IT Training

Software Training: Overlooked, But Crucial to Success

As someone who has spent a career in the IT services field, in both the public and private sectors, there’s one thing I’ve seen too often: When it comes to new technology deployments, enterprises fail to understand how important training is to the success of their employees and to the adoption of the tool itself.

It’s frustrating, because we know that employees who aren’t learning aren’t growing. Those employees are, virtually by definition, floundering. And that’s just not acceptable in a modern business climate where change is constant and people must continue to adopt new skills to keep pace.

Properly trained employees, on the other hand, are confident about their ability to use technology to meet their organizations’ goals precisely because they’re highly competent in doing so. Put simply, good training is a prerequisite for a happy work force and is one of the crucial ways of ensuring that your team members have the skills to help execute the vision of the organization.

When it comes to the deployment of new business software, proper training is also a vital factor in whether an organization sees an increasing return over the long run on its (typically large) investment, or watches its new tool start losing value virtually from the moment it’s installed. Poorly trained employees often fail to adopt new technology fully if they adopt it at all, and only highly trained employees will use a new technology to its greatest value.

IT employees, meanwhile, simply don’t have the expertise to manage and optimize the tool over time.

Why Good Software Training Is Elusive

Unfortunately, most organizations treat Software training as simply a box to be checked – just one more thing to do during a rollout. Why? I think it’s mainly because Software training is seen as external to an organization’s mission. It’s considered a “necessary evil,” but it’s not what the organization does, so they tend to do as little of it as they think they can get away with.

IT TrainingThat’s why, after the implementation of a new technology, training is often left to another vendor. That can be a problem, because while the actual use of the tool is, in many cases, not difficult to learn, good training is also about ensuring your team understands why the tool is being implemented, so they can truly start to embrace it and incorporate it into their day-to-day processes. That’s not the kind of information that an outsourced contractor is going to effectively deliver.

In other cases, a company will ask the vendor installing the new IT solution to offer training to a handful of employees, who then are asked to train everyone else. That’s a problem, too, because when someone who is just learning a new technology (and is not an experienced trainer) is placed in a training role, the trainer rapidly loses credibility with the trainees.

What To Do About It

What’s the solution? First, understand that software training is a key component to IT adoption, and it should be a critical element of the project plan. Make sure that training is implemented early and throughout the project, not just for some short post-implementation period.

Second, focus your training on, and measure it against, desired outcomes. What are your expectations for the training? How will you create evangelists who will champion the new IT solution within your company? What should people be able to do on Day 1 of the deployment? How about 90 days later, or a year later?

That longer-term view is critical. Too often companies figure that the go-live date is the “big day.” But people will have only rudimentary skills on that day. What really matters is what they can do with the tool several months to a year later. That will require a commitment to continuous training, because learning is an ongoing process.

Third, remember that good training is dynamic and focuses on the needs of the learners. That means establishing a 360-degree feedback loop between your trainees and your trainers.

It also means taking into account the particular needs of adult learners. Unlike children, whose brains are like sponges, adults need to receive information in manageable pieces, ideally with a strong hands-on component. Remember that for experienced professionals, learning something new often means unlearning something old – and breaking old habits is hard.

Good training also takes into account the fact that professionals are busy; formal classroom time may be the last thing they want. It’s better, in many cases, to design training that’s done online in manageable chunks of 30 minutes or an hour, with a reasonable date chosen for completion.

Good training is one of the hallmarks of a well-run organization, and it is key to a successful IT deployment. It enables employees to succeed and makes it possible for organizations to maximize the return on their IT investment. Get it wrong, and your next technology deployment is likely to fail. Get it right, and you’ll reap big rewards.

For a longer conversation about what your training program should include, reach out.

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