When IT departments must make budget cuts, employee training and education is one area that often takes a direct hit. While training cutbacks may be intended to control costs, they can undermine an IT organization's ability to remain on top of new developments--and, ultimately, help the firm maintain its competitive edge. On the retention front, training opportunities are an effective way to help staff members feel valued.
Here are some tips for maintaining effective developmental efforts when budgets are tight:
1 E-learning is a natural. The growing popularity and availability of e-learning make it an obvious starting point for training IT professionals given their comfort level with technology. Staff members can work at their own pace, making it more convenient for them.
2 Sometimes classes are better. Despite the convenience of e-learning, sometimes there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction with instructors. Keep in mind that you may not need to hire teachers from outside the organization to lead training sessions; managers within the firm, IT consultants working on site or recently retired employees might be ideal candidates to step in.
3 Look internally. Mentoring is another convenient--and rewarding--way to enhance knowledge transfer among your staff and cultivate future leaders for the department. These programs can be used to supplement online or classroom instruction, or as the sole method of imparting knowledge on a topic.
4 Make it easy. If workers are expected to complete courses on personal time, they may skip training opportunities entirely. Be willing to make scheduling accommodations or adjust workloads when necessary. Also, when budgets become more flexible, consider providing tuition reimbursement to your staff. In the 2009 Employment Dynamics and Growth Expectations (EDGE) Report from Robert Half International and CareerBuilder, 61 percent of employees surveyed said tuition reimbursement or subsidized training was the perk they most expected their employers to provide or enhance once the economy improves.
Apparently, many IT executives are getting the message that training activities not only enhance the knowledge base of their departments but also offer their best employees a compelling reason to stay put. When we asked CIOs to identify the most effective methods to improve IT staff retention, 21 percent cited training or professional development.
Dave Willmer is executive director of IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology.
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