Broader skill sets way to retrain

Economic downturn demands more from job roles, so companies will do well to train staff for more general IT skills, say corporate HR heads.

Skills retraining can help employees stay relevant but the current economic slowdown may see a paradigm shift in the type of training required, where broader skills will see stronger demand, observed corporate human resource (HR) executives.

Michael Stickler, Pacific human resources senior director at Citrix Systems, noted that several roles in the IT industry have traditionally been very specialized and narrow in focus. However, IT job requirements are now broader in scope, he noted, adding that this trend is further accentuated by the current economic environment in which companies are expected to do more with less.

Stickler said: "While in some areas, technology specialists will continue to have their rightful place as subject matter experts, there is a growing need for 'generalists'--IT roles with broader skill sets.

"As such, employees who are able to wear multiple hats and have cross-functional product and solution knowledge will be more in demand going forward," he told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview.

Irrespective of the economic environment, Stickler said his company is "always investing" on training its employees to ensure they can present and deliver its technologies effectively. "We thrive on innovation and constantly raise the bar to deliver greater value to the customer," he said.

Similarly, independent software testing company AppLabs looks to equip its workforce with multi-skills through various training initiatives.

Headquartered in the United States, with testing facilities there, the United Kingdom and India, AppLabs recognizes the importance of training programs that will help elevate the workforce, compared to pure technical-focused training.

Arun Rao, the company's Hyderabad, India-based HR vice president, said in an e-mail interview: "While technology training does help us maintain the edge globally, I think one place where Indian [IT] practitioners have traditionally failed is their inability to challenge the customer and move logically to the next level--from being a typical contractor to a consultant."

Arun said the environment today offers organizations more time to provide employees with comprehensive training programs, without having to worry about commercial-driven issues such as revenue opportunity costs.

"If the paradigm, 'what goes down, comes up', is true, then we should be ready for the upturn by arming ourselves with more capabilities than what we have today," he said. "Therefore, the learning and development function is all the more important for the organization and its employees."

Keep focus on company offerings
Even so, the main focus of training efforts at Citrix and AppLabs continues to be on the company's product and service offerings.

According to Stickler, the majority of Citrix's training and retraining programs are determined by the company's innovations, product roadmaps and go-to-market approach.

"We need to ensure our employees are trained to sell professionally, support our channel partners effectively, and provide services for new products we are bringing to market," he explained.

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