How much training is enough?

How far a company is able to progress depends on not just business strategy but how how technology is used to enhance the business.

Technology provides a common starting ground for all companies. How far a company is able to progress down this journey largely depends on how technology is used to support and enhance the business.

In order to keep up with industry shifts and business demands, SMBs recognize that technology investment is a must. While sometimes the returns on investment can only be achieved in the long term, there's one investment that has proven its ability to deliver results quickly and predictably.

There's one investment in technology that has proven its ability to deliver results quickly and predictably.... It simply involves giving staff the knowledge they need to make the best of the available technology.

It doesn’t require purchasing new hardware and software. It doesn’t demand wholesale changes in your environment or business processes. It simply involves giving staff the knowledge they need to make the best of the available technology.

The amount of IT training, however, will differ from one company to another, according to their individual budget, skill set and technical requirements. The level of training required will also correspond to the complexity of the solution implemented by the SMB and the operating system chosen.

Different industries will also require different skill sets. For example, fund management companies require employees to do financial modeling and market projections; retail companies require database and RFID knowledge to track goods; and manufacturing companies will require knowledge in specialized applications like ERP (enterprise resource planning) to help shorten time-to-market. Regardless of the industry, staff will constantly need to undergo training, both internal and external to keep up with business and technology developments.

There are three types of users:

  • Basic – where the user has basic Microsoft Office skills for their daily work.
  • Intermediate – where the user has strong skills in Microsoft Office and is able to effectively use Office applications; manage simple desktop recovery and connect networking devices to the desktop.
  • Technical/Savvy users – where the user is responsible for the IT of the company and/or is tech-savvy.

For example, most administrative personnel belong to the basic group and may only require basic IT courses. These courses are inexpensive and will provide the necessary foundation for them to be effective in their roles. For intermediate users, relevant courses are those that help them learn to better utilize their Office or specialized applications to be more productive and efficient in the work they do.

However, for employees performing special duties that require the use of customized software and applications, and employees with the additional responsibilities of basic maintenance for the company’s IT as a de-facto IT administrator, advanced courses are required to help them stay abreast of industry trends so as to remain relevant in their roles.

Courses in the maintenance of systems, applications and security are important as they address some of the key concerns that SMBs face in terms of costs and security. IT administrators need to be constantly updated on methodologies and solutions that enable them to maximize the use of their IT resources. The aim is to elevate the level of IT understanding for all employees without having a large disparity of skill sets.

The upgrading and training also forms part of the career development plan for all employees and the end result is a tech-savvy workforce that is receptive to adopting new technologies like mobility and e-services solutions, which will enhance business competitiveness and drive new business streams.

Technology not only enables SMBs to enhance business value, it also makes the SMB an attractive company to partner with. Corporations and enterprises are more receptive to partnering with SMBs that have the right business, technology and people infrastructures in place. SMBs are also able to better attract and retain talents, as employees these days are more likely to want to work in an environment that uses technology.

Understandably, some SMBs may feel that they cannot afford to send staff for training due to the potential productivity loss. However, the SMBs can leverage online learning tools that enable staff to undergo training with minimal disruption to their work.

SMBs with IT-savvy staff will be able to adapt faster to the changing business environment. Therefore, the enhanced skill sets through training will allow employees to become more productive and receptive to new ways of doing business.

Karen Peck is the director of HP Singapore's small and medium business segment.