Do you remember when you could only get oranges and clementines in season or at Christmas? Salad (except tomatoes occasionally) were only available in the summer? And people had jobs for life?
No – I don’t either. But I was having a conversation with an older relative the other day and all those things came up in conversation along with other observations – such as the Internet has only been around properly for about 20 years, social media for 15.
The pace of change has become faster and faster. 100 years ago the average person was lucky to have read 50 books in their lifetime. Back in 2007 the average person is bombarded with the equivalent of 174 newspapers worth of info every day*. And in the last 2 years more data has been created than in the whole of previous human history.
Just let that one sink in for a minute.
The pace of change is just incredible and in business that creates both opportunities and risks. For the companies who are flexible enough to spot the change, and respond quickly enough – there is market advantage to be gained. But unfortunately, many times the capabilities in the business are not there to be able to respond to the change. And much of that starts with the skill levels of staff.
There is a misnomer that IT people ‘should’ be able to keep themselves up to date with skills. Or that all IT people are able to tackle all things. That is often due to a lack of understanding about IT and whilst it is true that technical people of all varieties can often ‘get themselves up to speed’ with new technologies, that is not always the case and it should not be relied upon.
Let me give you an example. The husband of a friend of mine used to work for Oracle. At Oracle he was the top man in his specific skill set – if no-one else could solve it, it would end up on his desk where it would be resolved. Then Oracle outsourced his worldwide team to India to save a few pence, and my friends husband got himself a new job.
He had no problem getting a new job, because of his track record and he started his new company with excitement and anticipation. Sadly, this quickly turned sour, when it became clear that his new company had very few clients that needed his previous skill set, and they had another team, doing a complex financial software, that was understaffed. So, he was told to help out.
Now – that is a bit like saying to someone – “you’re good at languages, you speak French and Spanish – so go live in China and interpret everything for us.” The software he knew and the software that they wanted him to magically be able to support, were as different as French and Chinese – they weren’t even written in the same language, did not follow the same structure and did completely different things.
As a result, he feels like a failure most of the time – where he used to feel like the king of his castle. And to boot – he is not very productive, despite working outside his usual hours to try and achieve as much as possible.
So – do you have a proper skills plan in place? Do you support your staff to keep their IT skills up to date by giving them time out and paying for their training? Or do you hope that they will do it in their own time, and pay for it themselves?
Some managers fear that if they train their staff up they will leave and then that skill is gone and that training cost wasted. However, I promise you, if you do NOT train up your they will leave anyway, or worse – they will stay and waste your time and their own, and not be up for the job at hand.
If you could do with a skills review and would like some tips on how to get started – email me at firstname.lastname@example.org