White Paper

Technology skill development: Why classrooms were never the answer

The best way to upskill your team

In a tech environment that is rapidly evolving, what’s the best way to help your team continue building critical skills?

Employee training isn’t a new concept, but it’s more important than ever as we watch technology change and grow rapidly. Maybe your company has been doing in-house training for years…but no one in your tech org knows that new technology well enough to teach the rest of your team. Or you’ve got an employee who you think would be fantastic at taking on a new skill to help with a project, but there are so many classes on the topic that you don’t know where to start.

How can you as a leader keep your team sharp in an environment that is overwhelmed with classes, seminars, conferences and online content? How can your organization and your teams thrive, not just survive, in a constantly changing landscape?

These are big questions, and there are ways to narrow the field. Let’s find the best skill development solution to help your team strategically grow and succeed in a competitive environment.

3 questions you need to ask yourself

There are three main questions to consider when evaluating the differences between classroom and online learning opportunities—and how those differences impact your team. Once you can give one of those modalities the edge, you’ll know where to look next to keep your team skilled up and fresh.

How much time do you have?

Do you need someone on your team to acquire a new skill ASAP, or do you have some time? Courses taught in physical classrooms aren’t always available right when you might need them, so you’ll be waiting for the right course to be offered and a time that works for your team. You’ll also be devoting some time for your team to travel and be away from the office. Some learners are at their best when they’re onsite and learning in person, so there may be times that this is your best option—if you can afford to wait for the right class to pop up.

However, many people can adapt to a more flexible, remote learning environment and be very successful. If you need your team to build new skills right away, a traditional classroom probably won’t be fast enough. With online learning, your technologist is empowered to start when they’re ready and learn at their preferred pace. They also have the ability to learn wherever they are, so they can get back to work and apply their new skill on-the-job quickly.

How should that time be spent?

Classroom learning typically comes with a pre-defined curriculum and courses. A technologist attending one of these classes won’t have the opportunity to deviate from the path, or at all. While this works well for someone who needs comprehensive skill development in a broad discipline, it’s not ideal for a technologist who is looking to augment or update their existing skill set. These technologists will spend their time being taught material they already know. 

Online learning, on the other hand, allows learners to choose very specific topics that are geared toward augmenting their existing knowledge. This freedom greatly benefits experienced technologists, providing them the ability to learn exactly what they need. That freedom will often keep learners more engaged and help them skill up faster. The customized skill development experience delivered through online resources enables expedited results that classroom learning just isn’t designed for.

How much alignment is there between skill development and your company’s goals?

Do you have a roadmap for your company that considers how upskilling can support your overall goals and objectives? Are you, as a leader, actively (and continually) pointing your team in the right direction as goals change? Learning enables innovation when your skill development strategy is in alignment with your company needs. Classroom learning can contribute to this growth, but it doesn’t allow leaders to quickly pivot, align skill development to new priorities and provide customized learning paths—and not at scale.

Online learning enables companies to be strategic in meeting their emerging skills requirements. If the company changes directions, the leader can quickly guide the team to where they need to go to learn the skills that will support the organization’s new goals. And they can begin building those skills immediately, instead of waiting to track down the course that addresses those skills and sending team members to take it.

Comparing classroom and online learning

There are definitely pros and cons to be considered for both classroom and online learning. Whether something is a pro or a con is often dependent on the individual learner and the company needs, but it’s worth looking at the differences and identifying the ideal solution for your situation. Let’s sum up some of the key differences between typical classroom and online learning.

Classroom vs. Online learning

No skill development solution is perfect for everyone. Class discussions and debates might inspire one learner while they turn another classmate into an anxiety-riddled statue. One employee might have the time to attend an off site seminar, where another might be unable to travel or would miss out on a critical project milestone. Recognizing the differences between classroom and online learning can help you identify the best option that supports learner needs, your available resources and company objectives.

Organizations around the world are turning to online learning tools. The Harvard Business Review reported on a global survey of 4,300 managers and executives that found over 90% of workers believe they should update their skills annually, just to keep up with the technology space. And now with COVID-19 in our midst, many companies don’t have the option to send employees to classroom training or hire people with the skills they need, so they’re increasing their investments in virtual options.

Studying the impact of the pandemic, IDC recently reported that European organizations who expect revenues to increase by more than 10% in 2020 are ambitious about investing in remote learning; 72% of respondents in this group plan to increase investments. Organizations expecting revenues to decrease by more than 10% in 2020 are also not backing down from upskilling their teams; 48% reported plans to increase spend in online training resources (IDC, COVID-19 Lockdown: Are European Organizations Taking the Opportunity to Reskill the Workforce?, #EUR146284820, May 2020). 

The same holds true for U.S. organizations: Organizations that expect the COVID-19 crisis to impact revenue—either positively or negatively—plan to increase their investment in online learning. 45% of all organizations expect to increase their investment (IDC, Are Organizations Rethinking How They Train Their Workforce as a Result of COVID-19?, #US46335320, May 2020). This trend is a reflection of the strong correlation between skills development and business outcomes.

But all online learning is not created equal. The ideal way to keep your team’s skills sharp isn’t just through an online class or two; it’s through a formal technology skill development strategy and platform.

Next-level value: Technology skill development platforms

Online learning is primed to deliver value to your organization, bringing your technologists exactly the skills they need. But why stop there? Leaders who have a deep knowledge of their team’s current skills and an actionable—and quantifiable—plan to increase their proficiency in a way that supports company goals outpace their peers. These leaders proactively measure and monitor skill development, realizing the most value from their skill development investments.

Information builds confidence in teams

Online learning gives leaders the power to selectively serve their teams the content they need to learn at a time and place that’s most convenient for everyone. But a technology skills platform goes beyond that, providing visibility into the current skills on your team and identifying opportunities to fill gaps in knowledge and increase proficiencies where you need them most. This level of insight empowers leaders to strategically build skills, increase productivity and get the right people on the right projects. Leaders can have confidence in their teams and their ability to support company strategy when they’re aware of and acting on known team capabilities.

Confident teams bring innovation

Innovation is a constant among tech companies—and it’s absolutely required if you want to be competitive in the market. To do that, your team needs to constantly be gaining new skills. Technology skill development platforms enable leaders to create confident teams with the skills needed to fuel innovation.

Skill up and excel

Online learning is the leading resource for efficient, specific, economical training of technology teams. It impacts organizations in everything from time savings (online typically requires 40-60% less employee time than classroom settings) to increased revenue per employee and higher employee engagement. But the most telling statistic is that 72% of organizations believe that online learning increases their competitive edge in their industries because they keep up with the changes in their environments.

“Any business can invest in advanced technologies, but creating a workforce that’s ready to use them is much harder.” Anand Chopra-McGowan, Harvard Business Review

Online learning will certainly help you keep up, but when it’s facilitated through a technology skills platform you will amplify the existing and future skills of your team—building an organization that doesn’t just keep up, but leads the pack.