Originally published Monday, February 21, 2000
Don't forget the TRAINING!
The economy is strong and businesses everywhere are spending millions to upgrade their technology infrastructure from networks to desktop PCs. Huge sums are being spent on software development, hardware improvements, Internet integration and enterprise resource planning. One area that never receives commensurate spending, however, is training.
Remember the actual computer is just a hardware component and has no intelligence of its own. What we think of as a computer is really a computer system comprised of five components: Hardware, software, data, people and procedures. "People" are clearly the weakest and slowest link in this model and require "procedures" or training to gain optimal performance from the hardware and software investment.
Time after time, I've witnessed businesses spend tens of thousands of dollars on hardware and software improvements and then simply plop the new system on employees' desktop like it's Christmas. "Now you can work smarter and faster!" boasts the proud employer. "How?" wails the frazzled employee. "Hector over there is pretty good with computers, so just ask him if you need help", responds the clueless employer. (After all, look at the money he's already spent on equipment.) Poor Hector, who knows just enough to be dangerous, is unaware that his job description has just expanded with no adjustment in pay.
Countless human resource hours are wasted daily as employees struggle to get through the simplest tasks because the hardware or software is unfamiliar. I've seen office staff expend days on project work that should take less than an hour. Smarter and faster production will follow only if all elements of the computer system are upgraded together.
At the very least, employers should provide up-to-date reference books for the installed software applications. Manuals are no longer routinely provided with new programs and quite honestly, the "go with" books were never worth a darn anyway. "Help" is built into the software, but it's scant and never seems to solve the problem issues. Good manuals will cost $30-$40 and should be updated regularly. Shop Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com for a plentiful supply of choices.
Learning videos can supplement your reference library as well. PlanetLearn and VideoTutor are just two online sources for a wide range of training videos. Compared to reference books, videos are more expensive but at least staff can watch demonstrations of actual tasks.
Online training is another learning venue that's gaining popularity. ZDUniversity, a division of Ziff-Davis, has an extensive online course catalog that includes both instructor-led and self-paced courses. The breadth of courseware offered by ZDU is impressive, covering topics from programming to business classes sponsored by the Harvard Business School.
Due to the often-unstable nature of the Internet, this learning delivery method requires extra patience, but the price is right. $90 is the annual fee for any and all courses you wish to take through ZDU, and some CEU credit is also available. Gateway Country Store is the exclusive distributor locally for ZDU courseware.
There's no substitute, however, for computer courses that offer hands-on training. Locally, choices include UOP Center for Professional and Continuing Education, UpGrade Computer Training, PC Network Solutions, Gateway Country Store and New Horizons. These venues offer classroom courses in the latest business/networking applications and most also offer onsite business training as well.
Whatever learning method you choose for your staff, don't be penny-wise and pound-foolish when it comes to employee training. People and procedures are a critical component of the computer system and must be upgraded and maintained along with hardware and software.
Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.
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