"Nothing is more terrible than activity without insight," observed Thomas Carlyle, the 19th-century Scottish essayist and historian. Carlyle's words could be used to describe many IT staffs, where employees struggle to meet users' demands without fully understanding the technologies and processes behind their actions.
At many enterprises, IT staff training is provided simply to ensure that team members are kept up to speed on the tasks directly related to their work assignments. Some organizations provide no training at all, relying only on the skills and knowledge staff members acquired in school and at previous employers.
Forward-looking organizations, however, view their IT staff members as key technical specialists who can help the business squeeze the maximum value out of its systems and enable employees at every level to reach new productivity heights. Such organizations approach IT staff training with four basic goals in mind:
Turning a lackluster IT staff into a team of insightful, proactive players isn't something that can be accomplished overnight. Like an underperforming baseball or football team, undertrained IT players need to be carefully and regularly schooled in a variety of different areas.
Training doesn't have to be a budget-buster, however. While some organizations may have enough resources to send staffers to a Hawaiian Linux seminar or an XML workshop in Las Vegas, additional training can often be worked into daily routines at little or no extra cost.
Technology vendors, for instance, routinely offer free training materials about their products, ranging from publications to DVDs to Webinars. The Web is another source of free education. Staffers should be encouraged to visit Web sites and forums that specialize in topics relating to their jobs. YouTube even offers free videos on topics ranging from spreadsheet productivity tips to C++ development.
Organizations can also draw on internal resources to distribute IT knowledge. Mentoring programs, which team a staffer possessing extensive knowledge in a particular area with a less-experienced colleague, are a great way to cross-train employees in different disciplines at little or no cost.
After receiving adequate training, IT staffers will be well prepared to help their organization achieve its current and planned IT goals. Besides providing consistently excellent operational support, staff members will have the knowledge necessary to offer insight on new technologies and processes that can benefit their organization.
A well-trained staff will also be able to solve routine and challenging problems in less time and with fewer technical glitches than counterparts at other organizations who lack adequate training. Additionally, staffers possessing knowledge in a variety of different areas will be able to fill in for sick or vacationing co-workers without a missing a beat.
To turn Carlyle's quote on its head, organizations with a well-trained IT staff may find themselves observing that, "Nothing is more beautiful than activity with insight."
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