Security training: How to improve among integrators and end users
The people element is a huge variable in the operation of any security system, and in any aspect of business for that matter. Training is a valuable tool to manage that variable, especially as it relates to newer, more complex networked physical security systems. Training can be a challenge throughout our market, which needs well-trained employees at the security front lines of our end users companies as well as competent, knowledgeable technicians handling installation and maintenance of security systems. We asked this week’s panel to reflect on the state of training in the security market, specifically on how it can be improved among integrators and/or end users.
Training should be a vital component of all manufacturers’ job descriptions. Any ingenious, revolutionary technology can be virtually useless if integrators can’t install and integrate it, and end users find it impossible to operate. Easily available information is the key to solving problems in the field. Online training courses are valuable. Live online chats with well-trained support and customer service representatives are a must. Phone support needs to be available during the hours when integrators and end users are most likely to need assistance. But the real answer lies in designing products that are intuitive in their use. An experienced integrator opening a box should immediately sense how the product is to be installed and integrated. Buttons and GUIs must not overwhelm end users, but rather make system operation simple. Focus groups employed during the design process can help create products that reduce the need for training.
For manufacturers, building a robust technical support and customer service model is important, but training integrators and end users on the products offered is imperative to success in the security industry. Offering a broad range of technical proficiencies and certification programs that promote a high level of competency for IT professionals, systems integrators, service technicians and end users can mean the difference in solidifying a relationship with these entities. Overall, companies need to focus on developing their own programs to be successful in this marketplace, while offering end users and integrators the option to learn products fully. Without this knowledge, it's impossible to truly represent the products we offer in the best possible light – that's why we focus so heavily on training and support for our customers.
How a chosen security solution is implemented and managed by its users is critical and, therefore, training is essential. We believe that learning on the job is the best way to upgrade skills as well as consequent repetition. Therefore, trainings should not be too theoretical, but should match every day’s work life. We see it’s getting harder to get participants out of their daily activities to attend trainings, though. Consequently, training a system’s users on how to use new functionality, for example, should be done in a practical way, and the entrance level for training should be low. Short training movies or webcasts can describe the specific actions that need to be executed to unleash or use new functionality. Moreover, any application should support the specific tasks performed by different users of the system, ensuring that learning is easy and the chances of human errors are minimised.
Training needs to address the application of the technology not just the features and functionality. Too often, the trainee is left wondering: Why would I use this technology? How does this address my needs or resolve my problem? A simple recitation of how to install and configure the technology leaves out the most important facets of learning. Training should be sticky and persistent. Follow-up training such as on-line review and updated course material should be available to keep the knowledge fresh. Technology is constantly changing, as soon as training is complete the knowledge begins to go stale. Good training is accessible and easily consumed. Classroom training should be short in duration and to the point. Reinforcement training should be on-demand and affordable.
Tongue firmly in cheek, how often does our livelihood come from fixing situations caused by poorly trained people? But seriously, we lament the lack of knowledge so commonplace in our industry. CPD, Continuing Professional Development, is essential. Ten percent of us love it, even taking in technical magazines, books and videos for pleasure! Another 10 percent never do it. They dislike their job. The remaining 80 percent pay varying degrees of attention during “enforced” training. However, the industry needs to admit the crucial difference between gaining a certificate and gaining an education. Having formerly taught many classes in CCTV and consultancy for training companies, I hate that they dumb-down to award as many certificates as possible. Would we allow that stance with pilots or surgeons? I suspect the scandal is that we do. Pass criteria should be much tougher. While abhorring red tape, we need effective regulations and regulators, which we have not had for decades.
I have heard a lot about training recently, and have been encouraged by an emphasis on more thoughtful and flexible approaches. More companies are using online videos, especially as a training tool for end users, providing a quick guide for a new employee about how to use a system, for example. More companies are also leveraging online, webinar-type training. Training is an important service (and tool) of manufacturers, and many have large training departments, multiple locations, and can provide on-site training wherever it’s needed. I have also been hearing more about certification and other ways companies can ensure that installer technicians are properly trained to provide a knowledgeable, capable presence when installing and troubleshooting a system. More manufacturers are requiring a level of certification/knowledge of their integrator channels, which serve as extensions of the manufacturer’s brand presence in the market.
The quality of training, how and where it is delivered, how often and to whom it is targeted are all important variables when considering this important topic. As our panellists have suggested, there will always be a critical need for training in our market, and always ways to improve it. Modern technologies such as videos and online resources offer new tools, but the nature of training, the need for repetition, challenges of scheduling and short attention spans, and other aspects remain unchanged, and are unlikely to change over time. In general, training provides a way for anyone and everyone in our market to meet the challenge to “never stop learning.”
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