Warning: Your Employees’ Technology Skills (or Lack Thereof) Are Costing You Money

How much do your employees really know about technology?

Do you even ask the question?

Do you think it has any bearing on how functional, efficient, and well-managed your company is?

One of the startling things I discovered as a university instructor was that even the most recent generation of supposedly “tech savvy” college students were, in fact, technologically illiterate in a number of important ways.

Oh sure, they could text message with the best of them. And Web surfing and Facebook?  Got that covered. Navigating a map in World of Warcraft and Call of Duty? Not a problem.  Twittering your MySpace while Tweeting your iPhone? Check, check, check, and check.

But when it came to more important ideas—ideas that would apply daily to a modern business’s technology needs—they were remarkably clueless. Ideas like, “What’s the best way to categorically organize my digital files for easy retrieval across a company network?” were utterly foreign to them.  “How do I ensure maximum compatibility of documents across computing platforms and programs?” “What are some simple ways I can write text content that is relevant for cataloging, storage, and retrieval for an SQL query?” Unless the student happened to be a computer science or IS major, they had no clue that these were simple, logical, data driven decisions that their future IT departments at their jobs face every day. And this was at a four-year university with highly respected engineering and bio-science research programs.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the majority of my students fit very well into the typical entry-level profile that an employer would want to hire after graduating. These students were largely like your employees, minus the five-to-ten years of industry experience. And if these students were largely representative of today’s typical employee, what does that say about your company’s need to consider ongoing technology training?

Think about how much more efficient your company would be if your own employees didn’t have to bug IT all the time. What if your employees could, when called upon, whip out a professional-looking document themselves without bugging the marketing or design departments, because they actually had more training with a word processor than simply changing font sizes and line spacing? How much hassle with your company’s sales CRM could be alleviated with some simple functional technology training?

How much money would your customer service department save if your clients’ employees were better trained at using technology?
There’s an enormous, hidden, underlying synergy between understanding basic, functional computer technologies, and cost-effective use of those technologies to accomplish company goals.

Here’s an idea of something to do for a future meeting:

Interview five random employees from each department, and ask them what their Top-10 frustrations are with your company’s IT infrastructure. I guarantee you that at least 25 percent of the responses won’t be related to the actual hardware or software in any way, but will be solvable by closing a gap in user knowledge.

Then prepare a short training on how to solve one of the identified problems through better technology use.

More on this to come.

-Steve Watts

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