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Recent Article from ComputerWorld.com

Article Reprinted from ComputerWorld.com

Bart Perkins: An argument for keeping IT training budgets intact


Many of training's benefits are intangible and won't show up in an ROI analysis

By Bart Perkins
February 6, 2012 06:00 AM ET
Every corporation wants an effective workforce, but few want to pay for the training that can give them one. Some executives seem to believe that their IT staff should be able to keep up with new ideas and technology on their own time, with minimal corporate financial support. Those organizations that do support training and education tend to do so only in good times, so those items are often among the first to be slashed when IT budgets get tight.

The argument against training frequently is that it is difficult to calculate a measurable return on the investment. And yet, who really believes that an IT staff that is given no training will be appropriately skilled to meet IT's needs? I think that defies common sense.

It's true that many of the benefits of training can't be measured, but the sheer number of intangible benefits that are derived from attending conferences, training events and other educational programs argues against cutting training budgets. Most people who are sent to a professional-development program return with:

* Innovative solutions. When faced with a business challenge, people often believe that their organization is the only one forced to confront a particular issue. While many challenges are indeed difficult, few are unique. By discussing a particular problem with other industry professionals, issues can be clarified and creative approaches can be discovered. So, organizations that send staffers to rub shoulders with colleagues in effect are able to leverage the experiences and perspectives of IT professionals from other organizations to address their own challenges.

* New professional contacts. Conferences and educational programs offer IT staff opportunities to connect with colleagues, customers and suppliers and to meet industry experts and advisers. And such high-quality professional connections can help with most business challenges.

* Revitalized enthusiasm. Many employees feel energized by getting away from the daily work routine and being challenged by new ideas and perspectives. Much of this energy gets channeled toward determining how their new knowledge can be applied to current work responsibilities.

* Broadened perspective. Even casual conversations with other participants can be as valuable as the formal presentations. Attendees will certainly hold a wide variety of opinions regarding industry news, products and trends. These conversations help develop and enhance an employee's industry perspective.

* Pride resulting from internal recognition. Organizations invest in people they value and wish to retain. Selecting employees for skill enhancement is one way that organizations can reward employees, show corporate appreciation and prepare key staff for increased responsibilities and future promotions.

All of those intangible benefits do not even consider what will be gained from the actual training and presentations that you're paying for. But naturally, training is in itself of value. That's why organizations that don't want to pay for travel and lodging or have vital employees away for a full week at a time can still get value from computer-based training. When such programs were first offered, they could be pretty boring, and they usually focused exclusively on technical skills. Today, innovative technology platforms make virtual conferences and educational training both interesting and effective. Virtual trade shows allow participants to attend lectures, see product demonstrations and interact with other participants without expensive travel.