All companies need to ensure that their employees possess up-to-date skills for the software, hardware, and processes they deal with on a day-to-day basis. Providing employees with the latest skills is one of the most effective ways of staying ahead of the competition, and it’s should never be an optional extra.
It’s not all about remaining competitive. A Gallup poll has found that 80 percent of employees in tech companies say that the provision of up-to-date training is a key factor in deciding to work for a company or remaining in their current post. So training is also about attracting and retaining the best talent.
Even though it’s clear that training is vital, not all companies allocate the resources required to upgrade their staff skills. In fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that on average, employees receive just 10.7 hours of training every year. That’s hardly enough to master the coffee machine, let alone the Cisco Unified Computing System.
Finding the Right Trainer to Boost Your Company’s Skills
How can managers source training services to keep their staff on the cutting edge of their field? It’s not as simple as it might seem.
Training is expensive. If you want to hire the best trainers in any given area, you can expect to pay premium for their reputation. Knowing which areas to train staff, and the depth of knowledge they require is also tough. Markets change constantly, and so do the skills required to succeed. However, there are some things to remember that can guide you through the process of hiring a technical trainer.
Create a Technical Training Plan Across Your Company
The cost of training, and its importance to company success makes it essential to formulate a technical training plan. Every staff member should be included. Even the smallest role can be upgraded and made more efficient with the right technical education.
For each role, identify the skill level obtained by the current occupant. Now specify the ideal skill level for their core competency, which could be operating a certain software package or maintaining a network. Beyond that, specify additional areas of expertise that would enhance the role.
Set a timescale for the completion of your training plan and carry out an audit to work out how much fulfillment of the plan will cost. Then, a budget for the training program and get to work.
It’s also worth noting that you can bring in external expertise to assist with drawing up a technical training plan. There’s no need to struggle alone. You may also decide to create a new role of technical training director to oversee the training schedule or retain a consultant in the position. Either way, it’s crucial to make sure the plan is implemented.
Think About the Time Horizon
Trainers can work on a short or long-term basis, depending on what their client demands. In some companies, long-term training is more important. This generally applies if the skill sets of your employees rarely change or change slowly. If your staff require a wide range of general skills that require “topping up” or refreshment at regular intervals, it makes sense to have a long-term training team. It could either be in-house, with permanent job roles, or you could strike a long-term deal with a technical training agency. Thinking over a longer time horizon can ensure continuity of knowledge and drive down costs, but it’s not suitable in all cases.
Often, the training requirements of companies fluctuate. When you work in a dynamic environment with new products and processes coming online all the time, having an in-house team can be a hindrance. It makes much more sense to commission training agencies to deliver short-term training courses on specific issues as and when they are required.
Do You Want to Work From Within or Source Outside Help
This is a closely related issue, but it’s also worth thinking about. If you focus your technical training program on in-house employees and keep as much as possible within your company, you can be sure that your training staff will stick to company protocols and stay within the boundaries of your corporate culture. That’s handy for maintaining a brand identity and ensuring continuity, but it comes at a cost.
External trainers can inject a fresh perspective into your company, that internal training teams often cannot. In fact, the best technical trainers explicitly set out to disrupt and remold corporate cultures to improve the way they work. They won’t be afraid to make bold judgments about how your staff work and where they can improve.
In reality, you will probably arrive at a compromise between keeping training internal and bringing in outside help. That way, you can benefit from the ability of outsiders to help your company “know itself,” and protect your corporate identity.
Carry Out Due Diligence Before Signing a Training Contract
Technical trainers can be fantastic salespeople. After all, their occupation relies on the ability to communicate complex ideas at an everyday level. It’s easy to walk away from a meeting with a training agency having signed up to services that you don’t actually need.
To guard against this happening, always meet with training agencies before you finalize your training plans, and shop around with various providers before you make a decision.
Ask technical training companies what they can provide your firm, and find out where their core expertise lies. How will they measure success when carrying out a training program?
Also, it makes sense to research their track record, but this can be misleading. Obviously, you want to work with trainers with positive feedback, but the most prestigious companies can be much more expensive than newer entrants into the market. Smaller companies can be just as effective. In fact, they may have recently split away from a more well-known agency, so may not have built up a long history of references.
Don’t be fooled by a famous name. Find someone affordable, relevant to your needs, and competent, and never over-purchase courses just because they are offered.
Training is vital to business success, so don’t be one of those companies that economize on upgrading staff skills. Instead, draw up a company-wide training plan, research the training market and determine the kind of training you require. The result will be highly skilled, efficient, and happier employees.