Dear Law Firm CIOs, CTOs, and Management,
I am writing on behalf of my fellow law firm technology trainers. It seems we are a resource whose value to the organization some of you have difficulty appreciating or justifying lately. Why would I say such a thing? Well, twice in the last few months, I have seen brilliant technology trainers laid off from their firms. This is in addition to countless others whose positions were eliminated over the past several years. Also, it’s personal for me. I was laid off two and a half years ago when our office lost a large practice group, and the CIO could not justify having two IT people in a smaller office.
Sure, I may not know the circumstances of all of them, but I do know these two people, their skill-sets, and experience levels. These are the types of people you should be fighting to get to work for you, and yet they were pushed aside after many years at their firms. In writing this post, I hope to convince you why getting rid of trainers is the wrong decision, especially now.
Law Firms are Changing
The way law firms operate is changing. They are under pressure to be more efficient and make better use of processes and technology. Your trainers know many of the workflows and technology involved in those workflows. Getting from Point A to Point B requires examining existing processes and workflows. Your trainers may already have them documented or could easily help you document them. I undertook just such a project with one of my training teams. Trainers have a leg up and level of understanding that you could use in this type of endeavor, because this is something they do all the time.
Plus, experienced trainers are agents of change and project managers. They help people through change constantly. Trust is a big part of change, so getting rid of people that are trusted advisers to your end users is not going to help your change initiatives. Instead, leverage the relationships and expertise your trainers have around change when making these big operational shifts.
Law Firm Technology is Changing
The systems being used and implemented in law firms are getting more sophisticated and complex. AI and block chain will require people to think and work in entirely new ways. Even things like document assembly require people to form new habits and workflows. Given the high failure rate of technology adoption, you will need good training initiatives to help people change their existing work habits, understand how best to leverage these technologies, and build new habits around them.
Additionally, the people in IT closest to the work are the trainers and end user support. You will need their knowledge and expertise to understand what resistance and challenges you may face in implementing new technology. They know those end users on a much deeper level than you may realize.
Corporate Learning is Changing
The learning management system (LMS) used to be the centerpiece of most learning team’s technology and learning was event-based. In many cases, the LMS was the only learning technology. If your team is doing eLearning content development, they also likely have a content authoring tool. The market is flooded with new LMS platforms (currently over 700) and authoring tools with very diverse feature sets. Having experienced instructional designers who can determine how best to leverage existing and new learning technologies is critical. Knowing where to spend precious budget dollars is also critical.
New and different tools to support learning are popping up everywhere. At the top end, we now have xAPI which can form connections between any production database and a learning record store (LRS) to show direct connections between performance and learning initiatives. xAPI is giving organization’s much deeper insights into how people work. There are also in-application performance support tools to aid workers where they work at the moment of need versus taking them away from the work to another system. At the lower end, there are numerous small tools to aid retention and provide opportunities for short, focused practice, and don’t even get me started on gamification.
In addition to applying new technologies to make learning more effective, new approaches are being used in corporate learning. Moving from event-based learning to providing effective just-in-time support closer to the work is just as imperative.
Being able to support communities and provide platforms for people to share best practices and curate resources are critical for those supporting knowledge workers. These features are built into many modern LMS or talent development platforms, so knowledge management, HR, professional development, and training teams should be working in tandem versus in silos. Relationships, creativity, and knowing what people need are what your experienced trainers will be able to provide to help get from here to there.
Having forward-thinking people who can utilize these diverse tools and techniques and work with diverse groups to develop an overall learning strategy for your firm is a must. Experienced technology trainers can do this for you.
Training is a Not a Cost Center
In this age of information overload and constant change, being able to quickly learn, unlearn, and relearn is mission critical.
Both of my trainer friends and I were senior people, which means our salaries were probably at the higher end of those on the support team. However, that is justified in that we have not only the knowledge of the software and support skills, but also instructional design, user adoption, project management, and change management skills to ensure that your latest technology initiative actually has uptake by the end users. If no one is using a tool or it is not being used to its fullest potential, even the greatest technology becomes worthless. What is that worth to your firm?
Technology tools are designed to impact the business by increasing revenue, avoiding costs, or improving service. I will agree that we need to get better at drawing a straight line between training, the use of technology tools, and the financial impact to the firm. However, I don’t think anyone will argue that there is a financial benefit to providing training resources. We simply must track the impact on job performance to show the financial benefits. We may finally have the capabilities in learning technology with xAPI to do exactly that, but you don’t necessarily need fancy technology. It can be done today, but analysis must be done at the outset and the training initiative must be designed well. This requires good instructional designers who understand the business of law. Hopefully, you have some left.
My Humble Request
My humble request is this: Consider the skills you need going forward, the changing landscape of law firms and their technology, and the impact to the business before you decide that training is the position to cut.
Also published on Medium.