Deputy Director at Kavichki. Software testing and QA
It is believed that corporate training is possible in large companies
only. In this paper, I would like to show the opposite: the size doesn't matter, and any company can implement corporate training. We had less than 20 employees on staff when we launched training; now, we have 40 people in the team, and we continue developing and improving our programs – we do all this by our own efforts, without involving third-party specialists.
I'll tell you about each step, about our problems, solutions to problems, and the principles that guided us. Perhaps, our experience and approach will help other companies start moving towards in-house training.
We tried to carry out corporate training for a long time, but all our attempts were a one-time story. We couldn't manage to "churn out" our lectures.
Everything changed last year with the outbreak of Covid-19. Due to
quarantine, some of our customers have frozen their projects or reduced their teams. There were guys on staff who were out of work for almost a month.
So, I decided: since we've free time, it's time to start learning.
● To design the process
One of the main reasons for which many IT companies do not provide training is because they have no understanding of how to design this process. This should be done by someone who, in one way or another, was engaged in teaching. In fact, most IT experts are people with engineering education and the same mindset. However, when you start a complex project related to people and their motivation, you need a pedagogical approach and understanding of psychology.
You can invite for a consultation an expert with relevant experience. In our case, my background helped us: before my career in IT, I worked as a teacher for 13 years. I know how to prepare lectures, how to set up the learning process, etc.; therefore, I initially had an understanding of what to do and how.
● To come up with topics
Training should be of an applied nature so that your guys can use this knowledge in their projects; therefore, you should make sure that the topics of your lectures are related to your work.
I'm leading the guys and I can see some gaps: the issues they are constantly faced within their work and their most frequent challenges.
This is where we started: we took topics for lectures and discussions, based on the guy’s questions and challenging areas.
● To find lecturers
Usually, our previous attempts to launch training ended at this stage. Firstly, the guys were not ready (or did not agree) to work on lectures. Secondly, everyone was busy on projects and constantly found reasons not to engage in lectures.
We dealt with it gradually. At first, it was I who gave lectures. Then, if I saw that someone had a vacancy in some topic, I gave him this topic for study with the instruction: "Study it, make a lecture, and tell about it to everyone!" Thus, all the guys began gradually preparing lectures.
● To "churn out" your training
When your training is just starting, it takes a lot of perseverance to involve everyone. The option "everything is optional" did not work. Everyone immediately found a million excuses not to give or attend lectures; therefore, at the first stages, we opted for the "forced method", and it worked well.
In the first one or two months, I demanded that everyone come to lectures, and went crook on those who didn't come. It’s important to explain why one needs these lectures at all. For instance, we analyzed the topics where people made errors, and so as not to grovel about each project, but to explain all to everyone at once: the lectures proved to be an ideal solution.
● To choose time
For your training not to end in one or two lectures, you need to find a
time that is convenient for everyone. The guys work closely on projects on
weekdays, and on weekends, it's hard to get someone to work – everyone has their own chores. Besides, we are a fully online team; we are living in
different time zones and, on weekdays, we work according to Moscow time.
We decided to have lectures every Friday, at the same time – right after the general call. Each lecture will last exactly one hour.
● To think over the content presentation and to create a knowledge base
It is important to think over the lecture format so that the materials could be saved and collected in your corporate library. In this case, if guys have any questions about the project or a problem that we analyzed, they can always watch the lecture records in the library.
We have several formats: a lecture and a discussion. For a lecture, you must prepare a presentation and, optionally, a speech. For a discussion, you must have both a presentation and a speech. We contact each other by phone, and an employee shows the presentation in the screen demonstration mode for recording. Then, the lecture records and additional materials are made available in our library.
● To find motivation and value
At first, I had to struggle for training to some extent. To put it
mildly, my invitation to attend a lecture did not arouse enthusiasm among the team. But I gathered everyone and clearly explained that lectures would be obligatory for everyone in the team and nothing else. We review problems, take time from customers, spend a lot of effort on preparation – and all this should not be wasted.
Launching training is a complex, dynamic, and multi-stage process that
should have a strategy. I’ve made such a plan for myself:
1st stage: To make everyone used to the fact that training is a mandatory event every Friday, and preparation for lectures awaits everyone without exception.
2nd stage: To motivate with content: we review real problems that our guys have in projects. After studying them, they can improve their work or develop new skills.
3rd stage: To create regulations and rules: preparation rules, lecturing rules, attendance records.
4th stage: To create value and uniqueness: to split training into groups and to select people into groups according to their knowledge; that is, not everyone can be admitted to a group.
5th stage: To impose sanctions for non-attendance: to exclude from the group those who miss lectures without a good reason.
So, we’ve started. I came up with topics; I decided that lectures would be held every Friday at the same time, and most importantly, the presence
should be mandatory for everyone.
At first, I was the only one to give lectures, but later, I started suggesting topics to all guys. We've got a lecture plan for a month. We tried to choose lectures so that they were of practical value.
In late October, we have changed the training format. We’ve split the training into groups: a group mandatory for all – general testing; a group for auto-testing; a group for team management (for leads), a group for preparation to ISTQB.
Once a quarter, we meet and discuss training in order to change the rules, to adjust and improve the courses. In March, we changed the training format again.
We regularly collect feedback and think about how and what to improve. For the future, we are already planning to revise our approach to teaching auto-testing, to open groups in new areas (such as test analytics).
We've started training last April. To date, we've held more than 60 lectures, and we do have huge progress:
Every second employee has improved his efficiency or could use the new knowledge under a project in order to improve the quality of work;
The first ISTQB group has already passed the exam and was issued certificates;
The team's skills and knowledge are significantly improved, and our company have started taking on more complex projects;
Within the company, guys can grow up to middles, leads, auto-testers and, in the future, to test analysts;
The guys themselves started showing initiative in what they want to study/to implement in their projects; the topic to prepare for a lecture. Currently, our lectures are scheduled for 4 months in advance.
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