For a company to stay on the cutting edge you need to create a culture for learning. The technology that drives IT departments is in a constant state of change. Your employees need to continue to obtain the knowledge and training needed to implement and support both present and new technologies.
As a manager or a member of leadership it is your responsibility to encourage your employees to pursue education and training. You add value to the employee which in turn adds value to your team, your department and to the company. Coaching employees towards their success leads to your success.
Without the proper knowledge and training of employees your IT department runs the risk of not being able to deliver and manage existing technologies to their full potential.
Make Learning an Expectation
One of the first things you want to do is to create a learning friendly environment for your employees. Get them in the habit of building new skills, pursing new certifications and continuing their education. They should understand that improving themselves is an expectation of their job. It helps to create a strong culture of performance.
Employees may have done four years of college and passed a few certifications, but their training and education can not stop there. As technology evolves so to must your employees. Given the chance most employees will jump at the opportunity to learn a new skill, get a new certification or continue their education. Your job is to help them do it.
What Motivates People to Learn
An interesting study reveled six reasons people are motivated to learn job related skills. This is useful information you can use to craft a learning plan after you assess for your employees. Learning what motivates your employees also help you improve performance.
- They are more likely to learn what they need to learn to do their jobs. Just-in-time learning works well in IT. You teach your employee a skill when they need it. There is no sense in wasting time or money to learn a skill you do not use.
- Not everyone learns in the same way. For some all they need is a book and time to study. Other do better in a class environment. Talk with the employee and find out what type of environment they learn best in.
- People prefer to learn at their own pace. This works well for those who self-study since they set the time and place they learn. You do not want to force your employee into or rush your employee to complete training. You do want to keep them motivated and on track.
- People want to learn a variety of new things. Learning is a continuous process and most employees will benefit from a variety of skills. Their first learning task may be a new technical skill they need. Their next may be a new soft skill. By mixing up what they learn you keep the engaged and interested.
- People want to be in charge of what they learn. You can offer a variety of technical and soft skills for the employee to develop. Even offer suggestions on which ones they will benefit from the and which skills are needed in their present job or a new role. Ultimately it is up to the individual to learn the skill and it needs to be something they want to do. Trying to learn a skill you do not like or are not interested in will yield poor results.
- In the workplace most people learn best when taught by others in the workplace. For some skills this is very practical. One employee possesses the skills another needs. You set aside time for them to work together and learn. Cross training employees is very effective.
Provide The Tools to Learn
To help create a culture of learning in your workplace you need to offer the tools and the time for employees to learn. You need to do assessments to find what skills are needed and a path towards obtaining them.
- Perform skills assessments on employees so you and the employee can better see where it would benefit them to develop.
- Help your employees develop a career path so they know what education and training they need to get to where they want to be. See “How To Develop Your IT Career Plan and Why You Should Do It”.
- Include skill and knowledge development as part of each employees performance review.
Providing The Tools For Learning
- Work with employees by allowing them to adjust their schedule so they can take classes.
- Have the company offer to pay for relevant classes or for the cost of a certification exam.
- Purchase CBT nuggets for your employees and schedule time for them to use them.
- Purchase books and training materials to create an “Employee Development Library”. Employees can check out books and training material to learn at their own pace.
- Schedule instructors to come to the workplace to hold classes for employees.
- Hold meetings that employees can attend to learn from skilled employees.
- One way to train an employee is by delegating new tasks to develop your employee in new areas.
Companies that value employee improvement will outperform those that don’t. A well-trained IT staff with a diverse set of technical and soft skills will allow IT to support and improve present services as well as provide new services the business will demand in the future.
You should make sure you employees know that improving themselves is an expectation of their job. To create a culture for learning you must assess each employee to decide what skills they need to develop and determine the environment they will best learn in.
You must accommodate employees who want to improve themselves by providing them the flexibility and time to pursue it. Provide the tools that employees need to learn with. It will cost money, but the benefits will greatly outweigh the costs. IT is graying so it is important to have people trained and ready to step into vital roles.
Get your employees in the habit of learning. This is the foundation on which you will build. The rate of change in IT is so fast you can not let yourself or your employees fall behind the technology curve. Make learning new skills part of your work environment. Educating your employee adds value to them and to the company.