Online collaboration can help businesses be more efficient, help employees grow their skills and foster a team environment.
A Good Business Invests in their Employee’s Skill Development
Businesses that consider themselves a part of the Information Technology space have a challenging prospect ahead of them when it comes to improving the professional skills of their employees. In addition to the daily needs and headaches of the business, IT employees are under constant pressure to learn new technologies and read up on current trends in the industry. It is something they can’t afford to put off, as it is vital to the sustained success of the individual as well as the business.
Traditional Methods are a Huge Investment of Time and Money
Unfortunately, keeping IT employees up to date on the latest technologies and trends is often very costly and time-consuming. Having employees leave the office for hours on end to complete off-site courses means that they’re less likely to make a dent in that growing backlog of issues.
Costs are another big consideration. Some certification courses for higher level skill-sets can cost thousands of dollars and can take many hours to complete. Community colleges, while more affordable than 4-year institutions, are increasingly becoming more expensive, especially considering additional costs for books and supplies.
In light of this, some businesses have turned to online learning resources for flexible methods of learning while on the job. While this is definitely a step in the right direction, some sites are still fairly expensive per month, and their courses also require a significant investment of time. Larger video courses might be broken up into many 1-hour segments that the user must complete piece-by-piece.
In the meantime, projects still need to get done. Especially when taking on big projects that the employees have not attempted previously, businesses will often turn to outside consultants who will normally charge double or triple the hourly equivalent of what they would have received as a salaried, full-time employee. This means that businesses are paying qualified consultants a range of $175 to $300 an hour for their help. Additionally, if consultants know that their specific skill-set is in high demand for their area, they will charge even more.
Factor in additional growth opportunities like industry trade-shows, conferences, seminars, and workshops, and businesses will start seeing their bottom line increasingly sink towards the red.
Online Communities as a Tool for Learning
Traditionally, businesses have looked at social media as a time-wasting distraction for their employees. While this certainly can be the case, one of the main benefits of online communications is, in fact, their social nature.
Today, social media encompasses more than just Facebook. Online social communities have become more diverse and niche, specializing in areas of interest or industry sectors. Larger online communities, like the link-aggregating site reddit.com, will feature small sub-sets of communities all focused around a shared interest.
The most successful people are those who have learned from other people’s mistakes. Online communities are the best way to facilitate that. By joining niche online communities, especially ones that focus on professional industries, employees can learn from their peers by asking questions and taking part in larger discussions. This ongoing, personalized, skill-based interaction leads to an even bigger benefit: collaboration.
Benefits of Peer-to-Peer Collaboration
People are spending more time than ever before online. With web-based platforms and cloud computing becoming the norm, we are more dependent on the Internet to perform our daily tasks. In fact, 92% of all Internet activity is spent using search engines. There are over one billion search queries per day on Google, but the bigger question is, are people finding exactly what they’re looking for?
Over 1,000 surveyed middle managers said that over half of the information that they find in searches is useless. Time wasted not finding the right information is money that is wasted – up to 10% of a company’s salary costs.
Peer-to-Peer collaboration can end up saving a lot of time (and therefore money) by preventing the headaches that come from searching for information organically. When employees can reach out to someone that they know has the experience and qualifications to address their specific questions, they have a much higher success rate at tackling difficult projects. Especially when taking on an unfamiliar project with a wide scope, having the ability to actively collaborate with someone who has already done the hard part is a huge advantage to employees.
Another advantage of online collaboration is the lack of geographical limitations. Perhaps a company is looking to create an app that features localized searching, but they don’t have anyone on their team who has worked extensively in the programming language. Instead of trying to find someone locally with those skills, businesses can take advantage of online communities that have members based all over the globe. They’ll be able to quickly and easily find a skilled professional with the exact qualifications they need to complete the project.
Online collaboration helps get the job done faster without having to spend excess amounts of time and money. It also allows employees to gain access to a network that they can continually reach out to when new problems arise.
It’s clear that keeping IT employees up to date on the latest technologies and trends requires significant investments of time and money. However, because of how the way the Internet has changed the way we work, there are many different ways now for employees to sharpen their skills. Taking advantage of specific online communities like Experts Exchange allows employees to share knowledge, ask questions, and learn new ways to take on tough new problem. Collaboration is key to learning in a digital age when it can be so difficult to stay on top of what’s new and changing.
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