Technology is rapidly evolving. An effective training program will keep your IT team on top of the latest innovations and practices.

John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author

February 14, 2024

4 Min Read
two human hands from diverse cultural backgrounds exchanging financial and economic information and training as a metaphor for team success
Brain light via Alamy Stock

The IT team member you hired just a few years ago may already lack the knowledge and skills needed to pace with advancing technologies and business practices. The solution is to provide ongoing training in areas such as cybersecurity, software development, and specialized tools, like generative AI.

An effective IT upskilling program equips employees with the tech literacy skills they need to drive organizational success, says Will Clive, chief people officer at technology workforce development company Pluralsight, in an email interview. “Creating a tech proficient workforce reduces knowledge gaps, drives innovation, and -- when carefully executed -- can have a significant impact on ROI.”

“We want our team members to do their best, most impactful work throughout their careers, which starts with creating a learning culture and embracing curiosity,” says Jonny LeRoy, senior vice president and CTO at industrial supplies firm Grainger, via email. “As leaders, we aim to empower team members so they can grow their careers and continue to learn new skills to embrace the rapidly changing technology environment,” he explains. Grainger’s engineering effectiveness program aims to guide and connect team members with emerging architectures, engineering practices, tooling, and instill a continuous improvement mindset.

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Program Development

The best way to begin building an effective training program is by aligning the training program to both individual’s goals and the overall business roadmap, says William Craig, director of information technology at business advisory firm MorganFranklin Consulting, in an email interview. “This means evaluating each team member’s wants, needs and desires, as well as understanding the key technology initiatives within the organization,” he states. “By aligning to individual needs, you can maximize participation in the training program.”

Education and training are necessary to keep your IT staff competitive, Craig advises. “Having your technology teams stay current on the latest information, tools and methods is crucial.” He believes that teams need to “understand emerging technologies and best practices so they can deliver maximum value back to the organization through an effective training program.”

A training program can be informal or formal depending on team size, structure, and company culture. “If the program includes training on regulatory policies or ensuring that cybersecurity practices are up to date, it should be a formal program,” Craig says. “The key is linkage -- connecting individual motivations to organizational needs while leveraging your technical teams’ expertise.” Such an approach creates a comprehensive training program that provides value on both an individual and company-wide level, he notes. “It prepares your team for future initiatives and provides growth opportunities with known resources.”

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A structured, programmatic approach to technical upskilling allows employees to feel that their growth is attainable, Clive says. “Beyond simply making educational content available, organizations must ensure employees are equipped with the tools to navigate learning resources and derive tangible value from them.”

A holistic development strategy, driven by personalized plans offering a balance of technical and people skills, allows organizations to meet all team members’ training needs. “Upskilling programs should include different modalities, such as on-demand video content, instructor-led training, and hands-on learning to drive engagement and serve diverse learning preferences,” Clive says. “Dedicated learning time during work hours will ensure progress remains a priority as teams focus on keeping up with work projects and upskilling milestones.” Meanwhile, training effectiveness should be regularly evaluated through skills assessments and employee surveys.

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Program Leadership

The training program should have buy-in from IT leadership across the board, Craig suggests. “We recommend identifying an executive sponsor, as well as a point person responsible for implementation.”

Top-level leadership is particularly vital, LeRoy says. “Leading the program requires a blend of passion and practitioner know-how, so be thoughtful in selecting the right leader,” he advises. “While we ensure our program is led by practitioners, partnership with our HR training teams also ensures we have consistency and that the programs align.”

Leaders in technology, learning and development (L&D), and human resources need to collaborate to drive the success of IT upskilling and ensure that the program’s goals are aligned with the organization’s goals, Clive says. “The collaboration of leaders in these groups, and the communication they share, creates a framework for employees to recognize the program’s value on both an individual and organizational level.”

Programs should aim to meet people where they are, LeRoy suggests. “For instance, our engineering effectiveness program uses multiple formats, including self-guided and formal training, but focuses on immersive learning, pairing, mobbing … and learning new skills in the context of real work.”

Takeaways

The key to successfully implementing an internal training program is keeping it nimble enough to address immediate needs, yet forward-looking enough to develop technology competencies, Craig says.

Building a culture of continuous learning while prioritizing workforce skills development ensures that a company will stay a step ahead of the competition, Clive adds. “Organizations can foster the agility needed to navigate economic uncertainties and thrive for years to come by proactively investing in employee skills development aligned with business goals.”

About the Author(s)

John Edwards

Technology Journalist & Author

John Edwards is a veteran business technology journalist. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and numerous business and technology publications, including Computerworld, CFO Magazine, IBM Data Management Magazine, RFID Journal, and Electronic Design. He has also written columns for The Economist's Business Intelligence Unit and PricewaterhouseCoopers' Communications Direct. John has authored several books on business technology topics. His work began appearing online as early as 1983. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, he wrote daily news and feature articles for both the CompuServe and Prodigy online services. His "Behind the Screens" commentaries made him the world's first known professional blogger.

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