Developing Your IT Staff

Let me start with the blindingly obvious: IT is a very turbulent environment. Something nonexistent today can create earthquakes tomorrow. Big Data and Cloud Computing are the two major shifts in technology today, which were born just two years ago. To keep up with this pace, the IT either has to develop its veteran staff or find new talent. Since the development is mainly on the IT manager and he is already busy with the meetings, schedules and projects, how can he assure that his staff can continue to catch the time?

In my consultancies, I am always amazed that almost all of the companies do not have budget for IT training. I cannot understand the justification of not having a budget when operating in such a turbulent environment, but this is the case. The training budget must be in every IT budget every year, without exception.

Again, almost all of the IT managers will say that their training budget is cut by the senior management. I cannot agree less. If the senior management cannot oversee that there will always be technological changes in IT and their staff should be very well prepared for the changes, they will cut the training budget. It does not change anything if the IT services are outsourced or insourced. The senior management has to understand that IT has to acquire the knowledge through training. The corporate strategic plan has to include the knowledge of  the corporate IT. If not, it is shortsighted. Period.

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In order to fully utilize training, there are two things that the IT managers should be careful:

  • From a strategic point of view, the gap analysis should be made. The gap analysis has to look at the changes in IT and the skills that the IT staff owns. The gap between the two will be included in the training plan.

  • From a project point of view, the training should be timed to finish before the project starts. This way, the newly acquired skills will be introduced to the project and the skills will be maturate with the hands-on work.

Of course the next argument will be about keeping the trained IT staff. Although there are many things you can do to keep your IT staff, there will always be cases when people want to pursue their own career choices. Most probably, your strategic, budgeted IT training will not go unnoticed and your IT people will be in demand. Specific certifications and training cost a lot. The conditions should be fair for both the company and the employee. To be fair for both sides, there should be a payback option for the company-paid training. The agreement should be signed before the training and the employee has to know beforehand how the reimbursement will be.

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Taking an IT manager’s perspective, I believe that training should be on every IT staff’s annual personal objectives. Whether a senior IT manager or a junior fresh out of school, training is everybody’s responsibility. IT executives need training to see what is going on in the IT arena, IT managers need training for better management – both people and projects – and IT staff need training to do their jobs better. Every person should meet with his manager and discuss training objectives for the year and how these objectives will be attained.

IT training is expensive, as I just said. On the other hand IT stuff is also expensive (blades, storage systems, routers are all expensive stuff). There are also the vendors out there who want your business (read: your money by selling you those expensive stuff). In order to optimize your IT training budget, you can require periodic training from the vendors and guarantee that by recording this in your agreement. Almost all vendors offer introductory, on-site training to the IT staff on the new implementations (I cannot blame them, because it is the IT managers who want such training). However, smart IT managers will not settle for the introductory training but will ask for ntermediate and advanced training as well. And smart IT managers make up their staff’s time for training and monitor how the training is delivered/acquired.

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Lastly, IT training has also account for the end business training. IT staff has a long list of skills but almost always they do not know what the end business is doing. On the other side, the end business have no idea about what IT is doing. Combine these two and ask for the end business to deliver training for your IT staff and require your IT staff to deliver training for the end users. Not only you will see immediate synergies but also a greater collaboration between departments. Something that is deemed impossible by an end user is 5 seconds for an IT staff and something so ridiculous for the IT staff is an essential process for the end user. You cannot imagine what the outcomes will be with such training. Even having lunch together and having live Q&A sessions will have a great impact.

Any other development ideas? Hit the comments below!


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