End User Training is not the only training tool in the toolbox

September 14, 2022 | 7 minute read
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For each new IT systems implementation, the typical go to activity is to design, build and test the solution being delivered before running off and delivering training to end users. The results haven’t always been something to rave about as the users may not want to use the new system or be equipped to use the new system with the right level of information or knowledge to do their roles.

There is a multitude of reasons why projects deem to have failed, with insufficient or inadequate training often seen as the weak link in successful project deployment. The key to successful adoption is beyond end-user training – fancy looking training materials with a multitude of training sessions will not overcome a lack of user buy-in to the change. Involving end users to have a glimpse and touchpoint with the solution creates an affinity that can not only de-risk the training effort but also reinforce that those individuals had a say, and it was heard, and it was actioned upon. Taking users on the journey is a key part of the adoption process.

Effective end user training requires engaging and training your impacted end users throughout the lifecycle of the project rather than at the end when the only tool is end user training sessions prior to go live and after Go Live.

Training methods are not all created equal 

I am sure I am not alone in the Change management fraternity to hear the Project Manager spark up with both concerning and heated rebuffs such as, “The training hasn’t hit the mark!!”, or “It’s all too confusing!!” or “There is too much to take in in such a short time, what can you do better”? This leads to the ever-concerning soul-searching exercise within an extraordinarily painful short period of time in changing what can be done to training to make it both consumable and beneficial.

There has always been a challenge in enabling adoption of a change in an organisation when facing the exciting and yet challenging aspects of considering a new technology to support business operations and provide a platform for growth. Whether the change involves a minor change or a major change, there will still be the element of training that has to deliver the right conditions for end users to both want to use and use the technology in a way that delivers the maximum benefits for its implementation in the first place. The magnitude of the change in technology will determine the degree and type of training, however the complexity and the scale of the impact on the organisation will have a very real effect on whether an end users’ training preferences can be met in the way they would like to learn the new system. This is the challenge of matching how an individual learns against how the organisation learns as the organisation needs to support with the right environment and sponsorship for the learning to embed effectively in the minds and actions of the end users. These conditions requirements are not always compatible. So, the question becomes what the organisation can do to enhance the learning experience throughout the journey of the implementation and beyond.

Creating the right conditions

Starting early in identifying the needs of your end users is an approach to minimise the risk of training not delivering. This is easier said than done! When running a program, there are always deadlines; resourcing conflicts, overriding business needs that can quickly derail any well thought and planned training effort. So, the end user faces being trained in a way that can only be done in a set time just prior to the go live of the new system. We all learn differently and sometimes the luxury can be afforded to meet these needs. Other times it is not available. It is important to plan early based on user-specific needs.

Involve me not just teach me

The ancient Chinese proverb “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn” is very applicable to adoption. Once a user is told they can contribute to the solution, this gives them ownership. Telling them simply this is not the answer but enabling them to own will assist to embed into their mindset. A Training Needs Analysis will not only assist in identifying how an individual would prefer to learn and identify what they need to know but can also indicate what materials or tools can be explored to support the learning journey. This may involve gaining their thoughts and ideas on the new solution, whether directed through the project’s super users or directly in end user engagement forums. 

Early look-see!

Having a sneak peek at what the new technology looks like can do wonders for buy-in by end users, but also it prepares the end user for what it will look like when they undertake formal training in the tool and new processes.  However, the timing of that peek at the system and processes can have both positive and also negative effects. The project leader needs to decide whether they would want to use this early viewing for reducing training risk or for engagement and buy-in. Simply seeing the solution early doesn’t equate to a success. If the end user can see it and provide their thoughts on what else would be an improvement, then yes, this is a positive. If the suggestion is not taken up, this becomes a negative and this can override the benefit of this activity. The project needs to evaluate whether the suggestion is not just a “wish list item”, but a real need. If the former, then they need to communicate why it may not be viable or it can be done later. Creating a post-live backlog of potential improvements is a good way to ensure that users feel that their feedback is being heard.

Promote how they can contribute

Once someone sees the solution and how it all hangs together, giving the opportunity to have agreed suggestions incorporated into the build is a powerful engagement tool. Having an investment in arriving at the solution coupled with seeing tangible inclusion creates an ownership that can trigger and evangelical response to the importance of the solution in meeting the organisation’s needs. A key engagement tool in Oracle’s Cloud Adoption Services is the conducting of User Experience Labs (UXLs) to provide this avenue for end users for this early look. The UXL tool provides for a cross-section of nominated end-users, an interactive experience that creates awareness and understanding of the new processes and system functionality. It also provides an opportunity for feedback prior to User Experience Testing (UAT) / Validation and End-User Training and for the organisation to invite potential resistors to voice their concerns. Whilst not a training session it’s a platform for early engagement at a time when the solution is ready for viewing.

Plan the training with adoption in mind

The famous poet Robert Burns’ quote “The best laid plans of mice and men” saying has always intrigued me. Firstly, why mice and also why men only? Planning training delivery is a “must” activity. Knowing that the business or project activities can greatly influence this at any time is a given. So, steps should be put in place to counter. Leadership sponsorship on the criticality of the training should be planned for and bought into as a responsibility of the organisation’s leaders. Planning for the impact on the business of having users taken away from their Business-As-Usual activities to attend training has to be considered. Back-filling, planning training at non-peak times and spreading training across what users must know prior to go live and what they can learn post go live is critical. Knowing who has to attend training and who doesn’t prior to go live is the trick. Forcing training when the conditions aren’t right will detrimentally impact adoption.

Map users to systems roles AND business impacts

Planning for broad-brush training in a new system or set of processes is not a wise move. End user training materials need to be engaging and for improved self-learning, the more interactive the better. Each individual needs to know what their role will be in the new systema and what security levels they are given to fulfil their tasks. The end user training should be detailed so that each end user is correctly matched to the training modules for their user / system role in the new solution that they should receive. This addresses the challenges of end users having to sit through training that doesn’t really involve what they use the new solution for and hence reduce the impact on productivity of the organisation during the training period. It also ensures that more time can be spent on the specific impacts for each user group.

Practice yourself and in your teams

Having an array of training formats can give the user a focus on how they can best learn the new system. Whilst someone can become proficient in their particular usage of the system in their job roles, seeing first-hand how their activities lead onto following activities of others can highlight the importance of performing their tasks properly. User-Acceptance Testing can provide nominated participants i.e., Super users with this knowledge, but the end user is not generally given this option. Prior to Go live, self-directed teams can explore scenarios that the business face in business simulations training. A dedicated training environment can be really useful in embedding the training’s suitability to the rea life activities of the business. Using training materials developed such as Quick Reference Guides, short videos or in-system learning guides in this way can really increase uptake prior to go live.
Make Support easy to access 

Performing new tasks in a system can be easy for repetitive or frequently used ones, however not so much for those less frequent tasks. In-system learning gives the user immediate response to the user when performing their task. This can quickly give them next steps and other more detailed background information so they can understand the flow better. The availability of a reliable and responsive support team also reinforces learning if the user encounters areas that may be related to understanding or could be bugs that may require fixes. Irrespective of the nature, adoption is enhanced when they can quickly continue with the task and not wait for long periods for a rectification or a response that gives the ability to continue on with the task. Taking a wholistic view of end-user enablement is critical to the success of the training approach. 

For more information on how Oracle can support your end user enablement objectives, please reach out to me.

Roland Meli

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