In this rapidly changing world, any IT organization should support learning and critical thinking, sharing of new ideas, and spreading of new knowledge across all departments. Each team should have enough freedom to try innovative solutions, technologies, and management methodologies.
However, the share of innovation and experimentation largely depends on such factors as market conditions and the learning culture adopted. Let’s review how these factors can deprive IT organizations of learning and development opportunities.
The market has a volatile nature, with any political or economic change affecting different spheres, including IT. It’s particularly the case for companies using stable yet rigid mechanisms for ensuring their infallibility. As a result, they can’t change as fast as the moment requires.
These are market situations that can potentially hamper IT companies in expanding their learning potential.
In response to an economic crisis, prices for IT services and products start growing and become a number-one factor for clients, with everyone looking for the cheapest service possible. If an IT company focuses on mostly innovative and high-end projects, it may run the risk of not having enough customers to stay afloat. As a result, most IT businesses put their innovation aspirations on hold, and learning starts shrinking rapidly.
When the market is dynamically growing, the quality of products and services becomes the most important aspect. It leads to a higher demand for companies boasting expert-level IT staff and spending extra funds on learning. Here is where it’s easy to fall into the trap of taking hype for quality.
IT companies may pour their money into trendy technologies or roll out experimental methodologies without thinking about the long-term effect. It may strip employees of more practical learning and pose a threat to the entire organization in case the experiment fails.
A stable market seems to be a paradise where all kinds of IT companies can have their place under the sun. Less prominent firms get cheaper projects, while prestigious undertakings are snatched by the best in the field. In this setting, any healthy IT organization is supposed to allocate a portion of the profits to learning. But here’s the catch. When companies operate in a stable market, they see little incentive to go off the beaten track and adopt new business models and technologies.
How to align learning with a market situation
Even in tough economic times, fostering a learning environment is imperative for IT organizations. IT skills become obsolete very quickly, so companies need to find ways to keep up with the speed of change.
Today, the market of learning opportunities offers a variety of high-quality and low-cost (in some cases, even free) resources suitable for any market situation. When resources are scarce, it’s possible to go for online courses provided, for example, by Udemy, Coursera, or Udacity.
In order to pursue more hands-on education, you can cooperate with universities, IT corporations, and product-based platforms that provide courses by job role, professional level, and product, as well as certification opportunities. You can also set up your own learning tools and platforms that can be adopted much faster with the help of technology consultants at Itransition.
Learning culture is hard work
Continuous employee development in IT is a critical component that keeps companies competitive in the disruptive market. Not only employers want their staff to be passionate about learning and growing, but employees are pushing for continuous skill upgrade and dynamic careers — not only up but in every direction.
Naturally, when building a learning culture, companies often face certain challenges.
Lack of resources
Learning starts at the top. When leadership treats employee development as something that’s just nice to have or cuts the learning budget during tough times, learning programs can never become part of the benefits package. Such companies won’t be able to grow top specialists in-house but will have to invite talents from the outside, which may prove to be more expensive and resource-consuming. What’s more, deprived of the ability to evolve and sync their skills with the market demand, top talents may leave the firm for those workplaces that offer more learning opportunities.
Learning for the sake of learning
Everybody has a bookshelf in the office with mostly untouched expensive specialized literature, don’t they? It’s the lesser of the evils. Rolling out learning programs without a clear objective in mind may lead to the situation when workers get skills they are not going to apply anytime soon. It’s definitely great for their overall development and some kind of reinvention, but here’s the truth — when skills are not applied, they rapidly deteriorate. If your workers keep learning but don’t grow professionally, your company may hit stagnation.
It’s one thing to run learning programs, and completely another to get employees’ adequate response to learning. When workers are reluctant about learning opportunities provided by the company, it usually means any of the following:
- Employees can’t see how it’s relevant to their responsibilities.
- Responsible managers don’t see learning as a priority and fail to adapt learning programs to their departments’ work.
- Employees lack mentoring and find it difficult to learn at the required pace.
- Workers have to use outdated legacy learning management systems that are far from user-friendly and can’t provide curated learning solutions.
How to instill a learning culture
Consider following these steps to make sure you’re on the way to an efficient learning culture:
- Get the most out of available resources even when you have a scarce budget. When the funding grows, you’ll already have a proper learning attitude cultivated.
- Shape learning programs around long-term objectives and roll out learning experiments to small groups of professionals at a time to avoid negative consequences affecting the entire company.
- Make the leadership support your learning initiatives while providing a certain room for their adjustment within departments.
- When curating learning programs by competencies, refer to respective departments with the skillset in question, and take a nimble learning approach that allows correcting the curriculum and educational materials according to workers’ needs.
- Assign mentors who will curate the learning content and evaluate the success rate.
- Introduce a variety of learning opportunities that go well with any flow of work, like on-demand micro-learning sessions that are typically problem-based and take only a few minutes, online courses, regular offline classes, seminars, and conferences.
- Move away from legacy learning platforms and try to adopt next-generation learning tools.
Successful learning organizations are usually top performers. Without having your finger on the pulse, it’s easy to fall behind in productivity and innovation. In order to succeed in employee development, companies need to consider learning as a must, also finding ways to overcome a number of challenges usually associated with market fluctuations, cultivation of a learning culture, and adoption of new learning techniques.
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