Know how to get the most out of IT

Organisations expect most of their employees to know the basics of IT, but anything beyond everyday tasks is generally seen as something to be handled by the IT department. But IT is crucial to an organisation’s ongoing success, so a good IT understanding by those involved in its day-to-day running can add real value.

What are the issues?

IT is not just about complex programming, it is about managing infrastructure, security and efficiency.

Green IT, for example, is an area where big savings can be made and is an increasingly important issue, particularly with the recent introduction of the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme. There are elements of this that require handling by certified IT staff – virtualisation, for example – but many areas can be learned by anyone with an interest in IT. For example, a basic understanding of power management settings across the whole organisation can lead to a noticeable reduction in emissions and energy bills.

Expert’s view: Craig Wilcockson, head of learning and organisational development, and Tony Hay, learning and technical development manager, Ricoh UK

What are the biggest challenges?

  • One of the biggest challenges is gaining ‘buy-in’ both from leaders and employees. Leaders can be resistant to releasing employees for training, while employees may not take it seriously, particularly where self-study is required.
  • To get leaders on board, look at how employee’s IT capabilities can be aligned to the business strategy to benefit both your business and customers.
  • To ensure employee buy-in, provide mentors and support groups, intensive training and webinars, and the opportunity for certification.

What should you avoid doing?

  • Don’t just tick the box. IT accreditations must have tangible benefits for employees, customers and the business.
  • Don’t rush. It is important to gradually introduce new strategies, with continuous review and feedback, so improvements can be made before large scale roll-out.

Top tips

  • Know what you want to achieve and what this means to your business.
  • Instigate focus groups with key stakeholders from the business.
  • Listen to what people have to say – review and amend course if things are not working.

Data security is an area where there is the assumption that it is too complex for non-specialists. It certainly can be, and having certified security professionals within the organisation is a must. But the vast majority of security failures come from simple user errors, such as clicking on a suspect e-mail link or disabling firewalls. This causes huge problems for organisations. Loss of financial or personal data can be costly, involving big fines, not to mention damage to reputation.

Having employees with good IT skills can really help in these and other areas. It provides a simple way for organisations to cut costs, reduce emissions, avert data loss problems, and reduce IT downtime. As the world increasingly relies on technology, it also means employees can better understand and meet the needs of their customers.

How to make a difference

The key to using IT to benefit your organisation is to bring knowledge and skills to your workforce, either by taking on qualified staff or by training existing employees.

Short courses in key IT skills can deliver good returns. To ensure training is effective, HR managers should look at an established course, preferably one that leads to a certification. Certifications ensure that employers can benchmark their employees’ skills. They also give staff a sense of pride in what they have learned and a recognition the organisation is investing in their ongoing development. Research shows certification leads to an improvement in staff morale and performance, and certified staff are proven to be more loyal to their employer, thus improving retention rates.

If you don’t have the time or money to offer professional training to non-specialist employees, make the most of existing resources. Look at certifying IT staff in areas such as security or green IT, then ask them to run short sessions to help other employees modify their work practices to benefit your organisation.

Finally, make IT skills one of the areas to look for in new employees. During the past year, with work hard to come by, many people have acquired new skills to boost their CV. HR professionals should give serious consideration to employees who have invested their time gaining certifications in IT.

If you only do 5 things

  1. Know how you intend to use IT skills
  2. Use accreditations to build a framework
  3. Recognise that gaining IT skills will appeal to staff in a variety of roles
  4. Where possible, recruit staff with IT skills
  5. Keep an eye on how your competitors are using IT.

Further reading

  • Using Information Technology, Brian Williams and Stacey Sawyer, McGraw-Hill, £38.99, ISBN: 0071107681
  • Social Media for Business, Susan Craig and Randall Sweeney, Maximum Press, £19.99, ISBN: 193164490X

Matthew Poyiadgi, European vice-president, CompTIA

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