Have you ever implemented new software, trained the whole company and then less than a month later your end users are complaining they either haven’t been trained, they don’t remember the training, or they simply can’t use the new program? Understanding the basics of how people learn and tweaking your approach can help you avoid these situations, launch a new initiative more effectively, and achieve greater adoption throughout your organization. It can also ease the fear and stress of trying something new.
A Tale of Two Learning Scenarios
Over my career I have personally trained more than 1,000 people on various software products in collegiate and corporate environments. Contrasting these two different situations I noticed that the competence level of my college students steadily progressed over the course of weeks, while the professionals in the corporate setting struggled to retain the information and often lost any aptitude they gained within weeks of the completion of training.
The key distinction I found is that in a college setting, learning steadily progressed due to a combination of weekly homework and classes built upon previous lessons. There was a greater dedication of time for practice, hands-on instruction, and constant Q&A. In an office setting, many companies send their employees to one or two classes expecting immediate retention. The training experience may include some repetition, but no time to actually digest and contextualize the data, practice it over a period of time and ask questions when the information is unclear.
The bottom line is, people need good old-fashioned repetition with support to learn. The number of times an individual needs to repeat a task before it pushes into long term memory is based solely on the individual. Your job is to provide support to each user along their journey as they learn the software.
The following training model incorporates just in time training, practice time — aka real-world application — and Q&A. It provides what I believe to be the most productive and supportive environment for professionals and leads to increased software adoption.
Schedule the first round of training one to two months before the go-live date. Focus your training efforts on system overviews and concepts, process changes, basic navigation and steps in the system. This is commonly provided through classroom training.
After the initial training invite users to play around in the system at their own pace before go-live. It helps to create small assignments with incentives to complete them.
As they start to use the software, during the week of go-live, offer users very focused training in small groups or one-on-one. Layout these sessions with a small lesson and then have the user go in the system and do the task for real. This is commonly provided through classroom, one-on-one, webinars, etc.
Schedule these sessions to allow for the smallest gap possible from the date of training to the date they will start using the software.
It’s important to keep the training simple. Often with software there are many ways to do one task. In the beginning teach one way and stick with it because too many alternatives confuse people as they start to learn something new. Those who want alternative ways will either figure it out or ask.
Implementations have many moving parts. If you are thinking of last-minute changes, it’s often easier for your end users to stick with the process you initially trained. There will plenty of time to change once your users have a baseline proficiency. Last-minute changes may cause confusion and poor adoption.
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Practice time equals real-world application. This replicates the homework part of college and offers the repetition needed to start contextualizing the data.
Support, support, support. As your users start to use the software, they are going to have lots of questions, and they will need answers. Schedule workshops and/or check-in calls for support. And have subject matter experts available to answer questions for anything that stops users from moving forward. During workshops/calls you can build upon lessons learned in class. You can add shortcuts and other system information. This replicates the ongoing classes at the college level
Further ongoing training
With complex software be sure to offer ongoing training that supports system growth. They won’t be beginners for long and as they start to understand how the software works, they will have more bandwidth to learn more intricate details, shortcuts and functions.
In conclusion, it’s our job to create a structure to support the end users in way that achieves the best software adoption possible with the least amount of stress to the users. We often feel we need to teach them everything the system offers in the very first training round. It can feel like drinking from a fire hose which often creates a barrier. They end up feeling overwhelmed, confused and shut down because they have too much swirling around in their heads. As you layout the training plan think about how your users will use the system during the first month and how you can introduce the just in time training in bite size chucks that can be built upon.
Read Andrea’s previous blog on the 5 Keys to Successfully Launching Technology Change Initiatives.
Check out this discussion with two Viewpoint clients on how they dealt with their own technology adoption challenges in their companies.
For help with successfully planning and launching training and change initiatives feel free to contact CTP Solutions, LLC at 248-670-1646 or email@example.com.