Empower Staff To Support Themselves So IT Can Focus On Strategy

From time to time, companies need to upgrade their software. In the long run, this means better systems that increase productivity. But during the switchover itself, many hours of productivity will be lost as staff spend time adapting. Furthermore, potential opportunities are often not realised because staff are not aware of new software functions now available that could make their work more efficient.

The traditional approach is to spend a day or so teaching the new software, possibly followed by some e-learning modules. But while these are well designed and cover the basics, these traditional approaches are insufficient to support employees and drive the results you expect from a new technology investment.

Most training is about imparting new knowledge – which is of course necessary. But the majority of learning needs to be done on the job, when an employee comes across a problem they can’t remember how to solve, when something goes wrong, or when they come across an unexpected change.

Failing to address this leads to missed opportunities and an IT desk inundated with questions about where the save button has moved to or how to change their password. Almost 50% of companies report that they are not achieving effective results from their training, according to research by The Gallup Organisation.

Spread across hundreds or thousands of staff, that’s a lot of productivity lost. And it’s not just staff productivity; IT departments are taken away from the big strategic projects they should be focusing on. Staff need to break old habits of relying on IT trainers and be encouraged towards a ‘can do’ mentality, taking learning into their own hands. This means training has to change.

Instead of teaching how to use technology, we need to teach staff how to problem solve. Staff should be introduced to software that they can then use to meet specific challenges when they come across them. We need to wean people off the ecosystem of peer and helpdesk support and show them how to help themselves.

Of course not everyone can become an IT expert overnight. But simple tools which reflect how people interact with technology can be developed and easily taught. Such programmes recognise the types of challenges people come across on new IT systems, how they will deal with them, and how they would like to be guided through them.

For example if a user can’t work out how to mail merge, they can look up mail merge in the ribbon embedded in Word, and they will see an expanded list of all mail merge features, a step by step guide to using these, and videos guides, to reflect different learning styles. Fundamentally it will offer the same information they would get if you called the help desk – in a format and timescale to suit them. Any problem can be solved in two clicks and ten seconds.

Ongoing training tools empower staff to take responsibility for finding solutions to their IT problems, leaving them more confident and more productive. This improves productivity, increase staff morale and removes a huge burden from IT staff, who are freed to focus on more strategic projects which harness their talents to drive the business forwards.

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Martin Hill is the EMEA Head of Dell Education Services, responsible for Dell customer training across the entire region. He has more than 15 years experience in the IT training and education community and has held several prestigious positions in the sector including Head of UK Sales for global ICT trade association CompTIA. He is an industry authority on the importance of addressing technical skills gaps for both IT Pros and the wider user workforce and regularly quoted in the press on these subjects. Martin is responsible for the development and launch of Dell LEAP – Dell’s embedded end user learning migration support tool - in the UK.