An IT department optimist would say “job security,” but a realist might say it creates a job that is consistently challenging. Obviously both are true. The speed at which technology is evolving, combined with the fact that constant software updates complicate things as much as they improve things, make the field of IT secure and lucrative. But this challenge also means that a job in technology comes with another often-unspoken expectation: the burden of staying current.
It’s no wonder a 2012 CompTIA study of over 1,000 organizations found 93% report a gap in the skills of their IT department, and 80% feel their business operations are impacted by the gap.
So how do you stay current? And what’s the best, most efficient way to close that gap?
In today’s corporate world, most companies follow the 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development, which states that 70% of managers’ learning and development stems from on-the-job experience and problem solving, 20% from feedback from other people (peers and supervisors), and 10% from formal courses and reading. Simply put, business professionals learn by tackling the task at hand and enlisting help when they need it.
These sentiments have been echoed by informal learning champion, author Jay Cross who said, “Workers learn more in the coffee room than in the classroom. They discover how to do their jobs through informal learning: talking, observing others, trial-and-error, and simply working with people in the know. Formal learning—classes and workshops—is the source of only 10 to 20 percent of what people learn at work.”
The good news is that the learning resources to support this model have grown. Over the past decade, advances in online collaboration have evolved the educational landscape, giving rise to many opportunities for learning outside of the classroom. These opportunities range from Massive Open Online Courses (“MOOCs”) to online communities. In today’s world there are literally thousands of learning options, most of which, thankfully, are a far cry from the night and weekend courses offered by your local community college.
Whether you are a seasoned professional looking to fill in some gaps in your personal knowledge base, or a newbie to technology wanting to round out your skill-set. Either way, you’ll want something flexible; you’ll want to get your information directly from people in the trenches that know the material in practice, not just in theory. You’ll want current information; and you’ll want information that relates to what you are doing that day, at work. You’ll want “informal learning”.
Informal learning is quick, hands-on, and directed by the challenges at hand. It is learning while doing, which substantially increases the chances of retaining knowledge. Informal learning methods include social learning, peer-to-peer discussions, Q & A forums, and consulting reputable blogs and media sites for articles that provide instruction on handling specific issues (e.g. how to configure a shared mailbox in Exchange 2010).
If you would like to read more about strategies and resources for informal learning, download our latest whitepaper, Strategies for Technology Training. It will give you an overview of training options that today’s successful technology professionals can leverage to get ahead in the competitive job market.