Monday, 15 December 2014 10:07

Making I.T. Skills Stick

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Today's I.T. department is faced with a wide array of challenges, including a severe shortage of skilled workers and an environment in which everything is changing, from platforms to development environments to end-user expectations. One way I.T. departments can help address many of these issues is through training. But not just piecemeal training; I.T. needs to develop a continuous learning envi-ronment for its staff to ensure knowledge transfer to the job.
A continuous learning environment in I.T. involves providing a range of learning opportunities supported by different learning modalities across formal, informal, and social learning — and they can't all be managed or controlled by a central training function. Instead of managing and tracking training events, training professionals that wish to create a vibrant continuous learning environment in I.T. need to focus on four things:

1) Enabling a continuous learning environment is a critical component of a successful continuous learning environment. Enabling should come from the top down with senior management visibly supporting continuous learning and staff managers actively encouraging team members to always be learning. Getting staff to participate in social learning is another area where enablement is key. Just setting up a social platform does not guarantee people will use it. Enabling social learning could involve getting a key group of staff members signed up before launch and have them get the conversations going. People are also more likely to participate in social learning if they know that their managers are also actively following the social discussions and participating.

2) Optimization is another important factor to help make skills stick. There are many ways you can optimize your current and future learn¬ing resources to support continuous learning. Optimizing involves finding ways to leverage and repurpose learning resources to support various types of learning at different moments of need. For instance, short individual performance-support videos can be grouped together into courses or organized into learning paths. Your top I.T. talent could be encouraged to share their knowledge with others through social channels, webinars, lunch-and-learn sessions, or mentoring.

3) Organizing your learning resources is also important to a successful continuous learning environment. If you just dump a few thousand learning assets into an LMS and announce it to your learners, don't expect great results. You will need to organize your learning assets to align with specific I.T. initiatives, job roles, competencies, certifications, etc. The concept of learning paths can also be a very powerful way of organizing content to encourage continuous learning. For instance, you could work with I.T. subject-matter experts to come up with a recommended path to learn a new technology or prepare for a certification exam and then share the learning path with employees who need to learn the skills. The learning paths should contain an assortment of learning modalities to support continuous learning.

4) Mobilizing is where you make sure that learning is available when, where, and how the I.T. staff need it. This may involve making sure your learning assets are available on a wide range of platforms from desktops and laptops to tablets to smartphones. It is also where you try to remove as many steps and potential roadblocks to accessing the learning resources as possible. Ideally, you want to make sure the learning assets are available at "the point of need." So if you already have an I.T. department portal where staff goes to find internal resources, make sure your training is a single click away from the portal.

So get out there and start enabling, optimizing, organizing, and mobilizing to support continuous learning and make it stick in your I.T. organization.

—Author Jim Zimmerman is director of Research Products for Skillsoft.

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