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The Evolution of IT Training Strategies

May 19th, 2005

Since 2000, IT companies and IT departments within corporations have undergone significant reductions in spend across the board – leaving companies to revamp training strategies. There are essentially three forms of training strategies under discussion each with its own advantages and disadvantages for not only the consultant/employee but also for the company: instructor-led training, e-learning and mentoring.

Classroom training led by an instructor is the traditional form of training, but it is expensive and the return on investment for companies is not always apparent. Also, if a project has time constraints, the instructor-led training strategy may not be the best option because of the planning involved and too often this option fails due to poor planning. While many IT managers view training as important, even the most sophisticated training method can´t make up for pitfalls in planning and timing or for poor integration between the IT training and the company´s overall strategy.

One of the easiest ways to cut departmental costs is to reduce the amount of dollars used to fund training. But training is still going on. Mentoring or the “buddy system” appears to be on the increase in companies on the lookout for new, inexpensive and effective ways to train their IT staff because of its minimal cost, and the fact that very specific knowledge can be passed on to the mentored. Also there is the Internet. E-learning is a more respectable option, and an attractive one, because of its flexibility and infinite subject matter, but e-learning does place the responsibility squarely on the shoulders and pocket of the staff member under the guise of career empowerment. The e-learning approach may work for freelancers, but it is difficult to measure how well it aligns with the growth objectives of employees.

As either a complement to, or a replacement for conventional training, a technology mentoring program can be an essential component of an individual’s professional growth.

Mentor programs are cost effective and have benefits that extend beyond “technology training.” With an experienced mentor on the team, you can hit the ground running and achieve technology ramp-up in minimum time. Conventional training programs often focus on the mechanics of new technology, not real world strategies for the application of this technology in delivering the company’s project, product or service; and new users learn through hands-on development of working prototypes. Another benefit is that the mentor also lends his or her talent and experience in systems design and development, which will substantially decrease development time and effort, especially in the initial stages, when many key and far-reaching decisions are made.

Mentors are people in the workplace who have already mastered various technology skills whether they are consultants or FTE´s. However, an outside expert can also be brought in to train experienced staff to become mentors. A mentor program requires IT staff to shadow either consultants or more experienced staff who are working with new technology.

Tips for Starting a Mentoring Program:

Make sure that the program is officially part of the organization’s employee development program. This helps to gain the commitment of all involved.

Set program goals and metrics to gauge the success of the program and to help develop future programs.

Decide whether the mentoring program will be on a one to one basis between mentor and protйgй or one mentor to a group.

Make sure that the people selected to be mentors have the temperament for the job.

To both mentor and protйgй, the program is a commitment of time and effort that cannot be taken lightly if it is to succeed.

Try to match personalities as closely as possible when pairing up mentors and protйgйs.

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