Even during good economic times, making mistakes when purchasing computer or soft-skills training had an effect on your bottom line. Yet now more than ever, a misstep could prove quite costly to you and your business, making the difference between thriving or even surviving. Here now are 5 costly training mistakes you may be making, and how to correct them.
#1. Not Training At All
The cash-strapped business owner often looks upon computer and soft-skills training as expendable during hard times. While certainly you want to be wise with your money, cutting out technology and business training altogether is a bad move. Here's why: technology races along at a furious, unstoppable pace. Your employees have neither the time nor inclination to keep themselves up to date, and quickly you end up with a dated workforce with a stale skill set.
The amount of new technical information is doubling every two years, which means that students starting a new 4-year degree will have half of what they learned outdated by their third year of study. Consider that! And the amount of new unique information generated on the planet for 2008 was estimated at 4 exabytes, which is 4x10^19! That is more new information than the last 5,000 years! Suffice it to say, to fail to update your and your employees' technical skills is a recipe for disaster.
#2. Assuming Your Employees Will Keep Themselves Up-to-Date
A lot of managers take the tack of hiring talented, tech-savvy workers, assuming they will keep themselves up-to-date. While these workers, usually your Gen Y folks, are generally much better at technology, the simple fact is they do not keep themselves up on business software as much as you might think.
Certainly they know the ins and outs of Facebook and Twitter, and how to perform mini-miracles with their cell phones during odd moments, but they generally don't spend time learning the detailed aspects of Microsoft® Word or Excel, or even the handier tricks and time-savers associated with operating systems like Windows® or Mac OS X.
And they don't spend in-depth time learning their production software because they are so busy keeping up with all the projects you throw at them. They may be smart as whips, but even they need time for training and expert guidance to help them stay afloat. The bottom line is, no matter how brilliant your workers, their skills stagnate over time and you put yourself and your business at risk when you cut out technology and business training altogether.
#3. Not Training to Employees Strengths
This is a classic. I have been asked so many times to teach a group of employees how to use Excel, or Project, or even complicated graphics programs like Photoshop or Illustrator, because the employees who used to fill those roles moved on or were fired. The students in front of me were typically folks in unrelated roles who had been asked to step-in and take over.
I have no problem helping these folks learn new software and do their jobs, but often they were simply not suited to their new tasks. It takes a special mindset to understand and use project management software, for example, and asking regular folk to step in and take over these roles isn't the wisest management move.
You are far better off training secretaries how to use Word and Excel, and engineers how to use Project, etc. Otherwise, you are asking for these poor beleaguered folks to botch your business. Suit your employees to their tasks, and if you really need someone to take over a technical position, consider hiring in someone new or hiring a temp.
I know it may be tempting to just have the new intern build you a database, or have someone from accounting create a spreadsheet central to your business, but consider that these tasks are often far more complicated than they seem and you are putting yourself and your business at risk to have the wrong folks at the helm.
#4. Not Customizing Course Content
If you have read my previous articles, I have mentioned this many times, but it bears repeating: don't bother holding training sessions unless you are going to customize the course topics to employees' job tasks. Otherwise you are asking your employees to sift through massive amounts of data to find a couple of helpful ideas, when instead you could be targeting your efforts much more effectively with customized topics.
Begin with the reason why you are holding the training and work backwards to arrive at your topic set. For example, if you are rolling out a new upgrade to design software, then the reason for the training is to keep your designers up-to-date on the new software.
Right away this tells you that you need to hold a "what's new" session, instead of a tedious beginning, intermediate, and advanced course that will waste a lot of time and money. And you can probably hold this session as a half-day, instead of the typical 6-hour training day. Let's see, hold one half-day session as opposed to three full-day sessions...hmmm, hard to know what to do here ;)
#5. Not Matching Student Skill Levels with Courses
The final costly training mistake you can make is holding courses with employees of varying skill levels. While this is inevitable to some degree, what I am talking about is putting the absolute newbies in with the advanced folk, and this just absolutely ruins a course. And it is a lot more common than you might think.
What generally happens is the advanced students pick up the info quickly and are ready for more. They are tapping their pens, starting to email their friends, and getting bored. The newbies are struggling to keep up, and often the instructor must personally assist them on many or all tasks, repeating instructions several times and even "riding their mouses." (Mice?)
Many times I've had to drastically reduce or even eliminate the amount of information I covered in a course because of this, which left the advanced students frustrated and the newbies totally confused, and me completely exhausted! I can't tell you how many times just one total newbie has completely destroyed a training session.
So be wise with your student population in your courses. Put your total newbies in their own course, or consider having them go through some one-on-one training or computer based training by themselves before lumping them in with the others. It will make your training sessions much more powerful and cost-effective, and you will accomplish your goal of getting your folks up-to-speed much faster and more efficiently. That will translate into more productivity and a better bottom-line.
About the Author:
Michael J. Phillips is an author, computer and soft-skills trainer, and technology guru in the Orange County area of Southern CA. He has been teaching technology since the word "email" was born. Take advantage of his expertise and book corporate computer and soft-skills training which gets real business results, guaranteed. Visit PC Training Experts today to get started.
(c) 2009 Mike Phillips. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
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