IT leadership training: Mentoring works, classes don’t

There are many ways to offer training to IT staff members. Different skill sets often require different methods to get the full impact. 

IT training is a benefit that a lot of technology pros want from their employers. Things in the IT field change rapidly and it can be difficult to keep with new demands. Increased training is key for an IT pro’s career development.

In addition to new technical skills, many IT employees also want training in other areas, especially business and leadership skills.

Companies offering that type of training might see widely varying results based on the methods they use, according to a recent survey from the CIO Executive Council.

What’s the best way to help IT employees develop their leadership skills? The long story short, according to the 200 CIOs surveyed: Mentoring and coaching are good, while classroom training doesn’t work too well.

Personalized development

Half of the survey respondents said that mentoring and coaching are effective ways to help IT pros develop leadership skills, while 45% said the same about holding frequent feedback sessions with employees to review the lessons they’ve learned.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, just 21% were happy with the results of business education programs such as MBA-type courses, and only 23% said cross-functional training had a positive impact.

The reason, the report’s authors say: Employees need personal, individualized help to develop their soft skills, rather than the kind of general training found in classroom settings. That helps connect the learning to actual experience and figure out what works and what doesn’t for the individual employee.

Skills IT pros need

Training to improve leadership skills isn’t just a benefit that can help recruit and retain top-notch IT pros — increasing the business skills of the IT team will make the department better able to meet the needs of the organization.

These are some of the specific skills IT pros need, according to the CIOs surveyed:

  • team building (cited by 73% of respondents)
  • leading and driving change (71%)
  • communicating with business leaders (69%)
  • developing other staff members (67%), and
  • collaborating with other parts of the organization (65%).

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