Back to school

Middle East enterprises are aware of the benefits that regular training can offer internal IT personnel as well as the organisation. But that knowledge is a far step from putting in place activities to draw the most productivity out of training programmes.

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By  Sathya Mithra Ashok Published  February 11, 2008

Middle East enterprises are aware of the benefits that regular training can offer internal IT personnel as well as the organisation. But that knowledge is a far step from putting in place activities to draw the most productivity out of training programmes.

In the Middle East, where companies continue to be constantly plagued by a shortage of well-skilled IT personnel, the value of training cannot be overstated.

Enterprises in the region are fast realising the benefits that they can get by training their internal IT staff on the latest technologies, rather than constantly looking outwards to hire talent.

"In the last four years I have seen an increase in enterprise interest in training their IT staff.

The idea of training is up on the agenda now. Four years before the mindset was that most of the labour force is transient - most of it will move we are not training it. That's different now. You have a more settled workforce and the general understanding is that they are all here to stay.

Therefore training has become an important part of the individual's development," says Andrew Stevens, managing director of CableNet Training.

A lot of research papers on training, point to the fact that not only does a company increase the staff's skillsets by training them regularly but that it also tends to keep its staff for longer because of the sense of loyalty and tie-in that employees feel when they are sent to schooling programmes.

Mohammed Thameem Rizvon, group IT manager of retail firm Kamal Osman Jamjoom, agrees stating, "It is essential that more organisations spend money and effort in keeping their IT staff trained and well equipped. Displaying interest and involvement in helping employees to gain additional knowledge establishes the organisation as a good place to work and grow."

Nevine El Kadi, regional manager MEA for Cisco's Networking Academy Program echoes him when she says, "You can identify whether an enterprise is good or not by assessing whether that enterprise is really keen on developing its people. All effective systems are related as much to human relations as they are to education programmes.

"And the point remains, how are companies and institutions going to attract the right calibre in the market?

The only carrot at the end of the road which we give executives that we are interviewing is that this company is really keen on developing its people and teams, giving them the proper training, developing their capabilities, focusing on their strengths and developing them," she adds.

But understanding the benefits of training IT staff regularly is still a far way from the ability to put in place a structured programme for them and providing them the most effective and relevant schooling.

Train them well

If you take all the regions in the world the Middle East is probably better at actually understanding that there are requirements for training but that's as far as it goes.

But I think quite often the training is misplaced. And is being done on the basis of we know we need some training, therefore we will train. Rather than we know we need some training in this area therefore we are going to get some training for the correct people in this area," points out Stevens.

Stevens also enforces the need for enterprises to understand individual needs and desires before sending personnel to training programmes.

"We don't believe in training for training's sake. But the problem with training programme analysis for individuals is that it can be a complex and confusing thing for most enterprises.

You can simplify it by saying the people at this level need to know this. You should set employees really very simple online assessment tests which are short and to the point; maybe not necessarily particularly scientific but they can create a benchmark," says Stevens.

He adds that with benchmarking enterprises can very quickly get a picture of who the leaders of the team are and who are the people that need assistance and specifically in which areas. Assessments would need to be done keeping in mind the company's overall objectives as well as an individual's career needs and desires.

"The company should assess based on their business needs. Is this person fulfilling the job function's accountabilities and responsibilities or not? If he is not fulfilling the accountabilities that need to be performed, is it because he is not doing a good job or because he was not qualified enough to handle this function?" asks El Kadi.

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