What if there was an easy way to increase employee productivity by 10% using the technology that’s already in place? What would that do to the bottom line? Even a 1% gain would be significant for most large organizations. In this day and age when CIOs are competing for budget and every dollar of technology investment must be justified, CIOs should not overlook training as a means to boost employee productivity and the ROI of existing technology investments.

Unfortunately it seems that too few people really know how to use the applications they have available in an effective way. Take for example the proliferation of spreadsheets in the workplace. Tools like Microsoft Excel have amazing features that support some powerful analysis and reporting. Yet many people fail to utilize basic productivity features built into such applications. We probably all observe people misusing tools and completing work the hard way simply because they don’t know any better. And Excel is just one tool that many of us use day-in-day-out. Outlook has some amazing features to boost productivity but few people know how to take advantage of them.

Even where some level of training in core ERP applications is provided to new employees, we know that very little is actually absorbed in early training. And much of IT training is focused on what buttons to press in what sequence to get a job done; very little seems to focus on how to use all the technology together as part of a productive business process.

As IT budgets have been squeezed over the years some CIO’s have moved technology training out of IT and into HR. However HR departments are not directly impacted by untrained staff in the way IT is, often resulting in weak measurements of success such as how many employees have been trained, or employee satisfaction measures, and not actually measuring the change in the employee’s ability to use the technology.

While poor training lowers productivity, there are also direct costs to IT resulting from a poorly trained workforce. On any major IT project, inadequate training can result in complete failure that costs millions to repair. In addition, poor training increases the burden on IT support services and reduces overall employee satisfaction with technology as a support for getting their job done, putting the success of IT at risk.

One option is for CIOs to re-focus IT resources on technology training as a way of reducing support costs and increasing employee satisfaction with IT. At the risk of repeating things we all know, here are ten proven steps in developing an effective IT-led training program:

  1. Consider making technology training the responsibility of the senior manager in charge of the IT help desk/support team: the more effective training is, the fewer calls they receive. Also, the help desk is an excellent source of information about what applications cause the most problems; and they can identify which employees will benefit most from training.
  2. Hire staff skilled in training delivery or partner with in-house training and development teams in HR to build out the training curriculum focused on how people do their jobs today and how existing technology/applications can help them be more productive.
  3. Develop training programs in partnership with centers-of-excellence inside business units, and seek business sponsorship of training offerings. By demonstrating increased employee productivity and satisfaction, business units will be willing to pay for effective training and development of their staff.
  4. Use business relationship managers to help identify areas of business process where more training is needed to use the available applications effectively. They can also identify potential system modifications that may yield significant productivity benefits.
  5. Make integrated training modules a requirement for all applications developed by IT and third-party service providers. Have developers spend time in end-user training sessions – it can transform how they view ease-of-use issues for future development projects. (It’s also a good idea to have developers rotate through the help-desk).
  6. Focus on how the applications / technology change the business processes and train the employees how to be productive with the new services. Measure employee skill levels in applications post-training to assess effectiveness and determine whether follow-up training is needed.
  7. Offer open productivity classes in core enterprise applications and popular tools such as Outlook and Excel and collect and share testimonials on how the classes helped increase productivity. (These can be outsourced to competent third-party training professionals).
  8. Develop supplemental training materials to provide ongoing advice, such as blogs with tips and tricks for each application that also encourage employee experts to share their own insights. Create YouTube-style videos to supplement training and explain common problems faced by most employees (remember people have different learning styles and it’s important to offer training in all formats).
  9. Promote training through marketing efforts such as cafeteria “lunch and learn” outreach.
  10. Avoid common training mistakes by making training and communications a core competency of the entire IT organization.

Do you have more suggestions from your own experience? Which two or three do you feel have the greatest impact? Please share in the comments below.

(You can also share your thoughts with me on Twitter @NigelFenwick)

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