When will businesses learn about the dangers of untrained staff?

Britain’s productivity is lagging behind every G7 advanced economy bar one last year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It estimates that output per hour and output per worker were both 20 per cent lower than the average achieved by the US, Germany France, Italy and Canada. This marks the widest productivity gap since figures began in 1991. Everyone seems to be scratching their heads about how to solve the productivity puzzle, but with 75 per cent of UK staff either untrained or poorly trained the answer to me is education, education, education. 

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IT efficiencies have become more and more integral to the overall ‘heath’ and strategy of a business and it clear now more than ever that cutting corners when it comes to effective development of user capabilities it is integral to the smooth running of any organisation.  

When we board a plane or enter into medical surgery, we have complete faith that our pilot or surgeon has the maximum possible experience and training to get us through the experience safely. 

Yet in the corporate world, when CIOs and CEOs look at a ‘major flight’ into new areas of business opportunity or need to make ‘surgical’ changes to vital organs of the business like data management and compliance processes, they are often trusting inexperienced staff.
Staff who may be relying on a study book they have been given (but potentially not even read) and a few ad-hoc conversations as the qualified professional walked out of the building to their next job. Not only does this represent a huge risk to the survival of that businesses competitive life, but also it has a huge knock-on effect on the productivity rate of those internal IT professionals.

This assessment is reinforced by statistics from our customer support teams at Commvault, which show that, unsurprisingly, a high percentage of calls are not to resolve ‘emergency’ technical issues or process problems, but are to ask basic questions. Queries which would have been covered in any of our formal training offerings. It might seem, at first glance, that asking for help when you need it – instead of sending staff on formal training – saves employee time and company money. However when investment in business critical IT processes do not deliver staff productivity then this will inevitably impact your bottom line and reduce the business value of that spend.

Research shows that 93 per cent of Commvault trained customers indicated that training had a positive impact on productivity and enthusiasm, while enhancing their ability to make their company more successful. 

With remote training options such as virtual classes or e-learning meaning that training can be cost effective, scalable and deliverable to more employees why are so few companies investing in it, especially when individual productivity decreases directly impact overall company productivity?

Education investment is clearly the answer as it counteracts the three major drains on your individual employees (and therefore overall company) productivity.

The top three productivity drains of untrained staff are:

1. ‘Digging around’ for the solution
Before employees call a support line they will always try and solve the problem themselves. I recently spoke to a business media customer who told me that before he had received appropriate training he used to spend hours digging around for a solution, which receiving basic training would have completely eliminated.  In this scenario, formal training has the dual benefit of improving his productivity, while also eliminating the likelihood of incorrectly identifying a solution, based on emergency, ad-hoc research.

2. Distracting other colleagues 
Untrained employees will also often ask other unofficial ‘master user’ employees for help. Still unregulated and with no supporting materials, this approach means that you now have two members of staff involved in finding a solution. This effectively doubles the productivity decrease from the organisation’s perspective. 

3. Hanging on the telephone…
When neither of the first two options has been taken (and even sometimes when they have), there is the final element of productivity decrease from the employee whilst they make the support call (to the vendor/supplier) itself. Although this may have the short-term benefit of solving the immediate problem it disempowers the employee because they feel dependent. This in turn can the employee to feel frustrated and unmotivated. 

Should I stay or should I go?
Some companies fear that they will spend time and money training staff who might then leave. Yet, the evidence strongly indicates trained staff are happier in their jobs and are therefore more likely to stay. Happy staff leads to a lower staff turnover rate, which in turn is attracts prospective employees.  Research at Warwick University shows that happy staff are also more productive.  Ultimately companies should be worrying less about trained staff leaving and more about the untrained staff who stay.

The purpose of implementing new IT infrastructure is usually to increase efficiencies in business critical processes. So, it is ironic to offer insufficient staff training which results in the failure of the process to deliver its key objective. One of our customers reported that implementing what he had learnt in formal training processes allowed him to reduce the company’s storage utilisation by 25 per cent, which exceeded the business justifications of the overall implementation, making both him and the procurement manager look like a hero.
On the flip side facing questions or complaints over the purchase, when the issue is not with the software but staff’s inability to use it, is the ultimate frustration for a procurement manager. Training staff fully on a new IT purchase or software upgrade, is like adding an insurance policy for the success of the purchase. It ensures that the features and benefits of their IT selection are fully realised (or exceeded), reducing the chances that their choice will be questioned or that they are sent back to look for alternative solutions – with all of the associated productivity decreases that would result from having to repeat complex tendering processes.

Going into 2016, it’s a sad fact that training is undervalued in comparison with investments in technology. The reality is, that knowledge transfer is not enough for employees to maximise the potential of powerful software. It is a waste of resources to spend money on the software and not train your employees on how to utilise that software to its full potential. It is the corporate equivalent of an untrained pilot or surgeon, not only because of the individual and corporate productivity benefits, but also in terms of staff motivation, happiness and ultimately expertise retention. If the UK is to close the frequently discussed ‘productivity gap’ with Europe, it must surely train its staff on the software in which it has invested.

About the author 

Martin Hill is the Director of Education Services at Commvault.


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