7 Things to Remember When Launching Continuous Education Program
Market researches show that small to large-sized companies all over the world spend billions of dollars on employee training programs every year. Sigma Software launched a continuous education program in 2017 as a part of activities of a company`s corporate educational center, Sigma Software University. We came to the year end with 185 people trained and a dozen of trainings dedicated to different competencies and soft skills that are currently of great importance for further business development.
The importance of continuous education is hard to overestimate, but when addressing IT business, continuous education is crucial, since technologies move fast. Successful competition is only possible when you have a strong team on your side, so qualified IT specialists are always in high demand. It is well known that IT experts need to learn all the time, impose and anticipate the technologies development to stay on track.
Thus, most businesses here embed trainings, certifications, and courses for employees into their daily operations. Although, how disappointing it is, when these trainings show low efficiency and bring poor results. Why does this happen and what are the pitfalls that a company can face when launching a continuous education program?
Based on Sigma Software experience, I can come up with top seven things to have in mind when you are considering creating a successful educational program in your organization.
Take it seriously
Do not confuse continuous education with what your training department used to do: organizing ad hoc educational activities with no clear goals and no results tracking. The first task on your way to launch a continuous education program is pulling together all learning activities in your organization by managing education as a business project.
What does this mean for your training staff? A very hard and spider work on gathering tons of data, analyzing competencies of employees and mapping them to current business needs, determining gaps and skills that need to be improved, building clear processes, engaging all company`s departments in cooperation, running regular trainings, and performing careful results tracking.
Respect your people efforts
Continuous education is an investment, both from a company and from specialists. Some businesses consider education as a kind of loan that employees have to return, forgetting that they are investors too – they spend their time and energy to acquire new knowledge and bring new value to your business. So do employees should realize that their education is not yet another annoying task, but an opportunity to level up. The education works smooth, when both sides understand their responsibility to each other, appreciate the time, effort, and money invested, and are ready to cooperate.
Forget about trainings as a place to spend a few hours over a cup of coffee listening a trainer`s speech on whatever topic. Talks won`t bring any benefit to your business. Putting new knowledge into practice will. Motivate your employees to use acquired skills on real projects, while remembering that sometimes it can be out of their reference scope. Engage delivery management, team leaders, project managers to the process, since it is in their power to assign the right person to the right project offering a space for implementing new skills.
Engage your Seniors
When it comes to attracting trainers to develop technical or niche competencies, your own Senior specialists should become your first choice. They know your specifics, your strengths and weaknesses, feel your needs, and follow the procedures. Attracting them to knowledge sharing may be a non-trivial task, so think of the ways to motivate them. At Sigma Software, we have a strong institute of mentorship, which was founded in the company many years ago. Our experts are accustomed to openly share knowledge, so this helped us to cope with this problem quite easily. The company, for its part, invests a lot in trainers and mentors coaching to develop their skills to teach others.
Fight your fears
Ensure a sober risk assessment. Many businesses still avoid investing in staff education, because of the possibility that people quit the company. If you are among the managers, who consider it as a serious risk, here is some statistics that may surprise you. A Louis Harris and Associates poll reports among employees with poor or none training programs, 41 percent planned to quit within a year. Only 12 percent planned to leave among those who considered their company's training opportunities as excellent, so the retention rate is more than two-thirds higher. Many people assume that once employees are trained, they are more likely to leave the company, but actually, the opposite is true: trained staff is happier and more loyal.
Make it easy and clear
Transparency and awareness are your two best friends in promoting continuous education inside the team. Convenient and easy-to-use tools to inform your staff about the place where they can find the detailed information about their education opportunities, how they can become a part of ongoing training, how they will benefit from it, etc., will increase interest to the program. Transparent processes of selecting employees for specific trainings, choosing the competencies and directions, regular and fair communication about the results and achievements would strengthen the credibility of the program.
Keep the balance
Keep the balance between what is necessary for your business and what is interesting to your people. Most IT professionals are looking forward to learn new and trendy technologies, while business and market sometimes dictate mastering other directions, perhaps not so attracting for your employees. Combine both if you wish to build a program that is valuable for business as well as for your team. Regular surveys will help you to identify areas of interest of your specialists and map them to your company needs.
Bonus tip: Be patient
As a conclusion, on your way to building a comprehensive continuous education program, you may face more challenges. Though launching staff education is a hard and meticulous work that won`t bring immediate results, when you success, you will be rewarded: a happy team and added value that your business provides to customers.