
    Stephen Ibaraki

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