Here’s an oft-quoted but illustrative fact about computing: the smartphone you’ve been walking around with in your pocket or purse is terrifyingly powerful compared to all five of the IBM System/360 mainframe computers that supported the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. What is seldom acknowledged along with the exponential difference in silicon muscle between your phone (price: $500 or less) and Apollo 11 (price: $25.4 billion) is how IT skills have changed dramatically in the interim between then and now. In 1969, computer skills were primarily the domain of scientists and researchers, a limited cadre whose jobs found them at the helm of a large mainframe costing staggering amounts. Now, computers are not only an integral, but inescapable part of nearly every job across a kaleidoscope of industries.

A recent online poll at asked training professionals which delivery method their organizations would use most in the next six months, as shown in the chart below.

Training Delivery, 6Mo (N=229)

If roughly half of training programs are already virtual, is your workforce truly ready?

There are four basic categories of IT skills that have the potential to sidetrack/generally wreak havoc on your training effectiveness:

  1. Fundamental computing environment skills. This relates to general familiarity with operating systems, common productivity suites such as Office and simply remembering to plug it into the wall.
  2. Software-specific, job-relevant skills. In addition to being fairly adept at working with computers, most jobs require employees to use a few pieces of key software.  Whether these skills are the focus of hiring efforts or not, training is fundamental to adding value and efficiency to work outputs.  Most of us have encountered that power user who seems to know all the shortcuts to the day-to-day software we often take for granted. But if it’s a software you use daily, you shouldn’t have to look any further than a mirror to identify the power user.
  3. Computer hardware and peripherals. I’m not suggesting that we should all be able to disassemble a laptop and solder the chips together, but having the basic IT skills and knowledge for how to troubleshoot a presentation or resolve a minor printer issue is crucial to be effective in the modern workforce.
  4. Cloud computing. While it may combine the skillsets described above, the point is to grasp and understand that integration and how it facilitates mobility and efficiency. Lack of understanding today can put an entire workforce behind the curve for the business tools that will be commonplace tomorrow.

For example, technology skills are already expected at the point of onboarding. Below is a chart based on the data collected in our recent research on the training lifecycle. While good ol’ paper still rules the day, virtual onboarding is already here in force. So, how effectively are you really onboarding new employees if the technology is already bewildering to them?

Technology in Onboarding (N=252)