Designing an IT training program is like buying ice cream for a Little League team. Everyone wants something different and they’re all hoping they don’t have to share. The IT discipline is constantly changing so ongoing training is a must — but make that customized ongoing training. Just like ice cream, one flavor is not going to satisfy every member of your staff. In fact, designing a program that keeps up with training needs, engages each of your people, and meets organizational requirement requires a plan.
Way too often organizations tell their IT staff to go online, find what they need, take the course and expense it out. That’s a good way to have well-trained people leave you. An actual IT training plan requires you to understand the skills, competencies, abilities and knowledge needed within your IT organization — and where each person stands. The plan prioritizes what is needed, who needs it and when and how they will get it.
If your organization doesn’t have the insight to structure a program, there are consultants who can assess your needs and evaluate your staff to help inform a plan.
Providing the Right Training
Once you’ve identified the training needs of your organization, you’ll need to determine how to handle the actual training. Here, the best approach is a blended one, using internal resources and external expertise.
- Internal: Many organizations have a wealth of knowledge within their IT staff that can be shared through brown bag lunches, webinars and idea meetings. Internal instruction and knowledge management is good for procedures, legacy or current technologies, and tips and tricks learned in the trenches.
- Outsourced: For new technology, vendor-supplied training is critical. This type of training brings in outside knowledge and specialized expertise with an economy of scale, structured classes and pathways to certifications. It’s particularly good for injecting new ideas, perspectives and topics in IT groups.
- Web-based: A hybrid option, web-based learning or e-learning has become increasingly popular in the era of shrinking budgets. E-learning is great for overviews and as a prerequisite to prepare for more in-depth classroom or on-the-job training sessions. E-learning can be self-paced or scheduled, and can be done as an individual or via Web conferencing around the world. As a bonus, e-learning often is more affordable than in-person training, although it can’t teach everything.
- Classroom Learning: There are some topics that require hands-on demonstrations, explanations and discussions. The more complex and nuanced a topic is, the more classroom or other face-to-face training is necessary. A key element to outsourced training is that it often takes staff members away from their workload, urgent requests and texts about urgent requests — so they can fully focus and actually learn.
If you value the role that IT plays in your success, then prioritize and plan for IT training. A well-structured plan pays dividends in operations, innovation and culture. Additionally, what you learn from pre- and post-training assessments of employee satisfaction, job performance, and business progress roll over into a better plan — meaning the next time you take the team out for ice cream, it’ll be that much easier to get everyone what they want.