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Nigel Warren


Training Consultant

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What is wasting your IT training budget?


No-one likes wasting money.  Nigel Warren from TTS suggests ways to “lean” your IT Training. 

Getting lean

Most of us are challenged to deliver more value from reduced learning and development budgets. In fact, 65% of large companies in the UK have been cutting their learning and development budgets by around 12% according to Deloitte’s 2013 UK Learning Factbook [1]. So it pays to identify causes of waste and achieve efficiency savings, as the alternative could be redundancy. One area where you may be able to cut significant costs for your organisation is IT training. Could you actually be delivering too much?

I was struck by a passionate discussion raging on LinkedIn recently. The discussion topic 'Employees forget 80% of what they've been trained on within 30 days...' attracted a huge response, mostly from trainers complaining that this was a real problem for their organisation. However, one contrarian point of view that stood out from the crowd was: “You may as well stop training the 80% that people forget as it clearly adds no value to your organisation”. Responses to this post were mostly hostile, for example “Are you saying 80% of what we teach is cr+p … that’s pretty insulting to L&D professionals”.

But if you really take a step back and think about it, if people forget 80% of what they are taught, the time spent delivering such training really isn’t making any difference to a company’s performance. It’s a drain on productivity.

Training versus learning

There’s a real problem with the language of the above discussion; it’s not just the faulty grammar and it’s more than a matter of semantics. Years ago I was taught (no irony intended), that effective trainers don’t teach; rather, they stimulate a desire to learn. Regrettably many trainers are at a disadvantage in this respect, as the training they deliver is dislocated from the moment of need. That is to say, necessity is the biggest potential motivator for learning, and if training is delivered too soon it’s extremely difficult for any trainer to engender the desire for learning that makes new knowledge and skills stick. Looked at through this lens, it’s perhaps not surprising that so many trainers complain that employees forget so much of what they’ve been 'trained on'.

70:20:10 - Moving from training to performance support

The 70:20:10 model for workplace learning suggests that employees learn:

  • 70% from experience (doing the job)
  • 20% from social learning (including coaching from colleagues / boss)
  • 10% from formal planned courses and reading

Or more starkly, employees learn 90% of their skills in the workplace (experience and social) and just 10% through formal planned training. In order to help workplace learning flourish, organisations are investing in performance support technologies to facilitate moment-of-need and social learning.

L&D managers who are keen to move their organisations towards the 70:20:10 model would do well to focus initially on IT training, and specifically the area of software end user training, as this is particularly well suited to a performance support approach. Here’s why:

  • An increasingly computer literate workforce: People are better prepared to find answers and develop skills at the moment of need.
  • Granularity: Many such new skills can be learned quickly at a granular level of detail.
  • Context: If we can determine what a user is trying to do, it is comparatively easy to deliver support content that is contextually relevant to the task at hand.
  • Help in the workflow: There’s the potential to embed performance support into the user interface so that users do not need to stop what they are doing whilst looking for help.
  • Connectivity: The user is connected to the network, which means that collaboration with peers, subject matter experts and support staff is comparatively easy.

Is performance support a panacea for software training?

More traditional and structured approaches to software training are not going to disappear altogether. There’s a place and a time for elearning and instructor-led training, and in many areas compliance requirements may dictate a more formal approach to competency assurance. However, you really need to build performance support into your approach in order to alleviate resource constraints and reduce costs. This is especially true if you are faced with an upgrade to business systems like ERP or CRM affecting hundreds or thousands of users, or perhaps a migration to MS Office 2013 or 365.

Where’s the waste in your current approach?

Embracing the 70:20:10 model could significantly reduce your IT training costs. If you think about your current approach, it’s probable that you are experiencing one or more of the following causes of waste. What’s the main culprit in your organisation? Enter your vote and join the discussion.

Vote in the LinkedIn poll here

Slow training content development methods

If you are still creating written software training materials with MS Word, screenshots and PowerPoint, or creating interactive content using something like Captivate, the chances are that you could save a significant amount by adopting a built-for-purpose integrated documentation, elearning and performance support system – enabling you to reduce the cost of producing and maintaining such content.

Too much training & learners forgetting

If employees forget 80% of what they are taught on a typical training course, how much shorter should your software training courses be? With a world class solution for performance support, you should be able to reduce formal/structured training time, because your employees will successfully learn what they need when they need it.

Avoidable logistics costs

If courses are shorter there will be a significant logistical saving – including facilities, travel and accommodation. Moving towards elearning and performance support will also reduce reliance on printed materials.

Avoidable support costs

Moving towards elearning and performance support has the potential to transform the software support desk function, as users become adept at answering their own questions.  Support desk staff and subject matter experts become curators of the online knowledge base. The benefits: lower support call volumes, reduced cost and faster problem resolution.

Redundancy of training content

A high proportion of training materials have low residual value beyond the training event, as they are ill-suited to moment-of-need learning. Company-specific systems are subject to regular enhancements, rendering training materials largely or partly obsolete. The result is content redundancy or high maintenance costs.

Nigel Warren is a solution consultant with TTS Knowledge Solutions Ltd in London. TTS is a European leader for talent management & corporate learning in the IT and SAP environment. It has 10 offices across Europe and serves more than 400 customers including Aspect Software, Bosch, Credit Suisse, E.ON, Novartis, RWE and T-Systems.

You can learn more about this subject by participating in the TTS sponsored PERFORMANCE SUPPORT ACADEMY WEBINAR SERIES, which explores how to apply the 70:20:10 framework to streamline IT training. The free webinar series runs between 1st and 5th October.

Sources: [1] WhatWorks™ Brief: The UK Learning Factbook 2013

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Nigel Warren

Training Consultant

Read more from Nigel Warren

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