With budget cuts and slimmer employee populations, some businesses may slash the training budget. On the other hand, some companies are finding that the very people they let go are the ones who had the most IT skills and were the subject matter experts.
Sales teams without adequate computer skills are struggling with demands to use customer-based programs and enter their own sales and relationship data. Overall, regardless of the industry, there is the need to produce more, faster, with people who were already behind in the basics of Outlook and Excel.
According to a study by ISMG in September 2009, 62 percent of respondents will seek new certifications in 2010 and 79 percent of their organizations will continue to fund the training at least partially. One reason for investing in computer training during a bad economy is so that you don't lose your best employees. If you follow the classic ratio of 80 percent of your business is accomplished by 20 percent of your workforce, it makes sense to invest in them, but you can bet that the other 80 percent needs training to utilize your technology more effectively.
A couple of trends are important in assuring that Hampton Roads remains a healthy business community. With unemployment still high, many job seekers know they need retraining or new skills to compete but don't have the funds for training. Businesses are tempted to hire at a lower starting pay and find quick fixes for computer training. At the same time, stimulus money will create new IT startup companies for retraining adults that won't really be qualified to train. The result will be wasted time and wasted money. Secondly, companies cutting IT budgets will jeopardize their client relationships, revenue and eventually their ability to grow. Every IT problem has a solution but getting to it by trial and error without technical expertise will increase outsourcing costs. Having employees who know what they are doing saves money.
In addition to balancing the training budget, managers and business owners have to analyze individual needs to determine the type of training program to implement. One trend is just-in-time training that reduces the gap between the time the training is given and when the employee will have enough opportunity to practice and master the skills.
Regardless of the advances with online training for IT skills, trends indicate that people still need an instructor. If you need additional resources to cover instruction, consider your specific needs, job functions and employee skills to identify the best type of training.
Here are questions to ask training entities:
1. What kind of facility, classroom setup and equipment would be available to you? It is always good to do a site visit. Make sure that each attendee will have a computer. If you are taking a class for certification, ask if the facility is a Prometric and Pearson Vue Certified Test Center or its equivalent. Check out the safety of the location. Is there adequate parking?
2. What are the options for scheduling training? You want to be sure the schedule offers breaks between training and practice exercises. Although some companies may want a one-day, eight-hour training, we encourage two- to four-hour sessions with time to practice before the next session. Find out if training is also available on Saturdays. We conducted training for salespeople in two-hour, small-group segments for Freedom Ford recently to best meet their needs.
3. Are instructors certified? Not only should they be certified in the courses you are taking, they should have the philosophy that every student will learn the material, even if it means staying after the course ends to work in the lab.
4. Can you audit the course once you have paid for the initial training? You or your employees may not have had an opportunity to use the new skills to the point of mastery. Auditing should be offered.
5. What kind of materials and courseware does the company use? For example, at IntellecTechs, attendees are given practice software and data files to take home for practice at the end of their Microsoft Office courses. Prior to signing up for a course, always ask for a syllabus. When your office is upgrading equipment, always ask if training is part of the integration costs.
6. Who would be the other students in your class and what are the class sizes? Even if you are attending a course alone or with a small group from your company, you should know who else will be in the class. With a ratio of no more than 12-1, you should receive attention and have your questions addressed.
This leads to a very important decision. Should you plan for training at your own job site or offsite at a training facility? If everyone is from the same company, the instructor can use real-life experiences and relate directly to the students. Will the equipment at the training center be very different than your own? Consider that at a training center, you will not experience the day-to-day interruptions so that you can focus totally. Additionally, the broader demographics often drive more useful questions concerning applications and new ideas for recommending processes within your own business.
Jeri Prophet is founder and CEO of IntellecTechs, a company specializing in training, networking, hosting, security and Web design. She can be reached at j.prophet@
IntellecTechs.com or 962-2487.