Targeted training keeps IT workers sharp

Widening skills and sharpening business acumen is the name of the game when companies are running lean and mean

Dimension Data’s IP telephony services were growing at more than 100 percent per year. But instead of hiring the 30 to 40 new IPT engineers it needed to keep up with demand, the $2.7 billion IT solutions provider decided to invest in training programs to get more out of the people it already had.

Working in partnership with CCPrep, a Cisco Learning Partner, Dimension Data rolled out a 10-week training program dubbed “Jed-IPT” -- as in “Jedi” -- to teach its IPT engineers how to deploy IP phones in the field. At the same time, the company unveiled a second training program to teach its sales force how to talk and think like geeks. Within six weeks, some 87 of its 115 sales pros had earned their Cisco Sales Expert certifications. The goal was to create account managers who could understand both the business and technical requirements and communicate the company’s solutions to customers, says CTO Mark Slaga.

“Companies are doing more training now, and not just in technology,” says Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of staffing firm Robert Half Technology. “They’re also training their techs on how to give presentations and sharpen their business skills.”

Making training a priority can also make your company more attractive to job seekers, says Tracy Cashman, partner at recruiting firm Winter, Wyman & Co. “When we ask, ‘Why should someone come to work for you?’ many of our clients list training opportunities as one of their biggest selling points,” she notes.

Fortunately, adding to your employees’ repertoire of skills is easily within reach. Here are some places to start.

Academee works in concert with the Institute of Management. This U.K.-based e-learning site offers a series of online courses on how to manage people, projects, and yourself. Two 18- to 24-month management certification programs are available.

Center for Creative Leadership is a 36-year-old nonprofit, widely considered one the top places in the world for learning leadership skills. Every year, 20,000 business professionals attend classes at CCL’s five campuses and 16 satellite locations.

Learnativity is a good place to start if you want to get up to speed quickly on where to find executive education programs. Although some of the information is dated, its Executive Education section features links to books, articles, whitepapers, comparisons of walk-in and online schools, and resource listings.

Management Courses offers a searchable database of more than 2,200 management courses in 65 countries. You can search for courses by topic, industry, job title, geographical area, or, say, everything offered in Swedish. It also provides handy tips on how to pick the right courses and the right teachers.

PlanetEdu is a Web directory with an Executive Education section that features hundreds of schools worldwide teaching a variety of skills, from management to IT to languages. It’s especially helpful for companies with employees working abroad or foreign-born workers.