What keeps a company competitive?
Is it its marketing? How productive its employees are? Or how innovative its offering?
Actually, it’s none of those things. It’s having employees who thrive using the latest tools and technologies. It’s those tools and technologies that give the company a competitive edge.
But training employees to use these tools costs a fortune. (Corporations spent $130 billion on corporate training in 2014.) And more often than not, the training is forgotten soon after the employee completes it.
Why is it so hard to get technical training right?
What is technical training?
“Technical training relates to the skill set an individual has when working in a company to complete various tasks and activities.” BizFluent
Technical training is usually required during a period of digitization. So it’s important even for businesses that don’t work in a technical industry.
In basic terms, when new technology is implemented by a business, its users must learn how to use it. They need to be trained in the technical aspects of performing a certain task.
“Technical Training teaches the skills needed to design, develop, implement, maintain, support or operate a particular technology or related application, product or service.” Training Industry
In a retail environment, technical training might include teaching a new hire how to use the sales platform to charge customers. In a sales position, it could mean onboarding someone to the customer relationship management (CRM) software.
In a consultancy, technical training might include teaching employees how to track and bill hours. Or it could be simply that your company is switching to the newest version of Microsoft Office.
There is often reluctance among employees to learn these sorts of skills, but training in systems and technology has many benefits.
1. Consistent and quick execution
Giving everyone in the company technical training puts everyone on the same page. Your executive team can make more informed decisions. You no longer have to work in silos. Managers can better estimate the time needed to complete projects.
By operating as a single unit, you can achieve company goals quicker.
2. Keep pace with the digital world
Whether you like it or not, the world is changing. Your kids are digital. Your workplace is digital. Your favorite music and television programmes are digital.
This is the world in which your organization operates. Technical training equips employees with the knowledge required to be comfortable working there.
3. Provide opportunities internally
If you train and develop your own talent, you end up with skilled employees with a deep knowledge of the specific needs of your company.
“Employees who undergo technical training, whether before or during a job, are typically more valuable to their company than employees who do not.” BizFluent
These skills will improve their performance and often lead to more innovation. Employees who are comfortable with learning are more likely to be motivated to do better.
Why everyone hates technical training
Because technical training is so specialised, it is often conducted by a subject matter expert. A common problem is that the trainer has limited presentation and communication skills.
The result is that the training is dry and the learners are disengaged. So how can training managers mitigate this risk?
Golden rules for engaging technical training programs
For some of these tips, I’ve turned to science. For others, it just comes down to experience. But all these tips will help you to develop effective technical training programs — and boost the employee training process.
1. Make it hands-on
Learning isn’t done from the sidelines. It’s done by trial and error.
A Bucknell University study found that active learners performed better than their passive peers in highly technical subjects (for example, engineering).
As Michael Li writes in Harvard Business Review, this is because:
“When learning new concepts, it’s one thing to grasp the ‘big picture’ but it’s another to implement skills or new knowledge.
“Especially with technical subjects, the devil is in the details and getting those details right is what distinguishes good practitioners from charlatans.”
The more you can incorporate hands-on learning into your technical training programs, the more successful they’ll be.
2. Include assessment
Beware of technical training programs that include no assessment or accountability measures. To justify investment, learner progress must be monitored.
There are various ways to do this, including interviews, tests, and surveys.
3. Give employees time
A common pitfall of technical training programs is that they don’t allow employees enough time to absorb the complex information.
Because the training is so detailed, it takes a while to sink in. One way around this is to use personalized employee training on demand. Employees receive the information exactly when they need it, which means they’re more likely to remember it.
When it comes to technical training, the information might be complicated but the program needn’t be. The same principles of employee training apply. The more practical and engaging it is, the more likely the information is to be absorbed.