It's an interesting predicament indeed. One struggle I've witnessed in organizations is the treatment of IT as a cost-center, a place where money gets invested for "lights-on" expectations, rather than a profit center. For organizations that operate IT in this capacity, there is a wasted opportunity (IMO) to employ those most familiar with your corporate tech DNA to generate operational efficiency opportunities rooted in technology for the business at large.
At my previous company, I worked in IT as a Programmer Analyst for National Instruments. In the IT org, we were encouraged to "flex the Analyst" in our title, as much as the programmer (if not more). Understanding the business model and making upstream recommendations on how to impact the business was just as important as your technical chops (in some cases). I was fortunate to work with the likes of Tom Bolke Rob Shepler and Mike Young who understand what it means to step out of the traditional IT box and shatter the "cost-center" perception. As a senior PA, I made it a point to allocate 15% of my time for forward looking strategy, research, and meetings to understand how I could impact the business even more. Towards the end of 7 years at NI, Jive was the vehicle by which I held these meetings and scaffolded numerous operational efficiencies based on either pure collaboration or 3rd party system data awareness scenarios.
For those companies that are pushing the boundaries of IT, where are you able to get the most traction? What types of projects/initiatives?
Great topic Leigh Pankonien, really looking forward to the conversation!
I have worked at many different companies and some do this much better than others. My current company, unfortunately, doesn't do this well at all for new hires in general. Anything that isn't revenue generating is often de-prioritized, and our IT assets/software are out of date. New hire orientation doesn't involve much in the way of onboarding with IT - it is left up to the individual's manager to induct the new folks in whatever software/tools/processes they need to know beyond basic company orientation.
As one of those managers, I do sit down sessions with my new team members on the things they need to know/use and how to do that - although there are some systems the company has that are just so outdated my advise to my new hires is to avoid them at all costs.
I will say that when we get a big new system in (or upgrade) we do have formal training sessions (often mandatory) with multiple sessions, online WebEx versions that are recorded for offline viewing, etc. These are either offered to a very specific set of IT employees who will use the new thing heavily, or are mandatory for everyone in the company - so the audience is sometimes too wide or too narrow to be useful.
Accenture (shout out) on the other hand, I thought had one of the best new hire onboarding systems I have every participated in when I worked there. That was awhile ago so not sure if they still do it well, but I was impressed at the time (around 2000). It was multiple days (2 I think) but in addition to the basic new hire orientation stuff (HR forms, and culture, etc) we learned all of the major systems we would need to use for expenses, time reporting, requisitions, mail room, help desk/ticketing, etc. It was a lot of info but in a concise # of days and I was ready to go when it was over.
I think sometimes IT departments make the mistake of thinking that software products are so well designed that people will just "know" how to use them - or that they're so common now (Outlook) that you don't have to teach anyone. I think that's a mistake. Good design may help you use the system to some level without instruction, but to be an advanced user, or get the most out of it, even if there isn't formal "sit in a room" training - you need some interactive help sections/videos/training demos, etc.
Thanks for your thoughts, Christina! Great to hear a case where a company got this right - kudos to Accenture (in 2000 at least).
I also really like and agree with your thoughts on people making the mistake that software is completely intuitive. To really get maximum value out of software, there should be a training or at least training materials. Two companies can use the same software very differently, so also training on internal process and uses is very important.
On-boarding and training are always issues that come up in any organization. Most often people are employed at the time they're needed and rarely prior to the actual need-date so they hit the ground running. This constrains on-boarding efforts and pressures IT to make simple seamless solutions so little on-boarding/training is required. Rarely are systems so simple that everyone understands immediately. Since IT typically appears as a cost centre and not "corporate enabler" then the argument becomes one of "well, this problem wouldn't have happened if we could have trained them". Sadly that's the norm but we've been working to change that perception.
Over the years I've noticed that the traditional in-the-room binge training programs do very little to help people learn. Yes they provide introductions but there's very little retention of content. New employees are usually so excited at the fresh start that all they want to do is ...start working. Understandably the case in most situations.
We've been changing the way our ingest/on-boarding program works for a few years now. It's nowhere near complete or perfect but recent developments have helped. We created a "Critical Start" space in our Jive instance. In this space, we've setup projects for each individual application: General company information, history, CRM, TimeTracking, Expense Reporting, Jive, Box, etc. In each of these projects we then add manuals, content, guided video's to walk people through, walk-through activities, participation points, action items, etc. This approach provides for a modular system where we can retire training programs by "archiving" projects, and augment the valued programs with additional content, conversation and participation. The requirement then resides on the individual -- wherever they may be -- to self-train and/or participate during the first week (the real action item/requirement) so we can get a sense of issues before they become ISSUES.
In this regard IT partners with HR during initial on-boarding and helps resolve generalized training more effectively. Global users -- including remote employees -- get access to subject experts on a self-service basis and have a knowledge library to refer to later down the road. It's on-plan and available 100% of the time. HR gets metrics on who participates and can followup. IT gets less issues to support and can match that to participation in Jive.
Hi Doug. I just revisited your response. It sounds like y'all have a good system going. I'm curious if you have an understanding of what % of people you on-board walk through/use these documents. I think it's a great idea to pair HR and IT with HR keeping dibs on who participates. It sounds like you've gamified this experience as well. I'm sure that's increased participate rates!
We have read-tracking implemented so we can get a general sense of who reads as we go. HR really does the followup on that space to verify that people have run through. Since it's a self-service type of approach sometimes action items linger, but we've evolved the training to ensure the action items happen.
We've done preliminary gamification -- the freebie kind -- by putting massive points on StatusUpdates and replying to discussions. After just a day there's been a 25% increase in participation.