Over the past three years IT directors have had to deal with massive budget cuts and this has meant that their teams have not been receiving the training they need to develop their careers. Instead, employers are taking the short-term view and filling vacancies by recruiting staff with the required skills from outside the organisation.
It is perceived that retraining IT staff in new technologies is slow and costly, but carefully planned training in the existing IT workforce will cut recruitment costs in the long term and could also boost productivity.
For the limited training IT staff have been receiving, there is plenty of room for improvement. A classic mistake is when organisations resort to "panic" training, sending teams of people to help meet an immediate need. In such cases web-based learning methods are often employed and, although the immediate need is met, the training remains piecemeal.
To combat this problem, a "needs analysis" can identify the systems and software an employee uses and how long it will take them to complete a task.
The next step is to consider training techniques. One increasingly favoured approach is "blended learning" - mixing online and face-to-face elements.
The UK's lack of commitment to training is not only leaving a trail of empty IT positions but is also a cost to companies - nine out of 10 firms suffer computer skills gaps, according to the British Computer Society. This shortfall can be addressed by exploring new ways of delivering learning that are flexible, cost-effective and, most importantly, aligned to demonstrable performance improvements.
Michael Graham is managing director at Pitman Training
This was first published in April 2004