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Is Computer Training Essential Prior To Starting The Job?

Updated on October 5, 2011

Need for basic computer skills

Using computers and the internet in business has become almost second nature. But what happens when well-educated employees cannot perform some of the most rudimentary functions of using a computer? The lack of these transferable skills can be detrimental to the individual and a company. Who is responsible for the training of these employees? Should the full responsibility of training be placed on the company when so many of today’s younger generations are learning these skills as early as grade school? What is the marginal return if training is given? Is it worth the time, effort, money, and risk of training an employee for them to change departments, companies, or careers?

Being computer savvy is essential in today’s business world. The ability to use the basic functionality of office programs is a necessity. When a college graduate struggles to grasp some of the basic concepts, this costs the organization time and money in training. Who makes the decision to keep the employee or to train them? Ultimately it is up to their boss. But, should there be a pre-employment computer test before hiring them or should the candidate already have these basic computer skills? There are so many different user comfort levels. A candidate may feel that simple exposure to a program may be enough to “know” how to use a program, whereas another candidate uses a program everyday but knows they are not using it to its full potential may feel they are still a beginner or intermediate user. Given that inconsistency, it is difficult to gauge the appropriate time needed or the return on investment after training. Some people believe that a simple test can be used to evaluate the competency of a candidate. Testing could be something as easy as creating a form letter in a writing program, create a simple formula in a spreadsheet program, be able to order clothes on the internet.

Many professionals find they are using the Microsoft (MS) Office Suite. It is understandable if there are difficulties using MS Access (database program) or some functions of MS Excel (spreadsheet program) because some of these concepts are for advanced users. However, changing a font color or using “drag and drop” are fundamental skills all users should have. School aged children have been learning these for the past decade. Companies spend hundreds of dollars per employee on training by external vendors to teach the basic program skills. Granted there are several little tips that can make the job easier, but it is not really worth all the money spent if the employee already possesses the basic skills.

Search strategies on the internet have some of the same difficulties. Looking for research material, data, videos, or even social media can be very frightening to some employees. Is the source a reputable site and how do they know that it is up to date are a couple of questions they may ask. Most academic and professional journals are online. Many of these journals may require a subscription. Chances are governmental web sites are going to be a safe bet as a source. Wikipedia may not such a great source to use because anyone can update the information.

As an employee, I try to make myself accountable to know the computer programs I use. I feel I should be prepared to handle any assignment given to me using those programs. If I do not know the answer to a more difficult or advanced function of the program, I research how to use it correctly. If I am going to use it more than once or twice that is when to take advanced coursework on the company dime and the return could be exponential. Both the company and I benefit from knowing basic computer skills because it allows me to build upon those skills to become more of an expert on the programs we use.


Who is responsible for the employee/candidate having basic computer skills?

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