April 12, 2016 | James Massey
New System Training: Even Internally, Everything is Sales
Training should go beyond transfer of knowledge; it should instill excitement for the new capabilities.
As you approach the date for the official launch of your Store Lifecycle Management/Integrated Workplace Management solution, dozens of people that you have collaborated with will be eager to experience the new system. The core team will be excited to show everyone what they’ve built, but it’s important to remember that a successful implementation goes beyond new screens. The most successful rollouts take time to develop a training plan that sells the new system.
I was tasked with preparing a training plan for the Real Estate team of a major national retailer and my consultations with the Training Department taught me great respect for the science of learning. You may know the system inside and out, but this new challenge isn’t demonstrating the system; it’s about helping others understand how it facilitates their processes and motivating them to change. It should come as no surprise that the best trainers are also the best sales people.
A New Set of Skills
Given the need to train new users in the future, it is common practice for clients to be responsible for end user training. However, the challenge is that usually the ones in charge are the system owners, and they have never provided comprehensive formal training. And, whether from the lack of understanding of the difference good training makes or the simple exhaustion experienced after the implementation process is complete, too many organizations treat training as an afterthought.
Having now helped several teams develop curriculum, I’ve observed some of the better practices among us “training civilians.” I’ve listed these thoughts around three groups of users - organized by their needed expertise - because a “one size fits all” isn’t very effective. A couple of things that are important to keep in mind regardless of the user: 1) The most effective rollouts actively manage impressions of the system and consider how people learn, and 2) Perhaps most challenging, you have to remember what it’s like to “not know.”
This core group is most likely leading the training. While you’ve spent months focused on the details, this task isn’t about teaching “clicks” (data input should be intuitive), the focus should be: 1) how this will position the company for new capabilities, 2) the logic flow and interconnectedness of the data, and 3) how that relates to the users personally. While you are essentially mandating change by implementing a new system, if you take a salesman approach, the teams will want to use it. Some suggestions as you prepare curriculum:
- Tell a story - few things are drier than technical training, so look back on your use cases and put things in the context of their daily lives. Work one example through all phases of the system.
- Have success stories – What can you do that you couldn’t before? Show how the new system will benefit those being trained (i.e., easier reporting).
- Have examples pre-populated so people don’t watch you type.
- User Guides – the concern in developing these is that they take a bit of time, but you might find that forcing yourself to articulate the points is great preparation.
- Don’t dwell on imperfections – even the best system will not do everything, especially on version 1. Every time you must present a limit of the current version, pair it with something much better.
Store Development Team
These folks work in the system nearly every day, so extra time showing personal benefits is time well spent. Adoption by this team makes or breaks your rollout. They are Contributors to the system and must master many, if not all functions. Classic training techniques work well here, especially articulating what they are expected to master. Some thoughts on teaching this team:
- Consider a multi-tier training plan - teach enough to do simple functions across the platform, then let them work in the system. The key is to get early success.
- After the first training has been digested, plan rounds as needed to reinforce learning and progress their mastery. Limit the scope to what they will sit still for and can immediately implement.
- The system is the source of their reporting so bridge the old data to the new reports. If key reports aren’t ready, it may be wise to delay training.
- Materials for this group would include training manuals, cheat sheets, process flow charts, reports, dashboard and any output that reflects their inputs. Much of this was used to design the system so it shouldn’t be hard to assemble.
These departments are Consumers of the data in the system. They don’t need to know how to enter information, only how to find what they need and print reports or run queries.
- Train these users separately, and only after the Development team has been trained.
- Focus on how the data is organized. Have lists of values on key attributes to help them search/filter more easily.
- If you want them to consider your store strategies in their planning, show them how to find that information. Example: Avoid remodeling stores that you might close or relocate.
- Make them self-sufficient in data extracts so you don’t become burdened with their data needs.
As you address all groups, remember that first impressions linger a long time. Think back on your own excitement, your own process of discovery and let that come through. Most “clicks” should be intuitive, but the active support for change cannot be assumed. If they feel it’s logical, intuitive and helpful to them personally, they will jump on board quickly. As you tap into the energy of the extended teams, you’ll know you’ve done a great job when they see applications beyond all that you hoped to accomplish.