New software systems are great – when your team knows how to use them. When they don’t, one of two things typically happen (and in some cases, both):
- The data in the system gets messy, or
- People don’t use it all
Unfortunately, these aren’t always easy problems to fix once they’ve happened. Investing time and energy into training at the onset, can save you headaches down the road.
Since we have a great deal of experience implementing these systems ourselves, we’ve taken a page out of our own training playbook to share some best practices that have proven themselves effective time and time again.
This article examines various components of an effective training process, step by step.
1. Identify your software champions and areas of training focus
Your software champions are your “go-to” people who will know the system inside and out. They’re usually the main point of contact with the vendor and are responsible for communicating the benefits of the system to the users, as well as coordinating training sessions. If users are hesitant to use the system, it is the champion’s responsibility to get them excited and encourage consistency of use.
In addition to identifying your software champions, it’s important to identify a few non web-savvy users within the organization. Have them review the site and ask for their feedback. Find out what they may have found to be challenging, what they liked, and what they didn’t. Since some users are likely to be more web-savvy than others, getting insight from those at the lower end of the spectrum will clue you into areas that should be focused on during training so it creates a better user experience for all skill levels.
Keep in mind that you may need to earn buy-in, in order to increase the success of user adoption. When introducing any new feature, be sure to clearly communicate the benefit of it by highlighting ways it can reduce workloads, centralize their marketing initiatives, and more. Use every opportunity you can to communicate the system’s value to the organization and users.
The bottom line is simple:
Users need to be excited about the system if they’re expected to use it and be successful.
2. Think of real-life examples for the site
It can be challenging to train users using mock scenarios they may not encounter on their own. Instead, think of real world experiences for the system that your users can relate to and may experience when using the system on their own.
If you’re struggling to come up with concrete applications, reach out to users with a simple survey to learn what their biggest challenges are when creating or ordering marketing collateral. By knowing their current processes, it’s easier to show how a new system can make them more efficient.
3. Keep training as simple as possible
Learning something entirely new isn’t easy – especially for those who aren’t particularly confident using computers to manage parts of their business. Piling too much onto your users during training can make them feel overwhelmed and intimidated by it rather than excited and eager to get started.
Be sure to go over your process before it’s time to actually execute. If something isn’t essential, save it for a later training. Focus on the core features first and build out your training to include more deep dives as time goes on.
4. Allow time for questions
Don’t turn your training session into a presentation. Make the conversation interactive by asking questions during training and relating back to real-life examples your users are familiar with. Leave time after each lesson or after covering specific sections of the system to take questions and offer help where it’s needed. If possible, allow users to “test drive” the software during the training itself, so they are better familiar with it before using it on their own.
If one person struggles with a particular feature, go through it with everyone. If that one person is having difficulty, others are likely having the same problem.
5. Plan training sessions in your launch strategy
Training should not be a separate piece of your launch plan, but rather, a core component of it. Break it up into distinct sessions that focus on addressing particular parts of the platform.
Bookend your training program with a light introduction and final overview session with ample time for Q&A.
6. Deliver in-time training
Avoid getting in the mindset that training is something to “get out of the way.” If training is completed months before you launch the system, users may forget what they learned once it becomes available for them to use.
Take a practical approach to training and time your sessions close to the date you intend to launch the system. Additionally, once the system is released to users, consider ad-hoc training sessions for new users. They’re also a great way for current users to get a refresher (more on this below).
7. Provide self-service tools after training
One of the easiest ways to improve your training program is to make resources readily available to users.
This can be as simple as offering your presentation slides as downloadable lesson materials through your system. This allows users to take it upon themselves to go through the materials and teach themselves rather than rely on admins with simple requests.
Users can also rely on help documentation provided from the vendor. This can come in the form of Powerpoint presentations, Word documents, in-software help text, web trainings, or videos.
8. Have a plan for training new users after the initial rollout
One of the biggest mistakes companies can make is shelving their training program after launch, ignoring the fact that any new users won’t be able to get the same level of in-depth instruction.
There’s two ways to offer ongoing training:
- Create a separate, one-on-one training program that can be administered to new users when they come on board. This method is very beneficial because of the ability to customize the approach to an individual’s needs and learning style. It is also a good way to communicate benefits of using the system and encourage its utilization by the user. However, this approach requires more resources.
- Convert your training process into a video series that goes through each of the lessons. If you decide to use videos, be sure to also provide users the opportunity to reach out to your team if they have questions or need extra help. This approach works great for making the users more self-sufficient and enables them to access the videos on their own time, or re-watch as needed.
9. Remember that training is an ongoing process with all users
In addition to keeping training opportunities available for new users, it’s also important to train all users when new features are pushed live in the system.
Whether it’s a video explaining how and when to use it, or a webinar that lets users interact with the training session itself, make sure that any new part of the system is accompanied by a thorough training session.
This is the second post in our series aimed at helping administrators make the most of their system. Stay tuned for more tips and tricks for managing your distributed marketing platform by subscribing to our blog.
Check out our other post: 12 Quick Tips for Managing Your Distributed Marketing Platform