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Technical Skills Training

You are the HR manager for MultiPRODUCTS Inc, a medium-size company with 10,000 employees working in the high-tech services market.

Many of your employees are highly skilled in their specific area of expertise, but their technical breadth is often lacking. For example, you’ve found that many of your C++ programmers are deficient in networking and in database skills. Your UNIX system administrators are poor at understanding data mining. And all your administrative people could do better with spreadsheets.

What’s at Stake?

The training situation here is not immediately critical to your business. You’d certainly like to have everyone better trained in these technical areas—it would probably help things runs a lot more smoothly and efficiently in your business. But if they don’t, your business will keep going nonetheless. This case study falls into the category of a “strategically good thing to do as long as it’s not going to cost too much in the short term.” It’s important to distinguish this case study from Case Studies #2 and #3 on certification-type training. In those cases the training needs were indeed critical to the business in a fixed time period.

Student Motivation

Your employees will have good intentions for taking courses outside their immediate job responsibilities, but they will have lots of business pressures that hinder many of them from acting on those good intentions. (Think of this in terms of the good intentions people have when they start an exercise program, weight loss program, etc. Or just think of your New Year’s resolutions from last year.) Your employees will need strong motivations from your management team to keep working on skills that are not immediately important to their day-to-day job responsibilities.

Note: Stop a moment and think of your own e-learning solution before reading on.

Solution Factors

The solution approach you take here will depend on how important the different technical skills are to your company. The skill set will divide into (A) moderately important technical skills, and (B) critical skills. (There’s also the case of “unimportant skills” but you probably wouldn’t even want to try to address those.) You might want different solutions for each of Cases A and B:

Case A

Moderately important technical skills. For this case you offer self- directed, on-demand training to these students, and you should probably try to buy this standard training from industry vendors instead of creating it yourself. If you are currently sending these students to class, this will result in an immediate savings in travel costs. Part of the solution must also include a tracking and reward mechanism for students who complete e-learning courses. They need to get credit on their human resources record for completing the courses.

Case B

Critically important technical skills. For this case, you might offer more elaborate e-learning. You might include here virtual classroom training with a remote instructor, and even e-lab training where students can access hands-on labs over the Internet. This approach will probably cost more, but if the skills are genuinely important to your company, it will be money well spent. Just as in Case A, part of the solution also must include a tracking and reward mechanism for students who complete e-learning courses. They at least need to get credit on their human resources record for completing the courses.

Since most of what you need in this category of training is already created by industry vendors, you don’t want to create your own courseware here. And you want to avoid anything here that costs too much.

Depending on how important the training is to your business, you might want to track which students complete which courses. However, you can’t put yourself in the position of punishing employees for not completing this kind of training.