Lip-service not enough

As a manager it's easy to pay lip-service to training by sending staff to any vaguely relevant course and hope that benefits will flow. They often do, especially when the training is limited in its aims and immediately applied, such as when developer Fred learns module x and uses the skills in project y, or end user Bill learns these keystrokes to execute that transaction.

Much harder to deliver is end user training that helps staff truly understand how systems impact on the people and processes in various parts of their business and on customers. Such an understanding is essential, especially for middle and senior managers but often not achieved. This situation reflects failure on the manager's part as much as it does limitations within the training industry. The failings are most evident when the expectations are necessarily higher, such as when core business processes are codified in complicated enterprise resource planning (ERP) deployments. Poor education of the non-IT managers and employees charged with using such systems to run the business often brings a significant shortfall in expected benefits. Without sufficient understanding of the new "codified business processes" regime, decisions made by middle managers to work around the new ERP systems have caused major product shipment and revenue trouble as well as share price tumbles for companies such as US-based Hershey Foods. Poor training directly hurt this company's bottom line. (My impression is that Australian manufacturing organisations have experienced their share of troubles but generally fare better as a result of their smaller size and more operationally savvy management).

IT training failure is hardly limited to complicated ERP deployments. E-learning, for example, offers tantalising benefits in cost and time savings but is falling down largely because the online content is often poor and managers are still only paying lip-service to developing a culture of continuous learning (see page 36). This is a pity, because with e-commerce threatening to expose the ‘systems-processes-people' abilities of many staffers to all comers, the need for effective training has never been more pressing than it is now. The question is how do you achieve it. in chief

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