Having worked in software development in the engineering and financial sectors through several technology eras, one thing strikes me the most is how often top notch IT professionals just get burned out by the fast pace of technology advances. As an educator, development manager, and technology driver for many years, it has been my passion to help our IT staff to keep up in light of global competition. On the previous episode of the AlignIT Manager Tech Talk, I shared with the audience my advice on how IT managers can play an important role in their team’s training. I would like to summarize a few important aspects to keep in mind when it comes to planning and managing training for your staff.
It’s an investment that pays off
Sure, everyone is very busy these days. And most IT managers have long days in addition to the constant bombardment of mobile messages. However, if you neglect to put a good effort to nurture your IT staff, it will come back to bite you in the form of low employee morale, low productivity, high turnover, and lack of innovation to name a few. Thus, preventive steps on a consistent basis is essential to keep a healthy workforce working for you. So take the time to nurture your valuable IT staff.
Upper management buy-in is a must
Now that you’ve been reminded of the importance of nurturing your staff, is that enough? My experience tells me that unless you also get your boss to recognize and help drive this important aspect of being a manager, it might be an uphill battle you’ll be taking all on your own shoulders. So do spend time to keep the benefits of training front and center with your boss amongst many “must do’s”. Having well trained IT staff will not only benefit both you and your boss in achieving and exceeding your deliverable objectives while creating a great work environment for all.
The 10% allocation rule
So you and your boss are persuaded. But how much should be set aside for investing in people without affecting your capacity to deliver? Well, many IT businesses tend to be cyclical and you should definitely take advantage of the downtime for training. But by default, use the 10% time allocation rule over the course of the year to ensure reasonable time is dedicated for your IT staff to up keep their skills. Now, that doesn’t directly translate to a 10% reduction in productivity. There are a number of ways you can afford to keep with the 10% rule without breaking your bank. So read on.
Know strategic directions for your company and industry
Great, your boss is on board and you’ve set a budget aside. What’s next? Well, just like you don’t get on a highway before deciding where you are going, you need to know the strategic focus of your company and trends in your industry before you start planning with your staff. As an example, I recently purchased a state of the art, air-thin laptop for my son for his university study away from home even though I know it doesn’t run all the fancy shooting games that he loves on his desktop at home. As a result, he now has a sleek laptop that’s the envy of his friends while he’s getting top marks because he doesn’t waste hours shooting at colourful pixels. Mean dad you say; may be. But he ends up ahead with his leading edge gadget while happy getting top marks in university – just have to borrow his friends’ clunky desktops for the occasional thrills. Likewise, as an IT manager, you need to know what’s good for your company and where the industry is heading before entertaining any training requests.
Listen to your staff
Now you are aware of the direction of your company and industry. Time to sit down with your staff to listen. Knowing everyone’s different, you definitely need to spend time listening carefully to the areas that they feel they need to beef up while you let them know the direction that’s important for your company and what you see as the important trends in your industry. Help them focus on some concrete and measureable goals so as to keep a focus on the objectives. Do encourage creativity from your staff in terms of learning style so to maximize the benefits based on your budget.
To be continued next Monday.
Share Your Thoughts
How do you go about planning and managing training for your staff? Do you have any pointers or advice for others? Join the conversation in the AlignIT for Infrastructure and Development Managers group on LinkedIn.
Stuart Ngai, Director of Technology Solutions at VERAX, is an IT professional with over 25 years of experience. As a development manager, lead enterprise architect, and a Senior Leadership Member, Stuart has led the delivery of many leading edge systems through several technology eras and guided many IT professionals in enriching and re-energizing their careers. With 7 years teaching software courses at Seneca College of Applied Sciences followed by another 7 years teaching software engineering courses for the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto, personal development through perpetual training has been a theme in which Stuart helped many IT professionals to achieve and sustain their career growth. Stuart is a certified P. Eng. and PMP with a Masters degree in Engineering from McGill University and a management degree from McGill's School of Management. He has been with the software consulting firm VERAX Solutions Corporation in Toronto since 1993 focusing on building strong delivery teams and delivering results to their customers in the financial sector.