Editor's note: This article is part of The Water Cooler, a recurring column for technology executives to digest, discuss and debate. Next up: Which digital skills do you look for in IT job candidates? Email us here.
September rings in another school year for students, but the academia in the air and back-to-school commercials are also a reminder to IT departments of the need for continuous learning.
To keep up with the pace of technological evolution, IT workforces require ongoing certifications and learning new skills. Once they've mastered cloud migrations, repatriation awaits. Early automation skills can lead to impactful transformation, but the next iteration of RPA or machine learning requires greater insights.
Employees could spend their free time expanding their professional skill sets, but talent development programs at work retain top talent and tailor their knowledge to the business. CIO Dive asked five technology executives how they designed technology training programs within their organizations to meet future skills needs.
(The comments below have been lightly edited for length and clarity.)
Mike Vance, VP of technology services at Resultant
"Often, multiple people on the IT team are working toward the same certification at the same time, so people will form groups to study and work through the material together."
VP of technology services at Resultant
At Resultant, we try to make training and professional development a collaborative effort between the employee and the organization, rather than prescribing a path that gets handed down. This approach lets the employee chart the course for their own growth while we play a support role in offering the resources and tools needed along the way.
For instance, we provide support for a myriad of certifications. Often, multiple people on the IT team are working toward the same certification at the same time, so people will form groups to study and work through the material together.
In a group setting, we regularly train to support knowledge about new technologies and skills. For instance, when we added Google expertise to our team at the beginning of 2021, we held trainings on different Google solutions as a team. We also hold client service training as a multi-class session for employees on the managed services team to support consistent client-focused service practices.
Lance French, SVP of business technology at Salesforce
"We are constantly innovating to meet the digital needs of our customers, and it's critical that we evolve our training programs so people understand how to use our latest technological advancements."
SVP of business technology at Salesforce
The pandemic has changed the way we live, work and do business. This has undoubtedly accelerated digital growth within businesses and IT departments across the globe, and companies are rapidly accelerating their digital transformations to keep their businesses thriving.
During this transformation, it is essential that we empower our workforce to learn the skills they need to be successful in our new digital-first world. Employees want to learn on the job to advance their skill sets and careers, but are finding fewer opportunities to develop their skills outside of the office. According to recent Salesforce research, 59% of the U.S. workforce say they've had less access to workplace learning since the pandemic.
At Salesforce, we are providing opportunities for anyone — our employees and people outside of the company — to learn new Salesforce, technology, business and soft skills for today's digital jobs. Trailhead, Salesforce's free online learning platform, is helping anyone learn skills and advance their careers within the Salesforce ecosystem. ...
We are constantly innovating to meet the digital needs of our customers, and it's critical that we evolve our training programs so people understand how to use our latest technological advancements.
Through employee surveys and feedback, we are able to cater our learning opportunities so they address challenges employees face during their day-to-day. With that feedback in mind, we can provide relevant and effective training opportunities that employees can digest and instantly apply to their jobs.
Lorena Martinez, head of program management for product at eBay
"Invent Week 2021 is an employee-powered idea incubator and invention program to chart the future of the eBay Platform for our customers."
Head of program management for product at eBay
Invent Week 2021 is an employee-powered idea incubator and invention program to chart the future of the eBay Platform for our customers. With an eye to what comes next, we inspire and encourage employees to develop their ideas into a reality for tomorrow.
Invent Week includes ideation sessions, pitch presentations, opportunities to showcase the latest innovations and influence features and tools that get added to the roadmap.
In 2021, more than 500 ideas were submitted from around the globe, and more than 2,000 employees participated in the innovation incubator.
Miles Ward, CTO at SADA
"Over the course of 10 weeks, professionals move through the training program, learn new modules and meet top tech executives and business leaders, all of which prepares them to complete key cloud certifications with confidence."
CTO at SADA
I lead a program at SADA that we call SADA University. Our mission is to recruit and educate individuals seeking to begin a career in cloud computing.
SADA University has many goals, including expansion of the larger cloud computing talent pool. Just as importantly, SADA University strives to bridge the gap between under-represented people/groups and meaningful job opportunities.
With an emphasis on the use of SADA services to help companies use Google Cloud, SADA University prepares and empowers people of all kinds to establish and grow their cloud credentials.
The SADA University curriculum is broad and covers a wide range of cloud tools and technologies. Our most recent cohort was focused on data engineering and infrastructure.
Over the course of 10 weeks, professionals move through the training program, learn new modules and meet top tech executives and business leaders, all of which prepares them to complete key cloud certifications with confidence.
Sathish Muthukrishnan, chief information, data and digital officer at Ally
"Ally also hosts a variety of internal programs to engage our technology employees – and this includes hackathons, company-wide competitions, dedicated learning and experimentation time, and 'Innovation Fridays.'"
Chief information, data and digital officer at Ally
The Ally Tech Academy provides cloud and automation training classes as well as master classes for employees to train and develop new skills they are passionate about, and we partner with a number of software providers where we leverage these training programs.
We also have dedicated innovation hubs, like the Ally Tech Labs, which allow us to iterate on emerging technology trends and how they can be applied to continue to deliver an outstanding experience to our customers.
Ally also hosts a variety of internal programs to engage our technology employees – and this includes hackathons, company-wide competitions, dedicated learning and experimentation time, and "Innovation Fridays," which feature monthly pitch sessions to drive innovation from the ground up.
We partner with numerous universities and non-profit organizations, such as Girls Who Code and Women in Technology, to engage with students and future technology professionals on projects for bi-directional learning.
Ally also conceived and hosts the annual Moguls in the Making program, recruiting student entrepreneurs from historically Black colleges and universities to a week-long competition where the three top teams earn paid internships and scholarships.