Training programs not hitting the mark? Here's how you can avoid a training program failure

Date: 25 May 2021

Author: Hamish Drummond

So, you’ve chosen fantastic new software for your business and after successful pilots and user acceptance testing, you’re ready to roll it out to everyone. What could go wrong? Well first of all congratulations on finding something that is a perfect fit for your needs. Now all you need to do is train everyone to use it successfully. That’s no mean feat, no matter the size of your organisation. The training stage is often where the most beautiful software roll-out can fall down and therefore, we’ve put together some of the most common causes to be aware of and given tips on how to avoid them.

A woman showing frustration in front of a laptop

Change is challenging

Introducing anything new is never easy. Whether it's a new product, a new compensation plan, new targets or even a new coffee machine, there’s always going to be groups of people who either embrace the change, try and reject it and even sometimes actively try and sabotage or avoid the change entirely. Here are some of the reasons why a new software package or platform can represent change and perceived turmoil for your people:

-You’re asking people to change the way they work

-They need to learn something new, which can be unsettling or a little scary for some

-People are naturally resilient to change; they are comfortable with what they know and love

-Those with a long tenure in particular may cling on to legacy systems and processes as its all they have known for a very extended period of time

-Previous ‘failed’ attempts at change can make employees wary and cautious

-Some organisations don’t communicate change very well at all - e.g. the why?; the benefits and how and exactly when the change will be made

-Change ‘on the fly’ is difficult; there is pressure in organisations for changes to happen fast. Sometimes people are expected to adapt to new systems and processes without being given sufficient time away from their regular day to day activities

-Training is delivered as a one-off activity, leaving insufficient time for follow-up and knowledge leaves the business unit as people take on new roles or move to different companies

Set yourself up for success

The above may sound pretty obvious, but management’s enthusiasm to get rolling with a new system can mean some of the fundamentals are overlooked or rushed. However, by thinking ahead you can craft a training plan that not only communicates well ahead of time but gives your teams everything they need to become expert masters of your new software platform.

First of all, it’s worth remembering that training can seldom be a one-off event. In fact, for a number of years, psychologists have suggested that it can take up to 21 days for something new to become a regular habit. Therefore, if you can start exposing your teams to the right materials little and often in the built-up to roll-out, you’ll be onto a good thing.

Before your training programme commences, communicate your new software initiative well. Share information about what it is, why it’s being adopted along with the benefits for THEM and the organisation. Instead of just ‘dumping’ the news on your people by ‘email messaging pigeon’, organise in-person briefings (even do it remotely using Microsoft Teams if necessary). Make it live, human and REAL, answering any questions that pop-up along the way. Give people a realistic timeline and give them an accurate-as-possible timetable of when they will receive their training.

Choosing the right type of training for your workforce

There’s a host of different ways to deliver training successfully and a mixture of different approaches comes highly recommended. One of the most popular of these is the ‘train the trainer’ approach where the software vendor or company trains a few select people in your organisation to become super-users and fully accredited trainer/experts in their own right. They then cascade this information and deliver training to all the relevant individuals internally. It’s fantastic to develop these resources in-house. We certainly recommend developing multiple super-users and ‘gurus’ where possible. We certainly hope your main software trainer isn’t struck by lightning or eaten by a shark, but it pays to prepare for every possible eventuality. Also think about the natural ebb and flow of people in and out of your organisation - you want to ensure that ‘train the trainer’ type knowledge grows within the company, rather than being lost if somebody leaves.

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Classroom based training

As the name implies, this is a back-to-school style approach where the trainer delivers hands-on classes to an audience of eager learners. Typically, the trainer will use a large projector or screen to demonstrate and walk-through systems in real-time. If each and every person can follow along on their own laptop, phone or tablet, then even better. With the classroom based approach, keep things interactive and invite attendees to participate. Long boring lectures on new software are sure to send people to sleep, so keep it lively, to the point - and serve good coffee to keep people on-point.

Think outside the box light box on a black chair

Cheat-sheets

Cheat sheets are a fantastic way to accelerate the learning process and give people a way to recap what they have learned during their classroom training. Cheat-sheets are normally very short and to-the-point. They often use big headings, screenshots and annotations of the most common workflows and provide a quick ‘on the job’ refresher. Whilst many offices are mostly paperless these days, a laminated cheat-sheet kept close in a drawer will help people to quickly overcome mental blocks or help them to recall specific keystrokes (e.g. CTRL, ALT + X).

Knowledge and Help Centres - on your intranet

With today’s hybrid style workforce (where people work from the office and from home), ensure to give your people access to evergreen ‘on demand’ content where they can quickly learn how do do something within your software. The best place for this is typically in your intranet - but ensure it’s easy to access and secure. A whole plethora of content types make training easier to digest. For example, try to avoid long essays. A process might take 2 sides of A4 to explain when written as words, but could actually be replaced with a 2 minute video that shows somebody actually following the same process on-screen. Because the user can see the the screenshots step by step, it makes things a whole lot easier.

Customise help materials to match your specific company processes

Beware of relying on generic training materials from large software vendors. Whilst these are useful, they rarely account for the way software has been customised to fit the needs, workflow and use-case of your organisation. Instead, use these generic materials as a base on which to rapidly create customised materials that perfectly match your own processes.

Don’t just set it and forget it

Don’t let training materials get dusty and outdated. Software platforms evolve regularly with new releases. That means new features, a UX that evolves over time and different ways of doing things. Update your training materials (especially online knowledge bases) regularly. By updating little and often, you’ll keep your people happy and productive and you’ll avoid the IT Helpdesk being inundated with multiple requests. It also avoids training materials becoming seriously dated.

A woman frustrated in front of laptop

Remember frontline people who don’t spend much time using PCs, Laptops or Desktop Computers

There's millions of people around the world who spend little time using a traditional PC. They are the front-line workers who do a multitude of field-based tasks. Think about those who drive vans and trucks, repair aircraft and manufacture goods everyday. Whilst they might be operating high-precision equipment, they might only login to a software system once or twice a year to complete a review or to update their details. This group is most likely to need extra help and training support.

A great way to remind and train this group is through physical communication using posters and other media that they come into contact with as part of their roles (e.g. during visits to company sites, canteens, etc). Due to the rarity that they login to certain systems, give them access to refreshers well ahead of time so that when the time comes, they can login and ‘do their thing’ without problem.

Fast-forward to training success

With some forward planning and a common-sense approach to training, you can avoid the main pitfalls and avoid training failure. A good training program doesn’t need to be highly-taxing rocket science. It’s about regular engagement, open communication and a commitment to giving your people some quality time away from their day jobs so they can get to grips with the change and new processes that they need to adapt to. With a little care and attention, your new software platform is going to reach the peak performance you intended it to.

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