March 9, 2009

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Sitting the Bench

The 2008 end-of-year fiscal reports show it: Americans reconsidered their spe...Read More

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Staying Wired

Corporate Training Keeps Companies Up-to-speed

Jared Preusz

March 9, 2009

Smartphones, laptops, innovative Websites, top-of-the-line software and social media are just some of the modern tools used by today’s leading companies. These tools, experts say, are the key businesses need to survive in today’s shaky economy. But, because technology improves at such a rapid rate, many companies don’t stay on top of the latest software and gadgets—and those companies often end up losing the battle. So what’s a startup or small business to do to keep up with the digital age? According to Brian Watkins, public relations manager of social media at Omniture, companies must ensure their employees are up to speed, especially regarding social media. “We feel social media is a powerful platform to establish credibility and thoughtful leadership,” says Brian Watkins, public relations manager of social media at Omniture. Watkins says every company should teach its employees how to effectively use social media. Earlier this year, he led a six part series at Omniture, focusing on how to use social media effectively inline with the company’s policies. There are many options to choose from including sites on the Internet like Digg, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Watkins says creating a corporate blog is one of the most instrumental social media platforms in determining the success of a business. “We use our own blog as a platform to teach people how to use our products and to educate the industry,” says Watkins. “Every blogger reaches a different audience.” Keep Learning But social media is just one drop in the sea of our ever changing technology. The key to staying ahead: education. Many Utah companies have “corporate universities” where they train their employees on the latest technology. Salt Lake-based’s corporate university, O University, partners with several schools including Weber State, Westminster, Salt Lake Community College and the University of Phoenix. These schools help Overstock employees gain the education and skills they need for their job. All of the training is done on company time, with each employee donating an hour a week of his or her full time schedule to attend courses. Counselors are also available at Overstock to help each employee create an education that is specifically tailored toward his or her job. Before IT staff takes any courses through O University, Overstock provides functional training for them. “What we have done with IT is we videotape sessions and we create training courses out of those so that when a new person comes in, we know that they are going to need a certain number of in-house courses we develop,” says Terry Jensen, director of corporate training at Overstock. “Then we assign them to their learning plans which are in an online learning system and then they can take those courses.” After a member of the IT staff has finished his or her functional training, he or she can further build technology skills through the company’s university. The complete program includes 180 to 200 credit hours and gives multiple options for employees to learn technical skills. “We don’t just push out one way. We have all these different channels,” says Jensen. “We actually partner with each of the business units within the company and ask them what they specifically need and provide courses to meet that need.” Not all companies, however, are large enough to implement a corporate university. Venafi, a company in Sandy that specializes in systems management for encryption, provides technical training in teams, hosts several lunch-and-learn training sessions and also sends employees to conferences to learn more about new technology. Clay Epstein, chief technology officer and head of operations at Venafi, says there are many free resources, most of which are offered online like Microsoft TechNet and, that can help small companies afford employee training. “Take advantage of the free resources first. There’s a huge amount of information out there and it’s a matter of sifting through to the good sets of materials from an internal perspective,” says Epstein. “Leading lunch-and-learns and internal seminars is a huge advantage in terms of not only being cost effective, but to also get the most updated and latest information out to all of your employees as fast as possible.”
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