Training: Reaction to a Need or a Business Strategy?
June 27, 2017 by Bill Rosenthal

Man teaching students

Last November, TEKsystems, an IT staffing firm, released the results of a survey of IT leaders in which more than half (53%) of the respondents said their organizations had no formal strategic workforce planning strategy. Nearly three-quarters (73%) don’t begin workforce planning for an IT project longer than three months before the project kicks off. It is probably no coincidence that the survey also found more than two-thirds of respondents (68%) believe it is more challenging to staff IT projects today than it was five years ago. 

When it comes to training, there are two kinds of business organizations: 1) those for which training is a reaction to a need and 2) those that use training strategically to meet their business goals. I think most organizations probably fall into category 1.

If you’re in category 1 and you want to be in category 2, you need to start by examining every job in the organization. For each job, you design a competency framework based on the core capabilities that each employee should possess. Consider the particular competencies that relate to specific roles and levels of authority within the organization. You should consider the skill level that each core and specialist competency should have based on each individual’s level of seniority. 

For example, each level should have not only specific performance objectives but also a defined set of competencies which must be developed respective to their level, made up of a combination of skills, knowledge, and behaviors. The director will have more detailed competencies than the assistant manager. 

Then compare the person in the job to the performance objectives and defined competencies. Wherever the performance objectives and defined competencies exceed the performance levels and competencies possessed by the person, there’s a training need. The sum of the needs of all employees is the beginning of your strategic training plan. Once that’s done, you can map out the performance objectives and defined competencies you will need in the future. 

This job-task analysis is only a first step. To get the most out of the training, you also need to do an organization analysis. The organization analysis serves two purposes. First, it allows you to align training course development (or prospective courseware) with the organization’s goals. Second, it helps you determine if the organization is ready to get the maximum benefit from the training.

Organization analysis is not for the faint of heart. It requires a broad perspective, a certain amount of imagination, and a willingness to think ruthlessly about your organization and its problems. First look at both your business objectives and the obstacles you face in meeting them. Then identify the jobs and functions in the organization that have the biggest impact on meeting those objectives and overcoming those obstacles. What does your organization need to be very good at in order to get or stay ahead of your competition? With this information, you can determine what training the organization most needs and where it needs it. When you determine training needs that way, you’re operating in category 2.

If you’re working in category 1, you’ll probably think getting to category 2 is daunting. It is, which is why more than half of IT organizations remain in category 1. As daunting as life in category 2 might appear, however, it’s a lot less stressful than seeing other organizations perform better than yours, as they eat your lunch.