Instructor led training is perhaps the most effective way to learn new technology quickly. Yet with the tightening economy many organizations have cut back on training budgets. Ironically, the same organizations complain about how difficult it is to find IT resources and how long it takes to get new hires up the curve. For almost 20 years my professional career has included delivering instructor led training. Specific genres of training in which I’ve engaged range from academia to on-the-job training to professional certified training covering a variety of data technologies and concepts. Over the course of my career I have been asked many times whether instructor led training is really worth the investment of time and money. In fact, I’ve been told that attending classroom training is a waste of time. The reasons vary as to why some individuals feel that formal training is a waste of time, but they typically center on the following themes. If you have shared these sentiments about instructor led training, consider my thoughts on each of these arguments:
1. I’m a self-learner
Some of us are highly motivated individuals who are very adept at picking up new concepts and technologies. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of these types of people in my classes and during consulting engagements over the years. The problem with thinking that ability trumps education is this: You don’t know what you don’t know. Even if you have self-trained on a given piece of technology and engaged with it on a day-to-day basis for years, there are likely other ways of working with the technology that you won’t discover without training.
2. I can look it up online
There is no doubt that the Internet is rich with information. Vendors typically provide a forum for knowledge exchange, and even if they don’t, the larger community is quick to react and set up their own forum for the exchange of ideas. These types of media are great resources for solving specific problems. What they don’t offer, however, is a conceptual framework or an understanding of the paradigm behind a specific technology. The way in which you approach a technical problem is usually a good indicator of how quickly you will solve it.
Instructor led Training can help you to utilize these resources more effectively. Without at least a modicum of understanding about what you are searching for, you are unlikely to find a solution to your problem. Quality training provides you with the correct vocabulary and, in most cases, hands-on experience to know how to research problems and ask for help in the most effective way.
3. Training is too expensive
Quality certified training isn’t cheap. There is a reason for that. Typically hundreds of hours are spent developing curricula, creating activities, setting up environments and testing every possibility. As some of you have probably experienced, things slip through the cracks. A quality instructor, however, can guide you through an ill-conceived activity or even provide an alternative methodology if it either doesn’t work for your situation or there is another way of achieving the same goal.
At the risk of putting myself out of a job, a sound investment in training can significantly reduce your investment in consulting services. By having trained employees on staff your reliance on outside vendors is greatly diminished.
4. I can read a book and get the same information
If the instructor of your course has no experience outside of the classroom, you are absolutely right. I’m not pitching you on attending training. I’m advocating that you invest in quality training. A quality instructor knows the material for the classes very well, but also has significant experience implementing and consulting on the technology outside of the classroom. By sharing knowledge gained in real-life use-cases the instructor can help students better understand how the technologies can best be implemented in their respective environments.
5. By the time I use the technology I will have forgotten most of my training
Timing is an issue to be considered. We don’t run all of our classes on a schedule that coincides nicely to every organization’s situation. We are happy to engage in a conversation about planning your training and implementation to assist with that, even if it means providing private training to your employees on a schedule that makes more sense to you.
6. The classes are generic and don’t correspond to my situation
I’ve heard from many people that they’d like to customize the training we offer to fit their needs. The forms of customization requests can range from cutting the time for the classes to re-working the curricula to use specific databases and data. In our experience neither of these approaches results in a successful class.
Contrary to popular belief, software vendors do not create long courses to make money. Training constitutes a relatively small percentage of their revenue. Their main objective is to educate the consumers of their product so that they use it effectively, thereby increasing license purchases or keeping their product from becoming shelf-ware. The courses are therefore designed to try to fit as much in as possible without overwhelming the average student. A seasoned instructor can gauge when s/he has an advanced class of students and needs to challenge them more. Likewise, a quality instructor knows how to slow the pace to still cover the same material but not leave anyone who may be struggling behind. Accelerating the classes prohibits the instructor from either of these adjustments and often results in the omission of material that could be of value to some of the students.
We’ve also found that when a group of employees attends a class based on their own data that the focus of the class gets shifted from how to use the technology to why the data looks the way it does. We’ve actually seen arguments erupt over the data when the point of an exercise is to reinforce a concept on the tool or technology. Even if private training is the right option for you, I maintain that the focus of the class should be the technology, not the quality of the data in the course itself.
Organizations typically invest significant time and money into evaluating, purchasing and implementing a business intelligence platform. Requiring employees to learn and become competent with new technologies on their own invariably limits their productivity when they need to learn while being productive during work hours, and negatively affects morale especially if they are required to learn on their own time. Instructor led training that is timed appropriately and delivered by a quality provider is the best way to enable your employees to be as effective as possible with your chosen platform or technology. At a time when IT resources are constrained and the general labor force is facing an economic shift resulting in high unemployment, the best way to adapt and grow is to invest in employee education. Consider the fact that the best higher education institutions harbor a fundamental belief that an instructor cannot be replaced with self-directed learning.