Investing in Workplace Education

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When I joined TxMQ in the early 2000s, the company’s primary go-to market strategy was technical training. We hosted between 90 and 120 training classes annually for large companies in Toronto, Ontario, Ohio, and Michigan. We consulted, too, but it was a very small part of our overall business.
We ran seminars and private classes for customer running large IBM systems. IBM mostly funded this training program and, over time as IBM dollars dried up, companies brought us in directly for custom classes. With changes in workforce, and economic downturns those dollars also evaporated as companies hunkered down and weathered the financial crisis of the mid to late 2000s.
Over the past 5 years, as the economy has begun to normalize and slowly grow, we have seen a renewed interest in training as companies are now beginning to reinvest in their people, both through targeted technology training as well as onsite mentorship provided by senior consultants.
We have responded, and developed a series of classes, deliverable both as web based instructor led classes, self paced web based modules, and onsite private offerings for larger groups.
Companies who offer internal technical training accomplish far more than maintaining current skills for technical staff.   It is a way for companies to demonstrate commitment to staff and the future of the company. Such investments are difficult for HR to measure, but the payoff can be dramatic. From reduced staff turnover, to improved operational efficiencies, even greater customer satisfaction.
Training says to staff, “We care about you, and will invest in your continued education and development.”

Allow training outside of the “classroom”

Training doesn’t have to mean classroom based, or web based training.   Training can also be provided by approving travel to specific industry conferences.   Most companies that approve these efforts, require some validation by staff.   Either a write up on what was learned or, in some cases, a presentation that attending staff are asked to deliver to staff back in the office that weren’t lucky enough to attend the conference.

Validate and Vet trainings – ensure the learning maps to your goals

Merely providing training for staff isn’t enough. Training should “fit”. There should be a true value proposition in learning objectives for each course, each conference, and each workshop. Creating a Mentorship Plan for each department role is critical in attaining the desired return on investment.
Some software and hardware manufacturers offer certifications on their products. IBM, Oracle, Microsoft and many others offer countless certifications.   Some consulting firms, like TxMQ, similarly offer certifications on vendor solutions as well as broader vendor agnostic certifications. Do your homework, and make sure the classes map to your training goals and objectives – whether that value be positioned in the form of a “certificate” or in your staff’s knowledge of a new technology area.

Choosing the Right Training Delivery Platform

There are a variety of training platforms available today.   The most common is traditional classroom, and this remains the most effective. Classroom training is available on a public or private basis. Customized private delivery is most effective for companies introducing a new technology into their technical environments where there are enough attendees to justify bringing the class to the company instead of sending employees to a classroom someplace else. There is no replacing the value of instructor led training with hands-on lab experience where software technicians can experiment with the software. Instructor-led still provides the most effective delivery platform for technical students that learn by doing, while having immediate access and oversight by an experienced instructor. The downside of course, is the cost, which can be burdensome to the department both in terms of tight budgets and impactful for the time away required for participants to acquire the learning without the distraction of the workplace.
Online and web-based classroom training offerings have sprung up as alternatives to public and private classroom, saving time and money by allowing students to participate remotely and/or schedule according to their own availability. Web-based classes can be instructor led, scheduled, or on-demand.   Be sure to compare options with many online classes offering significant savings in cost, but failing to deliver on real value. The pros include providing students with flexibility and saving on travel expenses, while the cons include the fact that students are more prone to experiencing distractions such as taking calls or checking emails while attending class.   It’s also difficult to ‘go back’ to repeat something if one had to interrupt a session for some urgent distraction.
Self paced and computer-based training (CBT) options have become more mature offering modularized self-contained learning units composed of videos and online presentations by subject matter experts. Improvements in online delivery such as video streaming and easy internet access are making CBTs even more popular today allowing students to self-manage their education without a live instructor standing by. CBT can be highly impactful, especially for motivated students, who learn by reading and are able to use online tools and chat for asking questions and getting the answers they need to complete their own learning objectives. Furthermore, CBTs can be modularized and targeted to specific areas of knowledge or addressing common knowledge gaps. Entire libraries of learning modules are now available –or can be developed specifically for your department knowledge and made available for future viewing. .
Properly managed, and validated, any of the above training delivery platforms present compelling options for the employer willing to invest in the continued development of their staff.
So let’s get started. Reach out to TxMQ for more information, and let’s start showing your staff how much you care about them!
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