IT's top 5 training mistakes

It's all too natural for IT to cast blame on end users when new or upgraded systems hit problems, but rather than pointing fingers, IT should instead consider its own role in training miscues, experts advise.

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Mistake No. 2: You're out of tune with your audience.

Let's face it: For training of any sort to be effective, it's not enough for the instructor to have mastery of the material. The trainer also needs to be able to connect with the audience and present information in an interactive and engaging manner. Problem is, IT professionals aren't famous for their stellar communication and soft management skills.

“Just because someone is an expert in a subject matter and their passion is technology, that doesn't make [that person] a good trainer,” Murphy says. “We tend to put subject-matter experts in training positions, and that's the worst. We should be putting people with expertise in education and adult learning into those positions.”

Trainers with strong communication and interpersonal skills are best able to get a read on their audience and tailor their instruction accordingly. IT professionals, on the other hand, may be so comfortable with their subject matter that they run the risk of presenting the material in too detailed and technical a way, or conversely, of oversimplifying it.

“Lots of times, IT won't tell people what they need to know, or they give people a long, technical explanation which is not relevant to them or meaningful, and then they've lost the audience,” says Mary Kelley, president of Intelligo Inc., a firm that provides end-user training and support for ERP systems.

Indeed, one of the biggest mistakes IT professionals make when conducting training is not adequately assessing the needs of their audience. “We don't take the time before we design a training program to interview both the people who will be trained and their supervisors or managers,” Murphy explains.

Interviewing employees before creating a training curriculum is critical, he maintains, because that's the only way for trainers to get a true sense of the skill level of the user group. Bringing supervisors into the interview process is equally critical because they have a broad perspective on what's worked before and what hasn't for their direct reports. In addition, supervisors often have specific goals in mind for the training, Murphy says.

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