In the IT business world, time is money — and money wasted due to lost productivity is one of the most common challenges companies face today. According to some 2014 data from ATD, employees waste approximately 11 percent of their time on unproductive or “scrap” learning. This unstructured, self-taught learning approach costs about $5 million per 1,000 employees in lost productivity each year. Those numbers likely have increased since then.
The challenge lies in mitigating productivity drag without reprimanding employees for trying to work through challenges, which could jeopardize motivation or commitment to their work. The goal is to cultivate a positive and collaborative working environment focused on professional development, but one that also supports business growth and efficient use of all employees’ time.
So many aspects of the IT field are rapidly changing, it is essential for teams to remain up to date and well versed in the latest technologies. However, requiring a plethora of certifications upfront for any new hire can greatly diminish the potential candidate pool. With the availability of easy-to-use and affordable IT professional development programs, companies can hire candidates and train them upward within the company. This will satiate employees’ desire for a promising career trajectory, and solve issues around employee turnover or the need to hire new staff to add certain credentials.
Bringing less proficient employees up to speed with development opportunities specific to their needs is a simple solution. IT departments should have internal performance-based assessments to benchmark where employees excel or need additional education. If not, third-party resources are available to gauge employees’ areas of IT expertise so managers know their strengths and weaknesses in application.
Once managers have identified where weaknesses lie, customizing a curriculum and timeline for completion for the individual will set a path for success. Some third-party resources are available to help managers evaluate each employee’s current skills and curate individual coursework for team training regularly.
Using third party vendors to manage continuing IT education often provides access to a library of resources plus specialized tools to organize and manage a team’s training progress. High-quality, self-paced training courses allow employees to grow without taking valuable time away from work. Quick online sessions negate the cost of travel or paid-time off, and managers can examine progress and assess abilities. This type of learning investment makes internal promotion a more understandable and tangible ladder of achievement for employees. Further, the growth and empowerment that comes with providing resources to IT team members at all levels of expertise increases a team’s proficiency.
For managers, investing in IT professional development may show the best ROI for a learning budget, beyond the monetary investment. Employees previously in need of help will begin to feel more confident in their own skills and be more prepared to overcome work challenges efficiently. Further, additional training for top performers will make them better and more proficient at their current jobs, and groom them for future promotion. In the IT world, this means a substantial growth in capabilities for upcoming projects and potential work.
It’s often easier for employees given resources to advance their knowledge at work to foresee a long-term career path at an organization and become more engaged. Engagement directly impacts productivity, and according to “The Definitive Guide to Building a Better Workforce,” a study released in February from Adecco, it can be the number one reason people choose to stay with a company. Considering the IT workforce shortage and the rising average salary demands from experienced professionals, training is the most economical option to increase team productivity and proficiency.
The biggest training benefit is the improvement in the final product or service a team will deliver. If all IT employees strengthen their skills, say with an AWS or OpenStack certification course, their individual output will be more efficient, effective and of higher quality. This will drive business goals, ensure the IT team can keep pace with growing technology needs and meet market demands, and deliver higher-quality leads to improved brand reputation and increased sales overall. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats.
Anthony James is founder and CEO of Linux Academy. To comment, email editor@CLOmedia.com.