Hold that computer hostage! (or, Instilling the importance of training)

If you're a corporate trainer, do you often find yourself frustrated with the users who don't take your training seriously? Matthew Mercurio shares his solutions to the problem.

As most IT people know, it’s frustrating to answer repeated help desk calls from the same user regarding the same problem. We spend a lot of time devising training sessions that are well thought-out and delivered with great care to give the student as much knowledge as possible. Sometimes, though, the student’s desire to learn is just not there. In these cases, the only way to drive your point home is to make the learning process a necessity for the user—hold that computer hostage.

Dangling the carrot in front of the rabbit
In my company we have PCs on most of our desktops, but we also have several “research centers” set up with five PCs each. The computers have all the software we normally use, and the areas serve as a supplemental supply of computers when we have more users than machines. I also use these centers as an incentive to my students.

When new employees begin at our company, part of their orientation is computer training. As an incentive to learn our software, we usually tell students that in order to receive their own computers, they have to first learn our software. In the interim and during the training process, the users only have access to the research centers to do their work. After each of our training sessions, the users are given written and hands–on tests to determine their ability to use the software. Until all tests are passed, the IT department will not issue a PC. Running back and forth between their desks and the research center is usually a way to instill the importance of learning our software. It may sound harsh, but it’s been very effective in our training efforts. It also makes our employees more efficient with our computer systems.

Dealing with repetitive help desk questions
Ongoing training is a big part of a successful IT department. Sometimes the training seems to be more of a pain than a benefit for the students. The number of repeated help desk calls we receive usually reflects this. It’s easy to tell who takes training seriously and who doesn’t. For those having difficulties, we set up one-on-one training. But there’s a catch to the individualized training sessions. Once the student is pulled into a tutoring program, we take the user's machine into the shop for regular maintenance work. Defrag, ScanDisk, a virus check, and other regular maintenance tasks are performed on the machine at this time. This requires the student to use one of the research centers to work. After more training and passing the tests again, the machine is returned to the desktop.

Create a self-sufficient environment
I know this may seem a bit like a dictatorship, but in an organization of this size it’s important to keep our employees up-to-date on our latest software packages. Also, many times the user picks up the phone and calls for help when it’s unnecessary. The training is made available to them, but if they don’t take it seriously enough, they add to the already heavy workload of our IT staff. Making the users take their training seriously is a step to making them more self-sufficient.
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Matthew Mercurio is the IT manager for Clear Channel Broadcasting in Louisville, KY. If you’d like to make a recommendation for future topics, please send us a note .

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