How to cut the cost of IT training?

IT can often feel they've checked the "Train employees" box if they have a lunch-and-learn covering the rollout of new technology. However, this does not necessarily mean employees have learned.

In fact, it may mean that IT has interrupted employee productivity. An employee engrossed in a pressing project - a project unrelated to the training content - will probably spend the training session checking his BlackBerry or glancing down repeatedly at his opened laptop.

So while training needs to be provided in the formats that most appeal to end-users [web-based; instructor led; hands-on; guides; videos; etc.], even the best training can be ineffective if it doesn't happen at the right time.

Training needs to be provided at the moment of need if it is to be most effective.

One way to help this happen is to put more thought into the initial training material, with an aim to have one input produce multiple outputs. Let's say IT needs to train XP users who are moving up to Windows 7 [Can you tell I skipped Vista?]. The effective IT trainer will not want to have a separate meeting for every group in the company. Rather, she'll think of ways to use the same event multiple times.

In practice, IT could:

1. Create or compile training content [powerpoint or user guide]
2. Schedule a training meeting and video this meeting [with Camtasia or a Flip camera, for instance - nothing too elaborate]
3. Make the training documents and video available to users on demand - for most users, the first meeting or the video of the first meeting together with the training documents will be sufficient.
4. Use a collaborative support solution, like Bomgar, to respond to training requests at the moment of need.

Following an approach like this will help to cover all the bases. Those that need a formal presentation will have it. And not only can the other employees access the training material in the format best for them, they can also access it at the moment of need ... or even multiple times as needed. So anectodaly, if I'm in the last group to be upgraded to Windows 7, I don't have to harken back to a training session that happened 3 months ago.

Users learn most from training when the training both fits their learning style AND satisfies a felt need or pain.

Covering the learning styles can be done cost-effectively if IT will put more thought into making the effort that goes into initial training reusable. If IT will do this, they will help cut the cost of training:

1. Since training won't interrupt the productivity of employees who don't yet need it, the business will avoid lost productivity.
2. Since the training content [even the video of the first session] will be available to employees when they need it, IT won't suffer the lost productivity that multiple, repetitive training sessions entail.
3. These two results will free up IT staff to respond immediately to end-users who still need guidance - which will already be a smaller pool now that the training content is available to everyone on demand. If IT will use a collaborative support solution to respond to these users, they'll further cut the cost of training.
Putting more effort and thought into reusing our training sessions will both help employees retain the new material and lessen the burden on IT for training engagements.

In the end, since IT can't schedule the moment of need to coincide with a lunch-and-learn, it needs to make the training content - and the IT trainers - accessible whenever the end-users need them. Reusing the training content more thoughtfully will help you reuse the IT trainers less, allowing them to serve the business goals better with their time.

Justin Brock is the Manager of Digital Marketing at Bomgar

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