IT Management

As a reader of Enterprise Executive, you’re likely a big proponent of the System z in your enterprise. Your organization most generally runs its mission-critical business applications on System z. However, are you just as big a proponent when it comes to the education/training of the personnel responsible for your System z environment? This article will provide you with some ideas for making the case for education/training your organization’s mainframers and briefly examine several sources of mainframe-related training.

Spend or Cut?

Many CEOs and managers understand the value of a skilled workforce. In today’s competitive global business climate, companies looking to improve their gross margins and increase productivity are increasingly searching for ways to boost employee performance and effectiveness. However, many companies fail to realize the benefits that minimal improvements in employee skills can make for an organization. Worse, many corporate leaders underestimate the high cost of not training. Further, they lack an understanding of the business areas directly impacted by IT employee skills and knowledge, including:

• Reduced server loads and bandwidth costs
• Increased productivity and performance improvement
• Improved customer satisfaction
• Increased employee morale and retention
• Increased revenue.

In a down economy, training budgets are one of the first to typically be cut (along with travel). When the money isn’t there, organizations start casting about for any program they deem expendable. Back at the height of the recession, Training Industry Times published some rather disappointing statistics: More than 92 percent of surveyed businesses experienced pressure to reduce their training budget. Worse, 56 percent reported that the pressure to reduce or altogether cut training costs was “significant.”

How will organizations continue to function if they curtail strategic learning initiatives? People don’t “just know” how to apply complicated concepts. Inevitable pressures to reduce staffing mean fewer employees will need to do more, do it more effectively and take on new challenges. How about preparing them for it? They need training, particularly with the rapid pace of technical innovation and changes in the mainframe world over the last 10 years.

Today, in the information age, organizations are routinely valued not on their physical but rather their intellectual capital. Intellectual capital is the only source of competitive advantage within a growing number of industries. This is particularly visible in the banking and financial services industries. They all have the latest and greatest mainframe technologies. However, the difference between the most successful businesses and the rest is the intellectual capital and skills of their employees.

Training is one of the chief methods of maintaining and improving intellectual capital. The unfortunate truth for upper management is that training is the best possible investment a company could make during a down economy. As evidence shows, it’s the one place where cuts don’t make sense. The fact is, in today’s economy, we should be pressing for more education, not less. This is called “recession-proofing your organization.” So, in an environment that doesn’t support training, how can organizations find educational funding?

Training Is an Investment

Recognizing that training isn’t a wasted expense is probably a good start. General accounting standards classify training as an expense. While this is true from the bean-counter perspective, training is really an investment: An organization typically invests upfront to train its employees (in the form of enrollment fees, travel expenses and opportunity cost of the employee's time) and, in return, expects this to pay off in the future (in the form of increased knowledge, skills and productivity). As with any other investment, if the returns outweigh the investment, training is a worthwhile endeavor. So how and where do we measure the ROI of training?

According to IDC, the three categories where training can provide a measurable ROI are revenue generation, cost-reduction/productivity-performance improvement and employee retention.

Regarding revenue generation, a recent study by HR Magazine reported that companies in the top quarter in training expenditure per employee per year ($1,500 or more) average 24 percent higher profit margins than companies that spend less per year. A similar study done by IDC reported that more than 60 percent of IT managers believe the training and skill level of their teams is the most important success criterion for critical IT functions.

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