As business leaders, we are responsible for the ongoing success of both our company and its teams. We also play a role in the business community that we strive to help make healthy, strong, and sustainable. And, we must stay competitive by growing our own talent. Learning is particularly critical in a world where competitive and geographical boundaries are rapidly dissolving. Providing robust education may soon become table stakes in the success of our organizations.
Providing education requires deliberate attention and investment. Of course, investment typically must offer the promise of a return (ROI). The challenge is that the benefits of education are often intangible. Yet the cost shows up on our financial statements as an expense item. Add to this the fact that we are all busy, so training is prone to suffer from neglect. It is easy to overlook technology training because of the allure and results of day-to-day immersion and self-instruction, but is this enough?
Let me share a personal, simple, and slightly embarrassing example of this low-hanging fruit issue. I have used PowerPoint for a long time and I use this tool almost every week to communicate essential information to various stakeholders. Everyone is aware of the difference in impact between a poor and an excellent PowerPoint presentation. I would argue that this is maybe one of the essential tools I have at my disposal to do my most important work. I’ll admit it that I am self-taught on PowerPoint…until I attended our PowerPoint training session. It was only recently that it even occurred to me that this training is a no brainer…and I’m in the business!
The ROI on this training will be challenging to measure. But in reflection, I ask, do I need to quantify this value? Even if a few people in my audience understand slightly more due to my better use of PowerPoint, it will indeed have a cascading benefit. This would significantly exceed the hour invested. Perhaps after my training, my team will comprehend 10 per cent more of what I’m saying at company meetings. Maybe this will cascade to a five per cent better culture. By my estimate, there could be a three per cent better execution of our business plan, and a two per cent reduction in the need to repeat myself. Those made-up numbers are probably conservative. And, perhaps I will be five to 50 per cent faster with this tool, which will be icing on the cake.
Real life examples
Another simple example: my twelve-year-old son is in a typing class. Think about how much typing is ahead of him and the payoff for this training. Making a few conservative assumptions in the math here, a difference between 30 words per minute (wpm) and 60 wpm could mean thousands of hours of his life. This is probably one of the most important skills he ever learns.
Apply the logic of this simple example to everything else you do on your computer. Is there not a world of similar opportunities for you in the technology that you use every day? Is there not an equivalent amount of opportunity for your team? And how much more of all of this opportunity will there be in the future?
Can we agree that all of us need to invest more in educating ourselves and our teams to survive and thrive over the coming years? Let’s commit to that together.
Training is not Smart Dolphins’ primary service. Historically, we have provided island-based SMBs outsourced technology services and solutions that mirror a large company’s comprehensive IT department. Training has been a complement we have added, and I’m proud to have given this the attention and resources it deserves and therefore have created a positive impact on our business community.
Smart Dolphins has been providing lunch and learns and technology webinar training for several years. Thousands of people have invested in learning with us. We have had great feedback and much gratitude. Please put what we’re doing on your radar: subscribe to our upcoming training events list and share this with your team and peers. Most of what we offer is free and is of high quality and impactful. Please also follow us on social media to consume our educational content there.
Refining our training services
We are going to do more. A lot more. Currently the POD is working on building “thought leadership” throughout the company and is experimenting with more ways to create client education and improving access to this. We have a learning management system in development for our clients. And, Smart Dolphins’ podcast “Island Thrive,” focussing on IT education will return in 2022.
To further improve and scale our training capacities, we have created another business, “PoplarMSP,” that offers this training competency as a white-labelled service for other MSPs throughout North America. PoplarMSP clients are finding a similar (and in some cases more) success, and to think we have only just started.
My experiences have reinforced and escalated my belief in the importance of training, especially in business IT. I also believe that we have seen the very early signs of a much larger wave of a need for IT education. There is a fundamental IT shift happening in many progressive MSPs, and SMBs and education will need to be an integral part of this.
In the recent past, businesses used IT in basic ways: email, printers, web browsing, simple file sharing, etc. The opportunity today for organizations to use IT deeply and have it woven throughout their operations is immense and growing. I have heard “digital transformation” being thrown around as a buzzphrase. I’m not sure about the value, but “transformation” is fitting. I have written a few times about the dramatic changes we’ve experienced at Smart Dolphins with our internal technology: read here, here, and here.
I’d hate to break it to you, but you may be turning into a bit of a dinosaur; watch out for those nasty meteors. If you are already using Teams, OneDrive, SharePoint, OneNote etc., and enjoying the flexibility of secure, remote access and smooth collaboration, you probably have a sense of what I’m talking about here.
Regardless if you feel you are digitally transforming your organization, we all have a long and challenging journey ahead. Those of us with established business technology have legacy systems that are becoming a competitive liability. We have to conduct major renovations and retrofits on our established business while still conducting day-to-day business in this dynamic environment. With this as the context, we must invest in training so that our teams can adapt to the evolving technology and systems they are using in their work.
We all have a lot of learning to do. We hope you will continue on this journey with us.