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Car crash TV drives home IT message

The Apprentice is addictive TV – and I for one am a self-confessed addict.

The series may be coming to a close but it has been full of car crash TV moments which highlight just how badly some of these people want the job and how bad they would be at it.

In the last few weeks we have seen all sorts of shenanigans as these people try impress the belligerent (or just reasonable?) Sir Alan Sugar. But one of the moments that stuck out for me was when Lucinda was asked by Helene to do a simple IT task.

Despite the fact Lucinda warned she was completely technologically illiterate, Helene didn’t think it was an obstacle. Lucinda finally figured things out and her team eventually won the task so it didn’t come under the scrutiny of Sir Alan.

But the incident highlighted to me what must be happening in offices and schools across the country – the fact people are being handed jobs they’re not suited to.

A task one person finds easy might present a nightmare for another. But if the delegator doesn’t realise there’s a problem and the person presented with the job is too timid to speak up and highlight it everyone suffers – especially the company.
Helene seemed convinced Lucinda should be able to deal with the IT task despite Lucinda’s desperate cries for help.

A frustrating situation developed before our eyes, with Helene burying her head in the sand and hoping Lucinda would suddenly get the hang of the task, and Lucinda becoming more distressed at the hopelessness of the situation.

It wasn’t long before everyone was at each other’s throats, other team members had taken sides and the task was neglected while office politics took everyone’s full attention.

IT is an area that can present particular difficulties for many 'technophobes'.
I am the managing director of a company and an IT geek. But if you asked me to perform open heart surgery then I wouldn’t have a clue.

Similarly, if I was playing centre forward for the England football team (I can dream, can’t I?) then you could stick me up front for 100 matches and I probably wouldn’t score a goal.

Everyone has things they are good at and things they aren’t – the important thing is to match people to tasks that play on their strengths.

Having said that, in most companies there are a core set of IT skills that any member of staff needs to have, this could be to operate Microsoft Word, PowerPoint or Excel.
Check whether people have these skills when you employ them – as well as with your existing employees.

If someone has been employed in your company for the last 20 years you can’t expect them to suddenly carry out IT tasks without training them.

Companies have a duty to train people so they can carry out their tasks efficiently – and workers in turn must respond positively rather than just say ‘I can’t do that’.
Make your IT skills assessment a regular event. Build them into your appraisal system and regularly review training requirements.

Consider the impact introducing a new IT system will have on employees. Ensure everyone receives training on the new system and that they know how to operate it.
Make sure you are not Helene asking Lucindas to do jobs they are not trained to do.

Thanks to The Apprentice for showing us how NOT to do things.

Andy Dent


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