To invest in employee tech training or not – that is the question!

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Written by Neil Robertson on 20 March 2020 in Opinion
Opinion

Neil Robertson spells out the options.

Reading time: 4 mins 30 secs

Updating or introducing new technology can be a significant investment for a company. Not just in terms of initial costs and implementation, but also investing in training for employees to ensure they know how to use the new system or software, get the most out of it, and make sure a company is getting ROI from its investment.

However, in many cases this issue of employee training is too often viewed as an “add on” (something to be haggled over as an area to reduce costs) or in extreme cases, something to be left out altogether.

There are a number of reasons for this. Cost is one. Businesses could be reluctant to train all their staff on a system, or hope that by training a select few, these employees will then train other staff in the long term.

Another reason is a concern that trained staff will eventually leave and take their (paid for by the company) skills with them.

But, ultimately, whatever the reason is, any company which views employee training on technology as anything other than an essential part of a digital transformation project is never going to see the full value from their investment.

Unfortunately, it appears that many businesses are taking this route, investing in technology and then relying on employees to “pick it up as they go”. At least this is what 25% of finance workers said in a recent survey as part of the From cost centre to revenue creator: How tech is changing the role of finance report.

With one in four employees saying they are expected to learn how to use technology without training, how can businesses possibly be getting the most out of their tech investment?

Is tech being used to its full potential? 

There is little argument to be made against the idea that technology (when implemented properly and within a strategy) is an enabler in the role of business and finance.

Investing in your employees’ training has to be baked in directly to any digital transformation project you are planning

So, the real issue is establishing whether teams are using the technology to its full potential, and ensuring businesses get the full ROI from their investment.

But with employees left to figure out new technology on their own (with no guidance or basic training) it is reasonable to assume that they – and their teams – are not getting the most out of whatever technology their company decides to adopt.

If technology isn’t being used to its full potential – and possibly not solving the problems it is meant to – it is also reasonable to argue that “technology investment” should not be limited to just software and hardware, but that training for employees should always fall under this umbrella as part of any investment strategy.

This is particularly true given that a Gartner report in 2018 highlighted the need for employees to show “extreme digital dexterity” if they are to successfully navigate the technology driven, digital first workplaces of the future.

Helping or hindering productivity?

Productivity among the UK’s workforce has been in decline for years. In fact, figures from the Office for National Statistics have estimated that workers have cost themselves as much as £5,000 of income due to a lack of productivity.

Technology has become one of the key drivers when it comes to improving productivity (at least according to the marketing slogans).

With technology like automation taking over repetitive tasks – and performing them quicker than humans – the theory is that people can get on with more important, value adding tasks like strategy.

But if teams aren’t, or can’t, get the most out of the technology on offer, the productivity gains will be lost.

Investing in people, therefore, is just as much an important part of technology investment as buying new software and hardware – if not more so. Formal education means you’ll get better ROI from new tech, and help employees meet their own aspirations and build their own skillsets.

Should vendors be providing the training?

However, while research has put the lack of training at the feet of businesses (with employees expected their company to provide training on new software) is that really where the responsibility of training really lies?

Or should the technology vendors themselves be offering training?

If you look to the United States, tech vendors are ahead of the game when it comes to formalised training, recognised qualifications and providing users with resources that allow them to improve their knowledge, earn qualifications and increase their skills.

 



 

HubSpot, for instance, includes an array of certifications within its platform for users to learn more about the technology, as well as gain a wider understanding of the marketing, sales and service industry.

Should finance technology vendors be expected to offer the same to help teams get to grips with the software they provide?

Employee training as an investment, not a cost

Ultimately, you have to decide whether you want to get full value out of your investment in new technology. Left to their own devices, employees will inevitably learn enough of the technology or software on their own to be able to use it – but will never be able to use it fully.

Similarly, only investing in training for some staff means you are limiting the talent pool in your business – and then running the risk of trained workers leaving and taking their knowledge with them.

Investing in your employees’ training, therefore, has to be baked in directly to any digital transformation project you are planning. It’s not a cost, it’s an investment in future savings and efficiency.

 

About the author

Neil Robertson is executive chair of Compleat Software

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