Training and IT departments — more alike than you think
At first glance, L&D and IT departments do not seem to have that much in common. For IT teams, technology is everything. Team members focus on major real-time issues. And you can see why: Companies virtually stop running when their IT systems malfunction. In contrast, people-focused training teams concentrate on staff skills and growth in changing markets, professions, and working environments. Such different approaches have sometimes led to misunderstandings. So, is there any way to reconcile their practices? And what benefits would there be to these two departments working more closely together?
Let’s start by identifying what they have in common. First, both focus on recognized in-depth expertise, in training and IT, respectively. Second, their budgets have long been protected. The IT department’s finances were rarely put under the microscope by tech-challenged but risk-aware company management. Likewise, the training department’s budget was limited in light of negotiations with social partners and training regulations. So, these two departments have often prioritized a top-down approach over client focus.
Putting clients at the heart of business
Naturally, this common focus can lead to similar challenges. Both training and IT departments have to redefine their roles to meet company expectations in the ongoing digital revolution. Fundamentally, this new direction means putting clients at the heart of all business.
With external clients, outside pressure and competition can sharpen this focus in theory. And with internal clients–employees–, it can be harder to find the right approach because you seemingly have a captive market. But sometimes the reality is quite different. Just look at the tidal wave of “Bring Your Own Device” policies (a potential headache for the IT team) and plausible “Bring Your Own Learning” policies (a potential nuisance for the training team). Internal clients now span job descriptions and levels of seniority, so perhaps we should view all employees as informed clients. This involves what philosopher Michel Serres amusingly calls “the presumption of competence”.
For training and IT departments, putting clients center stage means making them the number one priority. Clients, be they learners or users, should be at the heart of everything that both teams do when deciding what training courses and IT systems to offer. It should be also their number one concern when designing, testing, producing, circulating, integrating, assessing, and updating these courses and systems. Inflexible procedures are out. Clients are now the priority at every step of company plan-do-check-act (PDCA) processes: teams are constantly striving to deliver whatever their clients and markets want and need.
Training and IT departments need each other
The business landscape is shifting—and training and IT teams are facing game-changing challenges. In short, they need each other. Let’s explore why.
The training department needs the IT team to make sure it has the right digital tools to help clients, today and tomorrow. This need is especially apparent at key times, for example, when a company chooses a digital training platform, such as an LMS. And it constantly bubbles away in the background because training relies on smart innovations to stay cutting-edge. Besides, we can’t ignore the vast array of expertise of the IT department in:
- assessing digital solutions
- integrating them into a company’s information system or human resources information system
- data security
- governance for digital projects
Likewise, the IT department needs the training team to help them develop critical soft skills for the digital transformation and to reposition itself in a digitally enhanced marketplace, especially when conducting research and working with developers. Interpersonal skills are key. The IT department has to work on several areas:
- client focus
- conflict management
Hard skills, such as systems and network administration, application development or maintenance, aren’t enough now. Especially since they become outdated at an alarmingly quick speed. Now, thankfully the IT team can draw on the training team’s experience of designing agile, efficient, and optimized solutions to help them go beyond hard skills development.
The future of the training and IT departments is intertwined in the digital transformation. By forging a mutually beneficial partnership, success is theirs for the taking.