Many of the members of your staff are likely to have far less specific technical training then you might imagine. Do you even know what certifications each of them has?  CompTIA A+ and Network+ perhaps? Maybe an old MCSE…which is a certification that was actually retired and then brought back by Microsoft! Perhaps your team members have training in computer science or network administration.  The idea that a skilled network engineer needs a library of certifications to prove their worth is no longer reality as evidenced by the fact that so many technicians are doing high-level work without them.  But that doesn’t mean that continuing education is any less important than it used to be.

Working on a small or medium size technical team often means that every required skill set is NOT present at all times. As a result, when a challenge comes up that is new and unfamiliar, it is most often met by existing technicians working to find the answer. As time passes, these technicians become more and more expert in different technologies, though not from training, but from actually working with the technology itself. Furthermore, many technicians demonstrate their own interest in technical matters and gain more knowledge by reading blogs (like this one), books, and other outside resources.

Technology continuing education

Consultants can help your team learn specific skills.
Image courtesy of WIT.

But is that enough?

The answer is a resounding “no.” Just because your technicians have demonstrated expertise and are able to handle every challenge that comes their way on their own, that doesn’t excuse your organization from providing an avenue for IT team continuing education as a means to constantly learn and improve. The ever-changing pace of technology means that even the most voracious learner will never run out of new things to learn that could benefit them and the organization for which they work.

Here are five ways to offer your IT team continuing education and training to make sure your employees not only adapt, but thrive in the rapidly changing technology sector:

  1. Certifications.  Just because many technicians avoid earning certifications doesn’t mean they don’t offer a great deal of value. Quite the opposite, in fact! While some certifications are easier than others to earn, a wide range of offered certifications truly make the applicant learn and demonstrate the included material. Technical certifications can be beneficial to both the technician (by documenting their skill-set) and the organization (a new technology or skill-level you can offer to clients). The number one reason technicians don’t pursue more certifications? Cost, not time. Many technicians would love to earn more certifications but are given pause by the often substantial cost. Offering to pay for or reimburse technicians for the cost of successfully earning a certification can pay dividends for everyone involved.
  2. Trade Shows and Conferences.  Most enterprise software and hardware providers are tied in to a conference or trade show of some sort throughout the year. These events are fantastic opportunities for your technicians to not only gain more education through breakout sessions, seminars, and keynotes, but also a great chance for them to discuss these technologies with other like-minded professionals attending the conference. Spending a day or two immersed in Microsoft or Dell technology can be an intensely instructive and fun way to develop new skills.
  3. In-House Training Sessions.  If you have a team of technicians facing a challenging problem or expressing interest in a new technology, it is often money well spent to bring in an outside consultant expert in that technology.  The consultant isn’t coming in to solve the challenge, of course, but rather to spend time with the technicians educating them on that particular technology set. Make it clear to your team that the outside party is not a replacement but rather a resource for them to engage with and you may be surprised how quickly they learn and acquire new skills.
  4. Mentor programs. Some of the best training and educational resources you will ever have are sitting right in your office. Your existing technicians understand the culture and pace of workflow at your organization more than any outsider ever will. Putting mentor programs in place that not only encourage, but reward the sharing of knowledge between technicians can accelerate everyone’s learning. From building a Sharepoint site featuring technical resources to asking each technician to lead a “lunch and learn” event over the topic of their choice, the mind-hive in your organization is a wealth of knowledge you should be tapping in to.
  5. Build a Library.  Most engineers and technical administrators have books or magazines gathering dust at home that could be of use to other team members. If you are seeking a cost-effective way to build a knowledge base for your team, find a place in the office to collect and store books that everyone has access to whenever they like. Even older and outdated books can provide value to engineers looking to refine and enhance their skill sets.
Microsoft conference

Industry conferences are a great way to learn new technologies.
Image courtesy of Microsoft.

One of the wisest things you can do for your organization is invest in the people and resources you have under your roof.  Engineers, by nature, are often eager to learn new skills and will invest the time and energy to do so if you simply create the path for them to do it. If your job as CIO or technical director doesn’t include developing the talent you have in house, then you are doing a disservice to your organization. Organizations improve most when the people within them are pushed to improve both individually and as a team.  If you give your continuing education program structure and focus, both your organization and your technical team will be grateful. Click here to tap into the expertise of Mosaic NetworX and see how a team with ongoing education leads to great results!