November 30, 2021

Can training really transform my team?


Yes. That’s it. Blog over. Seriously though, training can really transform your team. Training provides resources and confidence that allows your team to grow and develop into the team you want. Training acts as the bridge between the old world and the new, showing team members what’s possible in the new environment and giving them the confidence to explore more.

Let’s look at some transformation challenges and how we’ve seen teams use training to face them:

Standing up an entirely new team.

Sometimes organizations are looking to go places they have never been before, so they need to create a new team to get them there. For some, this might involve standing up a team to build an entirely new native mobile app. For others, it might be upgrading their web development capabilities to embrace a more modern framework. We have provided training and mentoring on mobile and web essentials to make sure that team members have the right skills to meet the demands of their new environment. One of our clients, for example, was able to have mobile developers starting to work on platform-native code just weeks after coming out of our training.

Needing to increase a team’s impact without increasing its size

The economic climate of the past year has meant that a lot of teams have needed to do more with less. Some companies have laid off vendors and brought development work back in-house. Or they have seen their digital product roadmaps increase exponentially but have not been able to recruit large numbers of additional staff to meet the new demand. Even more, some companies have needed to look for creative ways to provide opportunities to team members who feel stagnant in their role. Whether it’s training that gives staff an entirely new skill set or training designed to take their skills to the next level, training investments have shown themselves to be great ways to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of development teams.

Needing to build more resilience

Sometimes teams need more flexibility. They need engineers who can address multiple elements of the technology stack from back-end web to front-end web and even native mobile applications. Cross-training has proven to be a way for these teams to increase their capacity to address feature requests by having more engineers who can contribute. It also helps engineers stay engaged by opening up more opportunities for them in terms of training and work variety. 

One of our clients noticed that their feature teams had become too dependent upon the mobile team. If they wanted a new feature, they had to wait for capacity to open up on the mobile team to make any progress. So they trained members of their feature teams on mobile. Now, instead of waiting for mobile team availability, the feature teams can create their own mobile features and reach out to the mobile team for validation. This has allowed the mobile teams to focus on the critical components of app architecture while allowing the feature teams to make more progress, quicker. 

Building digital products more collaboratively, with greater efficiency and quality

The increased demand for digital solutions has driven a strong need for companies to rethink how they do digital work. Companies have started to look at moving from a project-based mindset to a product-based mindset. They have rethought their organizational structures to build feature teams, product teams, scrum teams, or capability teams. The common thread across these new organizational structures is that team members need new knowledge and skills to work in these new ways.

Some teams have even seen that while their team members have some formal training on things like Agile, design-thinking, and product ownership, they have a hard time knowing how to implement that knowledge on a day-to-day basis. Moreover, many team members are not used to the high degree of collaboration and interdependency that working in such an environment requires. These team members are seeing that they need to better understand what their collaborators are doing so that they can more effectively work together.

At this point, you may be thinking “ok, I can see how training can address team challenges. But how will I know it’s working? What will my team gain?” 

These are fair questions, which we will address… right now.

Your team can do things it couldn’t do before.

A client of ours shared this story, they were in a meeting showing off a new mobile feature, and another product team said, “Hey, we didn’t know you had a mobile team.” The truth was that they didn’t have a dedicated mobile team, but they invested in training for their existing team, which enabled them to take on that new work.

Another client shared that after a training focused on product management best practices, they found team members consistently referring back to the definitions they learned during training, giving them a common language from which to work on new challenges.

Your team offers more creative solutions to problems.

The combination of prior experience plus new skills is a powerful one. Team members who gain new skills bring their old experiences to new environments and see things in ways natives don’t.

Persistent problems or challenges start to get better.

For team members to adopt best practices, they have to learn them. Reinforcement is also very important, but if the team is doing something incorrectly or inefficiently because it doesn’t know any better, no amount of accountability will move the needle. Training provides a strong foundation allowing teams can improve and hold each other accountable.

Your team works more effectively together.

A learning community can be a powerful thing that has benefits that go beyond the training course. The fact that the team now has a shared experience to draw from creates social capital that eases the friction among team members and gives them a common starting point.

Another way to think about it is what would the employee experience be like if you don’t pursue a training program. There are many highly talented engineers, designers, and product developers out there, and many of them can figure things out and learn as they go. But this often results in a lot of stopping and starting, frustration and burnout. Giving the same talented team members a solid foundation can help them to get there quicker and do so with less friction, saving you time and improving morale.

Where should I start?

Like many things in business and life, it’s best to start with your needs and goals. What are you trying to accomplish?

  • Are you looking to develop new capabilities? What will the new capabilities achieve for your team? 
  • Are you looking to more effectively and efficiently onboard new team members? What will these new team members need to be successful?
  • Do you need to modernize your practices? Are you modernizing your technology stack? What new skills will team members need to get there?
  • Do you need to drive consistency and best practices? Is there a need to upskill and or reskill your team?

You also want to identify who should be involved and who needs training. Is it the whole team? Is it new team members? Is it future team members? Is it a cross-functional group?

Next, it’s helpful to think about what knowledge and skills team members will need to operate in their new world successfully.

  • Is it learning a new technology stack, framework, or language? Is it learning new ways to design and build products? Is it more soft skills in terms of collaboration, leadership, and teamwork?

Lastly, you want to figure out what kind of training you need. The training should meet at the intersection of business goals, training needs, and target audience(s). It should give students the knowledge and skills they need to thrive. Or it should enable team members to work more effectively together or across teams.

Looking for a way to transform your team? We’ve got you covered.

At Big Nerd Ranch, we believe that training can drive transformation not just because it’s what we do but because we have seen its effectiveness time and time again. Seeing individuals and teams gain skills and confidence that they did not have before is one of the most rewarding and special things about the training we bring. Let’s figure out how we can bring that kind of transformation to your team. Ready to get started? Get in touch and let’s chat!

Eric Wilson

Author
Big Nerd Ranch

Eric joined Big Nerd Ranch in the spring of 2019 to lead the training initiatives and brings a wealth of experience in both training and consultancy work.



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