Even though employers may be tempted to cut back on IT training initiatives to reduce company costs, such a move demonstrates short-term thinking and ultimately could prove to be detrimental, said Chris Pirie, general manager for marketing and sales at Microsoft Learning.
“One of the least cost-effective things you can do is not invest in your people,” Pirie said. “Companies that don’t take care of people [who] are on their payroll run the risk of [having] those people [quit and join] companies that do invest in their skills.”
The consequences of losing these employees — which include having to rehire and retrain new ones — is unnecessarily expensive, Pirie explained. That’s because research is forecasting a 4 percent gap in IT skills until 2012, which means there will be a need for 7 million IT jobs a year.
“That’s why [forward-thinking] companies right now are doubling down in the investments they make on their people,” he said.
Organizations usually respond to the need for IT training in one of two ways.
“We see some knee-jerk responses in organizations [where people] say, ‘Training is discretionary; we can’t afford to spend money on it. We’re going to cut training expenditures in order to protect our [profit and loss],’” Pirie said.
“But we’ve also seen companies that [agree] it’s a better time than ever to really invest in [their] people and invest in the skills of [their] people,” he said.
The latter response, however, is the smarter strategy because it reaps long-term benefits.
“It’s people and skills that really unlock the potential of the software that companies already own,” Pirie explained. “So if you own an asset — like the next version of a particular piece of software — in order to really get the benefit from that investment, you’ve got to get that software deployed, and that [requires] skills more than anything else.”
Further, in this troubled economy, employee interest in sharpening skills, job retraining and learning new technologies is on the rise, and there even is renewed interest in certification programs.
“The interest level in individuals is extremely high [as] people look to [beef up] their resumes and build their credentials in these [tough] economic times,” Pirie said.
People have begun to re-engage in certification programs for a number of reasons.
“IT departments are being held accountable for their spending and need to provide some sort of return on investment [or measurable] progress back to the company,” Pirie said. “And certification does that. We’re not just sending our people for training events; they come back with demonstrable skills.”
Once companies make the decision to allot resources to IT training, Pirie outlined two cost-effective strategies they can employ:
- Choose a credible, experienced, high-quality provider for maximum long-term impact. “If you go to some sort of back-street training organization that may not be around in a year or so, it’s [only] a short-term strategy,” Pirie said.
- Consider e-learning. It can be a good, cost-effective model that doesn’t require a fixed block of time to be taken out of the workday.
– Deanna Hartley, firstname.lastname@example.org