Is is the Time for an Increased Investment in End User Training?

When times are tough, and budgets are tight, it gets harder and harder to justify training expenditures. Unfortunately, it's during the tough times that training can have the greatest impact, as you look for optimum performance and productivity in every process and system. This article lays out a (3) part roadmap to help you convince others that "training" is a good and worthwhile investment.

Become a Training Advocate

Training has two sides - it has a cost, but it offers many benefits. To justify the costs you must be able to demonstrate and quantify the benefits. Training benefits can exist at many levels, including increased productivity and lowered internal support costs.  Whatever the specifics may be, these costs and benefits must be directly tied to specific business needs and results. i.e. What are you looking to achieve and will training provide it?  At the end of the day, it takes a complete and comprehensive analysis of needs, costs and benefits to make the appropriate arguments and justify training initiatives.  The (3) part roadmap below gives you a series of questions you can use to complete this "analysis" and create your "training advocate" plans and strategies.    (Also Read: Setting IT Budget Priorities)

Step 1: Evaluating the Training Need

Can you make the case for more training? One thing is sure - before any case can be made, you need to be certain that you are standing on solid ground with regard to needs and benefits.

The Key Question:  What problem do you need to solve?

  • Are you receiving a large number of complaints from end-users regarding the timeliness and quality of technical support?
  • Are you receiving a large number of repetitive, remedial support requests?
  • Are these support requests keeping you from completing essential projects?
  • Are you being asked to improve the quality and/or quantity of IT services while cutting staff and service budgets?
Use the answers to these questions to determine whether current circumstances warrant the consideration of additional training (i.e. is there a need?)

Step 2:  Evaluating the Training Value

  • Can end-user training reduce the number of repetitive, remedial support requests?
  • If these support requests are reduced, will the quality of IT support improve?
  • If these support requests are reduced, will you be better able to meet project deadlines and other needs?
  • If these support requests are reduced, will you be able to better meet IT service demands considering current budget and staff limitations?
  • How will training make end-users more productive, and how will that increased productivity translate into cost savings and improved business results?
Use the answers to these questions to determine whether additional training will fill the identified need.

Hint: Look to the Likely Training Benefits

  1. End-users will spend less time spent seeking support and more time on required tasks and deliverables.
  2. There will be a measureable reduction in redundant, remedial technical support requests, lowering IT support costs.
  3. End-users will make fewer errors and mistakes leading to faster, more reliable results.
  4. End-users will feel better about their skills leading to improved morale and better results.
  5. A more detailed knowledge of systems functionality will lead to improved workflows and internal procedures.

Step 3:  Planning Training Initiatives 

Having determined that there is a "need" that training can fulfill, the steps and questions listed below will help you to plan the specific components and quantify the associated costs of that training initiative. With all this information in hand, you will be prepare to "make the case".

A. Identify all of the known training related needs and requirements.

  • What are your training objectives (new skills or improved skills)?
  • Who will be trained?
  • How long can training last (is there a specific completion deadline)?
  • Is the training customized or generic? (i.e. internally developed software vs. off-the-shelf)

B. Identify all of the available training related alternatives.

  • What training tools and methods can apply (in-house classroom, external classroom, webinars, or self-study books and reference materials)?
  • Can you rely on one method or a combination of methods?

C. Prepare an estimate of probable training costs considering:

  • Number of end-users to be trained
  • Volume discounts available
  • Fees per student (for outsourced training classes)
  • Development costs (internal or external)
  • Staffing costs (internal or external)
  • Facilities costs
  • Materials costs
  • Travel costs
  • Lost time (staff time out of the office)

Note:  Costs must then be compared to expected benefits to determine the training return on investment.

D. Make your training determinations and recommendations.

This is the time to ask the essential question - of all the training alternatives considered (in-house classroom, external classroom, webinars, or self-study books and reference materials), which ones will best meet training needs and objectives in terms of results, costs, time and resources? 

This is the point at which specific recommendations can be made with regard to the type of training required, and the related costs and timing.  The cost justification must focus on the identified needs and expected benefits to ensure an appropriate "return on investment".  The key to a winning argument for more end-user training is to understand specific needs, anticipate objections and present training options from a "big picture" point view, where short term initiatives are weighed against long term benefits.

Continue reading more on this subject in our next article Using IT to Overcome the Barriers to Workplace Productivity.

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