3 Considerations for Developing Tech Training Programs
Digital transformation is a top priority for businesses today — but the road there isn't easy. One big obstacle stands in the way: tech skills.
According to the market intelligence firm IDC, IT skill shortages related to digital transformation will affect 90 percent of all organizations by 2025, costing the global economy a combined $6.5 trillion in terms of delayed products and lost business.
As those numbers make clear, a lack of critical IT skills is a workforce-wide problem, not a malady of individual organizations. That means companies can't hire their way to digital transformation. The existing talent pool is too small.
Instead, companies will need to rely on learning and development (L&D) programs to cultivate the skills they — and their workforces — need for the future. In some ways, that's good news. Retaining existing talent is typically more cost-effective than hiring new employees. Plus, according to research from the Association for Talent Development, organizations that invest more in employee training earn 218% higher income per employee than organizations that spend little or nothing on L&D.
To see that kind of return on investment (ROI) from an L&D program, organizations need to be strategic and intentional about how they design and deliver tech training. Learning is most effective when aligned with strategic business aims and tailored to the unique needs of individual employees. So, before implementing a new tech training program to solve your IT skills gaps, consider these three things.
1. What Business Goals Do You Want to Influence?
If your organization is facing a skills gap of any kind, that means your employees are missing the skills they need to help the company achieve its business goals. Any new tech training must start with a clear understanding of the company's strategic objectives. Those objectives will determine the particular skills your tech training should focus on.
Consider the story of Ricoh, a document services and consulting firm that used to focus on office printing. With a core component of the organization's business in decline, Ricoh's leaders knew they had to make a change. First, they identified new opportunities in the era of digital transformation — specifically, digital workplace services, digital business solutions, and hybrid infrastructure.
With clear goals in mind, Ricoh created a customized learning program to help employees develop the skills and certifications they'd need to excel in new business areas — skills like Microsoft Azure, Office 365, SQL, Projects In Controlled Environments 2 (PRINCE2), and IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL).
By starting from its business objectives and working backward, Ricoh created a tech training program that cultivated concrete skills that contributed directly to business outcomes. And employees were excited to gain new competencies with a practical, positive impact on their careers. As one Ricoh employee said, "I felt like I was in a deep rut, but now I have hope for the future."
Business goals should dictate more than just the content of tech training programs — they should also inform the design and delivery of training. An organization like Ricoh, looking to make fundamental changes to its business model, needs a comprehensive, long-term training program that speaks to a broad array of employees — from those with little technical knowledge to seasoned IT vets. That's why Ricoh built a carefully paced nine-month program that moved participants from basic digital awareness to actual assignments in the field.
Conversely, some digital transformation initiatives require smaller changes. For example, say an organization needed to train its IT team on a new cloud security tool it was purchasing. For an initiative like that, the company wouldn't need a major months-long L&D project. A tighter, faster program targeted toward experienced IT workers would do the trick.
2. Program Success Is Built on Close Collaboration Between IT and L&D
Organizations see the most ROI on L&D programs when those programs are personalized. Employees are more motivated and more engaged when training meets them where they are, teaches them skills they value, and helps them advance in their careers. In other words: The best way to ensure your tech training succeeds is to give employees a seat at the table.
Consider CGI, a global IT services company that partnered with Skillsoft to create a customized L&D program to cultivate critical IT skills in-house. CGI wanted to ensure the learning paths it put forward would resonate with employees, making them feel empowered and supported. So, they involved employees in designing the program. The result? Employees consumed 40% more training content and cut time to competency by six weeks.
Collaboration between IT and L&D leaders was also critical to CGI's success. IT leaders closely followed their teams' learning progress. They ensured people were on track and helped employees see the value of investing in their professional development. As Anil Santhapuri, who served as CGI's Director of Learning and Development for the APAC region at the time of the program, put it: "Just because you have a learning platform does not mean people will come to learn. One needs to make a compelling case, and that means focusing on creating customized and curated learning paths or journeys."
By delivering the content employees want in the ways that speak to them, personalization creates an L&D program that people actually want to use. And that level of personalization is only possible through close collaboration between L&D and IT.
3. Assessment Is as Essential as Content
How you measure learning is just as important as what your people learn — and for that reason, effective assessments should be baked into the L&D program from the start. Specifically, any tech training program needs assessment mechanisms at two levels: the level of the L&D program itself and the level of the individual learner.
At the level of the L&D program, IT and L&D leaders need ways to track whether the program is driving progress toward the business goals it was designed to support. Otherwise, you could end up investing in tech training that barely moves the needle, if at all.
Take, for example, Black Knight, a technology services provider in the mortgage, consumer loan, and capital markets. When survey results revealed that Black Knight's employees wanted continuous learning opportunities, the company created custom online training programs to provide ongoing leadership and professional development.
In designing these programs, Black Knight identified the key performance indicators (KPIs) it would track to ensure program success. Those KPIs included learning metrics like utilization, business value like cost savings, and talent development metrics like turnover and employee engagement. Black Knight developed a measurement system to track progress on these KPIs, which helped the company ensure its training programs delivered meaningful results. In short, Black Knight saw a benefit-to-cost ratio of $13:1 for every dollar invested in Percipio, Skillsoft's AI-powered learning experience platform. The total ROI of Black Knight's L&D program was more than $2.6 million in 2020 alone.
At the level of the individual employee, assessment can be empowering. Consider Skillsoft's Skill Benchmark assessments. These brief, low-stakes assessments help employees measure their progress against specific learning objectives. After completing a Skill Benchmark, learners receive personalized recommendations on what to study next based on their results. Employees spend less time on content they've already mastered and more time on closing knowledge gaps. Good assessments give employees the information they need to take ownership of their learning journeys.
At the same time, individual learner assessments help L&D and IT leaders objectively measure workforce capabilities and track progress toward mastery. If employees fall behind, leaders can step in to help them find the content they need to succeed. There's no guesswork.
Assessment, ultimately, is about more than proving ROI — it's about actively improving learning outcomes. By tracking individual employee progress and overall program performance, L&D and IT leaders can ensure tech training is going smoothly. And if it isn't, they can quickly intervene to get employees on the right learning paths. So, when designing a new tech training program and purchasing tools to support it, it's a good idea to prioritize assessment at the same level as content.
What’s the Most Effective Way to Close the IT Skills Gap?
There’s no shortage of vision and willpower when it comes to digital transformation. Where organizations often run into trouble is the practical work of bringing digital transformation about. Between cloud and system migrations, new cybersecurity mandates, new IT operations frameworks, keeping up with the latest technological innovations, and ensuring alignment between IT and the rest of the organization, there’s a lot of work to be done. Unfortunately, IT skills gaps threaten to derail much of it.
Tech training can close those gaps, but all L&D programs are not created equal. To deliver learning experiences that help organizations and people grow together, IT and L&D leaders should follow a few simple rules: Align training with strategic objectives, foster close collaboration between IT and L&D, and build in the right measurement tools.
To learn more about creating effective IT skill development initiatives that meet your organization's transformative needs, check out IDC's report, Critical IT Skill Development: Using Skillsoft to Solve 5 Use Cases.
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