IT Has To Deliver Great Tools — and Teach People to Use Them
August 14, 2013 Editor 0
In a workplace that is increasingly collaborative and knowledge-intensive, many CIOs plan to create value by delivering these capabilities effectively. No wonder collaboration and analysis tools make up the single largest category of IT project spend. But much of this value is being lost because employees lack the skills to use these resources effectively. In response, CIOs must rethink how IT provides employee support and training.
A recent CEB survey of 25,000 employees globally found that about half of an employee’s contribution to business performance comes from their “network performance” — the ability to collaborate, to help others and, in turn, be helped by others, through activities such as teamwork, knowledge sharing, and peer coaching. Interestingly, network performance accounted for only about 20% of an employee’s contribution to business performance a decade ago. Despite the growing importance of these skills, our survey found that only one in five employees is an effective network performer, the rest struggle to assist colleagues or make an impact when working in teams.
A similar story emerges around the ability to use data to make decisions. Another CEB survey found that more than 80% of employees collect data or use data for decision making. Even in traditionally transactional and process-centric fields such as manufacturing or customer service, more than half the employees undertake at least some knowledge work. Although almost everyone now does knowledge work, not everyone is effective at it. In fact, only 38% of employees have the skills and judgment to use data for decision making. The rest either blindly trust data regardless of its quality, or they are overly skeptical and ignore sound analysis altogether and go with their guts.
Here’s the challenge for CIOs: IT is asked to deliver ever more capable tools for collaboration and analytics, but no one is responsible for ensuring employees have the skills to use them. The result is wasted investment, and an IT team that once again faces questions about value.
The whole C-suite has a stake in fixing this problem, and we believe that IT must play a part. We have seen progressive CIOs switch the focus of IT support and training from teaching employees about the functionality of a tool, to teaching them the skills they need to use the tool effectively in their jobs. Consider the following examples:
- Assess Team Readiness for Collaboration. Before setting up a collaboration tool, the IT group at a leading industrial company provides the team requesting the tool with a simple checklist to assess their readiness to collaborate. The checklist measures the clarity of the team’s objectives and workplans, and the strength of the relationship and communications between team members. It is used to flag potential problems within the team that can be remedied before the tool is deployed.
- Hire Quants Who Can Coach. Many IT teams include a group of analysts who conduct analysis and produce reports. These individuals are highly skilled in analytic techniques and know the data inside out, but very few have the coaching skills to help others benefit from their expertise. However, a handful of organizations are redefining these analyst roles and changing the hiring criteria so that coaching and communication skills become as important as technical skills.
- Teach the Decision, Not the Tool. The business intelligence team at a leading retailer revamped the training it offers the company’s employees. In the past, employees were taught how to use the latest BI tools, now they can access a portfolio of resources to help them use the company’s data to make smart decisions. For example, IT runs roadshows where employees learn how to capture new customer insights from a particular data asset, and provides e-learning with tips and tricks on spotting when data may be misleading.
While many IT leaders are reluctant to involve IT more deeply in training, these examples are all ways in which CIOs are taking capabilities IT already has — teams dedicated to collaboration and BI, expert data analysts, spending on employee training and support — and adapting them to ensure that money spent on collaboration and analytics pays back through greater employee productivity and insight.
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