Much has changed in information technology (IT) and technical training as we move further into the digital era. And yet, much has stayed the same. Technical training still needs practice opportunities, a focus on skills and practical applications and up-to-date training content to keep up with technology advancements. However, how technical training is structured and the support around it has evolved as we continue to learn more about the best ways to develop training for technical learners.
The recent shifts found in technical training design align to the changes in the world around us. Gone are the days of teaching IT workshops for weeks at a time. Companies need workers to get the skills and get back to their jobs. This new focus on streamlined learning has required learning professionals to rethink how training curricula are designed.
In this article, we’ll review five tips to demonstrate how companies can rework their IT and technical training to optimize employee learning time and company resources.
How to Optimize IT/Technical Training
Tip 1: Use a flipped classroom. Everyone learns at a different pace and needs different amounts of time to process the information they’ve learned. Everyone also needs the opportunity to practice skills. Enter the flipped classroom. This training design moves knowledge-based content outside the classroom and uses synchronous learning sessions to guide learners through activities that allow them to practice skills in a safe, supported environment. This design has the additional advantage of placing the knowledge-based content in a modality that can be easily referenced by current learners and used as the learning foundation for future learners.
Tip 2: Don’t recreate generic technical content. While some IT and technical training requires custom learning to be developed, most technical content training is generic and foundational. Companies often think that their implementation of a technology is different and therefore generic content won’t apply and custom content is required. They are wise to recognize that there will be specialized training needed, but foolish to rebuild generic content that is already available publicly. Generic content training is readily accessible in many online learning platforms. Furthermore, those platforms constantly update their content, as technology is always changing. Custom versions of generic content are often outdated before the first enterprise-wide implementation of the training is completed. To avoid these issues, focus on what content is truly custom during the design stage of development, and for everything else, consider finding outside, online platforms.
Tip 3: Move infrequent task training to job aids. IT and technical training are full of many processes and detailed skills. However, there is a substantial difference between a skill applied daily and one done semi-annually. Frequent skills should be trained to the degree of competency required and the complexity and importance of the task. For infrequent skills, consider moving them to job aids. Most people don’t know how to do their income taxes by hand because they don’t need to. There are products out there that walk a user through a detailed process without requiring them to memorize how to do it. Job aids are the training equivalent. If a process or skill is so infrequently used that a learner does not need to be trained to do it automatically, it might be content for a job aid. Using job aids to document how to do an infrequent task reduces training time by removing these skills from the curriculum and providing a simpler way for users to complete the task without having to memorize the process.
Tip 4: Use mentors for complex skills. The challenge with converting technical training to asynchronous learning is that many technical skills require guided practice to successfully learn. Technical skills are often filled with decisions and options that have nuances throughout. Because of these variations, it’s extremely helpful for a new learner to have guidance from a coach or mentor. Providing a mentor to new learners can give them a place to ask questions that might not come up in training but are discovered on the job. Yes, the digital era is amazing, but there is still value in receiving direction from someone who has the competency level that the learner is trying to reach.
Tip 5: Prioritize skills to be taught. With limited training time and aggressive business goals, it’s critical for learners to quickly get in the field and help companies succeed. L&D can keep up with the speed of business by prioritizing which skills are taught and when. So many companies believe that they must teach all skills to a new learner to prepare them to do all aspects of the job once training finishes. While for some jobs that may be true, for many technical jobs there is time for the learner to get acclimated to their job before they must complete all job tasks. If this is the case, consider breaking the learning program into stages and using the initial stage to only train the skills required immediately. Less critical skills can be taught at a later stage once the learner has had time to gain proficiency in core functions of the job. This staging structure also has the advantage of alleviating some of the cognitive overload that happens during onboarding or larger technical training programs.
Few areas of society move as fast as technology. Companies need to keep up with that speed through rethinking the design of their technical training. L&D can help by optimizing the time and methods used to train learners on continuously evolving skills of the digital era.