IT consultants generally provide two types of technical training. One is the type offered at training facilities, vocational schools, and through vendors typically for the purpose of providing individuals with new or updated skills or preparing them for certification exams.

The other type is what I call “familiarization training,” which is almost always given on-site to the client’s staff. Read why familiarization training is necessary to keep enterprises going, and how you can sell this training service to your clients.

Why companies need training
The rules of the corporate training game have changed considerably in recent years. Gone are the days of simply predicting future talent needs based on history or some scalable business model. There really is a new world order with greater global competition, interdependence among both businesses and industries, ever-changing market forces, strategic alliances that come and go, and emerging technologies, all of which point toward constantly changing skill sets needed to successfully keep the enterprise going.

Now IT departments must quickly react to emerging technologies and changing market conditions. It is not uncommon for new software revisions to require considerable training of certain staff members. Lifelong learning is not an academic concept, but a reality. Moreover, it is generally accepted that the majority of positions and requisite skill sets needed ten years from now aren’t even in existence yet today. Corporate adaptability is an imperative.

Here are some strategies you can use to help sell your client on the importance of and need for continued employee training.

The top ten reasons your client needs familiarization training
During a sales presentation, let your potential client know that familiarization training can:

  1. Increase employee performance, efficiency, and productivity.
  2. Save your client money both in the short and long haul.
  3. Promote goodwill toward the client’s staff.
  4. Minimize attrition and even increase employee retention.
  5. Provide more diverse skill sets for the client’s staff at minimal cost.
  6. Provide cross training and job rotation benefits.
  7. Increase job satisfaction and morale among the client’s employees.
  8. Increase efficiencies in workflow.
  9. Increase the staff’s ability to adopt new technologies and methods.
  10. Enhance your client’s company image.

Getting your client’s buy-in
Often, the RFP or the agreed-upon scope of your work will determine how you incorporate training into your engagement. If you would like to incorporate training as a value-added service, however, emphasize the return on investment that training can offer your clients. You might want to use one or more of the following arguments in favor of familiarization training.

  • Point out to your client that even if the return on investment (ROI) for training expenses takes some time to recover (which is generally not the case), the cost of not training staff could be substantial. Then, offer this simple example of how not training staff members can result in lost productivity: Consider a small business with about 50 employees who earn an average of $30 an hour for technical and support work. These employees would likely benefit from some combination of either end-user or technical training. Assume also that each worker loses a mere five minutes per hour in productivity due to a lack of knowledge or training. The annual cost of that lost productivity turns out to be $5,000 per employee, or $250,000 per year for all 50 employees.
  • Improperly trained workers can feel frustrated, and this frustration often leads to employee turnover. Depending on the industry and type of position, the cost to replace a worker can range from one to four times a person’s annual salary. In nearly all cases, training expenses are far less than the financial losses incurred when replacing employees. Motorola estimates that it earns $30 for every $1 invested in employee training, while Xerox estimates that proper training reduces its manufacturing costs by some 30 percent and cuts in half the time needed to develop new products.

Even if you don’t incorporate familiarization training into your contract, consider offering it to your client’s principal staff members free of charge. Sometimes, this training is implied or expected, but if it’s not expected and you provide it anyway, you will have enhanced your image (and value) to your client. And your actions may prompt the client to ask for your help in researching or providing more thorough training for staff members.

Edwin Smith is vice president of training for IntraLinux, Inc. in San Ramon, CA. He is also the founder and CEO of

Do you offer familiarization training, or any other type of training, to your clients? How often do they accept your offers? Post a comment below or send us a note.

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