IT leadership: 5 steps to a successful training strategy

Is your organization prepared to bridge its skill gaps? Consider these IT training strategies to foster a team that's ready to take on any challenge
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The pressure on established enterprises to modernize and compete against agile, cloud-native startups has never been more intense – especially for those that continue to use a large amount of legacy technology. At a time when it’s crucial for organizations to address these issues to survive, leaders must find ways to bridge the skills gap between old and new.

The real solution lies in cross-training, reskilling, and upskilling IT teams now to ensure they understand both legacy environments and modern application development practices. That way, when the inevitable time comes to transform, the team will be prepared.

Strategies for IT training success

The following strategies can help you create a valuable training program that fosters a world-class IT team.

1. Get executives on board with training

It’s essential to get leadership buy-in, not only for the benefits to the team but also for the impact on ROI. A big component of this is proving the alignment between company goals and your training program.

No organization can remain competitive in today’s landscape without a strong IT team. A recent survey from Harvey Nash and KPMG suggests that talent shortfalls might be at their highest levels in more than a decade. And with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting that the demand for IT and computer-related occupations will continue to increase through 2029, organizations that fail to train team members may lose talent to competitors and be left behind.

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If your organization wants to modernize its systems, for example, presenting data and numbers that link the skills gap between today’s talent, Java/COBOL coding, and its impact on bottom-line results would make a strong, clear argument to the executive team for why training is essential. Another approach would be to create clear key performance indicators (KPIs) that articulate the value and ROI.

2. Showcase the ROI of training

There are several results that link training to ROI: employee productivity, performance, and operations.

The costs associated with training – whether this number reflects the amount spent on training programs or how much might be at risk with no training (which ranges from hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions) – also play a major role in articulating the ROI.

According to Gartner, the average cost of an IT outage is $5,600 per minute and 98 percent of organizations say a single hour of outages costs over $100,000. Training can help mitigate these sorts of incidents – or at least shorten the overall outage time.

Today’s workforce wants to feel that the companies they work for value them – and organizations are realizing this.

Observing and reporting on employee turnover and retention can also demonstrate the ROI of training. Investing in IT team training can play a big role in retaining employees. Today’s workforce wants to feel that the companies they work for value them – and organizations are realizing this.

3. Tap IT pros of all ages and expertise levels

To drive successful training, you need experts with different levels of knowledge and skills. Cross-training IT employees – taking seasoned employees and having them train with the next generation of IT professionals – helps improve team performance and build versatility and skill intersections in team members.

However, there’s more to it than just ensuring the next generation of IT pros are knowledgeable about COBOL or REXX, or that your seasoned IT developers understand the ins and outs of Java and  Kubernetes.

[ What are developers looking for today? Read 3 things CIOs should know about developers in the cloud era. ]

One of the biggest risks that companies are facing today in terms of technical infrastructure and IT talent is the aging population of developers with decades of contextual knowledge of the complex infrastructure on which their organization runs its digital ecosystem. These old systems were deeply “homegrown” – everything had to be written from scratch – and each application is unique. As these employees retire, organizations are left scrambling to figure out how to fill the gaps. To ease this burden, enterprise leaders need to develop cross-training programs before it’s too late.

4. Create interactive and engaging experiences

Providing employees hands-on experience with the tools they’ll use in real-world scenarios will enhance the overall knowledge transfer. To better accomplish this, it’s helpful to understand how each employee learns and what their interests are. Also, be sure to add visuals and keep courses short and flexible.

For sophisticated functions like software training, solutions like cloud-native training platforms with gamification and game-based learning can essentially check all the boxes while increasing speed for a major competitive advantage. 

A training program that leverages interactive platforms and incorporates cross-training will help capture each area of your enterprises’ programming and application. It will also help ensure that employees retain vital information while sharpening and improving the capabilities of existing staff members.

5. Scale the training program

As most IT leaders know, developing advanced digital skills also requires advanced methodologies. Training programs should offer self-paced learning and allow leaders to control how IT teams engage with specific courses at scale. This approach empowers teams to customize their learning experiences instead of following a predetermined program and schedule.

Unlike face-to-face training, cloud-based training and modern learning platforms let employees focus on reskilling and upskilling at their convenience while preparing them for the new demands of a global workforce. If you don’t have a large budget for training, recording and uploading videos on a server for teams to access at their own pace can be an impactful way to scale training.

Talent and skill shortages won’t be resolved overnight, so it’s essential for leaders to start bridging the skill sets between legacy and new talent. The hallmark of the next generation of enterprise will be its ability to pivot in the face of new challenges, new business environments, and impactful scalability.

By ensuring that your IT staff and developers are equipped to handle modern systems, you can avoid the pitfalls and outages in operations and position your organization to confront any challenges that lay ahead.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Cameron Jenkins is EVP of Application Modernization for Advanced. Prior to joining Advanced, Cameron served as executive director and global practice lead for the application modernization division of Dell Services.

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