With the ever increasing use of software applications in business and associated training/re-training, it is important that as learning professionals we switch focus from the software application itself to the people who use the tool to do their jobs. We need to identify the drivers, motivations and concerns of the end users of the application. Shifting focus leads to the development of learner-centric training for software applications.
Implementation of a major software application can often bring in a lot of change into any organisation. This change can include modifications to existing processes, bring forth completely new processes and change the way people manage information or data. Training that supports implementation of such software applications must consider all these factors. There is also the overarching objective that the training aligns with business objectives.
To ensure that all bases are covered, questions such as the following should be asked:
- What are the business drivers for implementing the new software application?
- What are the benefits and challenges of using the new software application?
- How does it affect the jobs people are doing?
The answers to these questions will provide the key learning outcomes. It will also help motivate learners to know more about the new application and how it can help do their jobs better.
Scenario-Based ApproachesA scenario-based approach to training people is especially beneficial to not only familiarise people with functions of the applications but also relate it to the tasks that they perform in their jobs. Learning professionals must work with subject matter experts (SME's) from the business to create scenarios that are relevant to the end user, starting with the basics and building up to more complex tasks.
When and How
Another factor to consider is when and how the training is delivered. Ideally the training should be delivered close to, and definitely before, the "go live" date. This helps reinforce the learning and increase the learners' confidence in using the application. Workshops allow learners to practice on the system and also encourage discussion on the positives and challenges of using the new application.
When running workshops is not an option, because of cost and logistics factors, interactive video tutorials can be used. There are various e-learning authoring applications available on the market that can help in creating engaging and interactive tutorials. It is important that learners get the opportunity to practice on the system before they use it in their jobs.
Another key question to ask is, "How do you train new employees after go live?" Projects focus on successful implementation of the software application on time and on budget. A popular approach adopted by many providers of software applications is to train people within the business so that they can train others. Super users or champions are common names given to such roles. Although this approach sounds logical, is it practical in the long term?
Thinking from the organisation and end-user perspective, pertinent questions are:
- What material is provided to support on-going training? These may include lesson plans, workbooks, quick reference cards or online tutorials.
- Is the training generic or is the training relevant to the jobs people do?
- Will super users be available to train new staff when they get back to their regular roles post-go live?
- How much time will the super user be able to dedicate to training new staff?
- How will this additional responsibility affect the super user's motivation and ability to do their full time role?
- Does the super user have the skills required to train people? Are they using adult learning principles?
- How is consistency of content maintained across existing super users in the business?
- How will the business continue to maintain consistency in the training when super users leave the organisation?
Super users/champions are useful resources during the implementation of the application to support people in the short term. A long term training strategy is critical for on-going training of your people in using the application. This will assure that post-go live the business has the capability to train new staff with minimum disruption to core business activities.
End user focus when designing software application training will reduce lost productivity during implementation and your people will embrace the new technology faster.
Darshan Shetty holds a Graduate Diploma in Human Resources from Open Polytechnic of New Zealand and a Bachelor of Engineering - Computer Science from Mangalore University, India. He has over eight years' experience as a learning professional in New Zealand. Darshan's experience includes working in tertiary, health and energy sectors.
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