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Staying Ahead in IT: How We’re Developing Expert Teams

Dave Birchall

Interim Head of People & Performance

As we enter 2020, all eyes are on the future and what we want to accomplish in the coming year. And in the IT industry, one thing is certain - change.

The landscape will change, new technologies will evolve and disrupt the norm and these changes will filter into other areas of our lives, including how we learn and develop.

As a business we need to stay ahead of these changes, which means we need to help staff develop their knowledge and skills. We also need to find the best methods of training – ones that are relevant, fit for purpose and future-proof where possible.

Here at the Node4 Academy, we’re planning what we will offer our workforce to support them throughout 2020. Not just to help staff provide exceptional service to customers and partners, but to help them develop as people, personally and professionally.

There are various ways in which learning and development are changing – here are some of the trends that we’ll be embracing to develop our teams….

On-demand content

Traditional methods of training staff in classrooms or workshop environments are no longer good enough. The workforce is becoming ever more used to on-demand content in their lives outside of work.

If you want to learn a new skill in your personal life, it’s unlikely that your first thought will be to book on to a masterclass, scheduled for some point in the near future. It can be costly and won’t satisfy your immediate need for information.

It’s more likely that, to begin with, you’ll search for content on the internet, maybe read a blog post or two, watch a step-by-step guide on YouTube or listen to a podcast on the topic.

In a workplace context, is it realistic to expect new managers to wait for the next scheduled leadership programme? I believe they should have access to learning materials inflow, as and when they need them. Toolkits can help managers develop their leaderships skills as they need to – for example, before giving feedback to one of their team.

Whilst there is always going to be a need to support and coach staff – video and online content can’t be a complete substitution for open dialogue and discussion – there is space for more on-demand content.

Proactive performance development

The move to on-demand content means that people are increasingly taking charge of their own learning and performance development. They’re actively searching for information and opportunities, rather than waiting for the next programme or workshop to fix problems they’re having in the workplace.

We want to encourage this approach to learning. When roles change or we introduce new processes and systems to the business, we want staff to be able to access content at the time they need it, to minimise dips in performance.

It’s less about handholding staff through changes, and more about encouraging staff to use tools and content at their disposal, so they can work with customers and partners in the best possible way.

Learning by doing

Experiential learning – or learning through reflection on doing – is not a new approach, but it’s a powerful one, so we’re trying to introduce more of it into the workplace.

Last year, over 260 staff participated in workshops on our Exceptional Service as a Standard culture, focusing on what exceptional service should feel like for colleagues and customers. We’ve since followed up on these workshops with tailored e-learning guides and opportunities for staff to put the learning into practice, try new skills, reflect and feedback in the moment.

A performance development model

The focus this year is on building on our existing model of learning and development, and moving towards a performance development model. This means rather than just ‘training’ staff, we’ll be helping everyone to finetune their existing skills to improve their performance.

We’ll be doing much of this through bite-sized on-demand content, while also continuing to reinforce our Exceptional Service as a Standard culture, through workshops, online guidance and experiential learning.

The intended result? Staff with the expertise, attitude and confidence to succeed and deliver exceptional service, every time.