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The Business Case For Experiential Training In IT

IT pros — are you ready for some tough love? A college degree isn’t good enough anymore. It’s a necessary milepost on your pathway to career success, but technology is evolving too fast for professionals to depend solely on information taught to them years ago. That information is already obsolete! The fast pace of evolving technology, paired with shortcomings in the way IT knowledge is taught and maintained have created quite the conundrum.

Over the next two years, Northeast Ohio will face an atrocious shortage in skilled IT employees. Don’t believe me? Here are the facts . Tech jobs will be created in droves while top talent is poached by technology-rich cities like Detroit, Seattle, or San Francisco. IT professionals will seek employment opportunities that best support their goals for advancement, and companies that fail to invest in their talent will experience a churn and burn period like they’ve never seen before. We need to pivot — and fast.

The good news? Business leaders can prepare for this shortage (and overcome it). The solution is Experiential Training . Here’s why:


Traditional Training


Traditional Training: The process of reading, watching videos, or listening to lectures to develop skills and knowledge.


Benefits:
● This can be a less expensive training approach, which makes it more appealing to C-Suite.
● Employees are most familiar with this approach, which reduces “onboarding” confusion and makes the program easier for HR leaders to execute.
● Traditional training offers plenty of discussion that specifically relates to workplace situations.


Drawbacks:
● These methods don’t resonate well with trainees who are learning complex topics and often result in low retention rates and poor skills development.
● Traditional learning attempts to exercise skills that haven’t been developed yet.
● Conclusions arrived at “in theory” may differ greatly “in practice”.


To be blunt, this style of teaching is partly to blame for why the IT industry currently has a shortage of qualified entry-level professionals. Traditional training isn’t entirely bad. It lays the groundwork for understanding. The problem is that it doesn’t prepare students for “the real world”. You can learn history by reading a book. The same CANNOT be said for IT.


Experiential Training


Experiential Training: The process of developing skills and knowledge through direct experiences and reflection on those experiences.


How Experiential Training Works
Experiential training hinges on “simulations” that provide hands-on opportunity for employees to work out problems. They learn by doing. Once the simulation is complete, the instructor reveals explanations and strategies, which make more sense to employees because they have practical knowledge of the subject matter. The employees engage in discussion about the topic and reflect on what they did right or could have done differently. They practice and dissect new skills and information in a low-pressure environment (instead of high-pressure testing) which results in higher engagement, morale, and skills development.


The Business Case For Experiential Training


Stronger Field Response: This style of training involves self-directed activity and reflection. A first-hand “experience” is far easier to recall than a lecture or chapter. When the same or similar scenario crops up in the field, IT professionals already have practical experience to draw upon as they work toward a resolution.


Culture Building: Employee engagement is a massive pain point for HR leaders, and company culture is a core component of this issue. IT can be an isolating job, which makes it difficult for HR to foster a community-like vibe. Through experiential training, employees are encouraged to work in-person with one another to solve challenges. Collaborative exercises like this present bonding opportunities and will strengthen their sense of inclusion and belonging.


Faster Skills Development: Thanks to the pace of technological change, IT professionals constantly find themselves having to learn on the fly. The act of learning by doing provides instant feedback and reflection. With enough practice, IT professionals not only feel more prepared for real-life situations, but they also develop vital soft skills for faster problem solving.


Employee Progress Insights: Everything in business boils down to ROI. In traditional training environments, memorization and strong test-taking can pass for skills development. Tangible
benchmarks don’t exist. There is only one way to measure success — pass or fail. In experiential training, employees must prove themselves by solving specific, real-life challenges. Their achievements are trackable and can be directly tied to business pain points that impact revenue goals.


By monitoring experiential training programs, organizations will have a better understanding of who their key players are. They will also have the data required to pinpoint exactly what areas of
training a specific employee is struggling with, enabling them to quickly address the shortcoming. Furthermore, this insight will help business leaders identify talent gaps and hire strategically to build a well-rounded team.


Competitive Advantage: Market survival will depend on your organization's ability to adapt and leverage technology for performance optimization. Employees that are educated on the leading edge will know how to handle continuous change. They will have the skills necessary to turn innovation into the powerful force that drives your company forward.


The question isn’t which training approach to incorporate into your organization. That answer is clear. The question is — how?
● How can business leaders work the cost of an experiential training program into their budget?
● How can organizations encourage their employees to partake in the program?


Believe it or not, Northeast Ohio is home to an organization that makes experiential training as easy as buying a gym membership. Learn more about their unique subscription-based program here .

Author

Eric Wise