Learning and development (L&D) organizations that are not actively partnering with technology departments to better understand their training needs may have their own learning curve to overcome. Technology and the teams that support it play a vital role in today’s organizations, and many technology departments represent a significant portion of the company’s staffing and budget.
When learning organizations don’t reach out to learn the needs of these technology-focused workforces, it often causes technology leaders to “fly under the radar” or “go rogue,” spending their own budgets on training solutions and leaving the learning organization on the sidelines.
The learning challenges that technology-led departments face are unlike any other learning needs in the company. To support the entire company, L&D organizations can’t afford to ignore enterprise technologists, developers and others. If they do, they risk being left out of technology-focused learning decisions.
Why does this disconnect between learning organizations and technology departments happen so often? Let’s look at some of the causes of the problem and how to overcome them.
Causes of the Problem
Far and away the biggest cause of this issue is many L&D leaders’ lack of understanding of today’s ever-changing technology landscape and the pressures technology-centric departments are under. While other departments are often challenged with building leadership pipelines or developing management and productivity skills, technology teams are looking to build skills in critical technical proficiencies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, Python, .Net and a host of other areas.
Technology departments may seem to live in their own world, with their own language. You’ve probably seen it yourself: other leaders’ eyes glazing over as technology heads try to explain their teams’ training needs. But learning leaders need to find a way to bridge this knowledge gap so technology professionals can benefit from all they can offer.
Solving the Problem
There are several ways to bridge the gap and start building a true partnership between learning and tech-focused departments. Here are some suggestions:
Initiate a Conversation Between Learning Leaders and Technology Leaders
Even the longest journeys start with a single step. As a learning leader, take the first step, and reach out to your counterpart on the technology teams to start the journey toward a partnership. Keep the initial conversation simple; share the benefits you can provide to a technical workforce, but try to avoid diving too deep into specific training requirements in the first meeting. Talk, instead, about high-level needs and capabilities.
For instance, a good first step is to find out how big of an issue training and reskilling are to technology leaders. It’s likely that they’re a big issue; a majority of information technology (IT) executives are putting training and reskilling on their list of priorities. Another important question to ask is how they are training and reskilling their people today. You might be unpleasantly surprised to learn that they are spending a considerable amount of money using expensive and unscalable instructor-led training or buying online training from one or more providers. The biggest concern, of course, will be if you discover that they aren’t providing any type of training and reskilling opportunities to their teams.
Find the Expertise You Need to Dive Deeper Into Technology Training Needs
The technology practice lives in its own world and speaks its own language, so it is important to have access to people who can bridge the gap. Unfortunately, finding people with this skill set can be difficult. Often, companies will heap the responsibility for training onto a technology staff person’s plate and expect him or her to become experts in learning. On the other hand, some organizations take a seasoned learning professional and ask him or her to become proficient in technology.
These approaches are fraught with both potential and risk. If you have the luxury of time, they could provide you with the link you need between the two organizations. But time is a luxury most of us don’t have, given the fast pace of change in technology. Companies should start this cross-training immediately, but in the meantime, they should look for outside resources to help now. One place to start looking for outside resources is with your existing learning vendors.
Help Technology Leaders Understand What Training Options Might Be Available Now and in the Future
You may have talked with technology leaders who do not know what your learning organization is already providing in the way of training. Show them what you’ve provided for the company, and you might hear, “I had no idea we had access to this training!”
When you have that initial conversation with technology leaders, make sure you do more “showing” than “telling.” Show them the great things your organization is doing for the company. Then, let them know that you could help them provide similar training and reskilling solutions for their teams.
Finally, it is important to continue this dialogue until it becomes a valued partnership. Creating a strong partnership between learning and technology departments can be challenging, but the benefits to both organizations and to the entire company will be considerable. Technology teams are vital to your company’s competitiveness. By enabling them to quickly and efficiently train and reskill their members, you will be benefiting your entire company.