Originally published Jul. 20, 2016, updated Oct. 11, 2018.
The best software on Earth is a failure if the team can’t use it.
Support employees throughout the training process by offering technical assistance, providing a variety of reference formats, and fostering a culture of communication and collaboration.
After all the effort of finding the right enterprise software package, negotiating a sale, and supervising installation, the new program is finally up and running. It’s time to relax.
Well… it’s almost time to relax.
Before companies can start enjoying the benefits of their new software, they need to get over the biggest hurdle of integrating technology: training employees. This is a make or-break-moment.
The best program on Earth is a failure if the team can’t use it. In fact, over half of enterprise software initiatives don’t reach their full potential due to low adoption rates.
The problem is that employees tend to push back against learning new software. They’re already comfortable working around the flaws in the existing system, and they get frustrated with the disruption that comes with even good changes.
This sometimes leaves the impression that the old way was better.
Making the training process as painless as possible encourages employees to get behind new software. Read on for a few ways executives can smooth the path for them.
Provide Quality Technical Assistance
Offering technical assistance is the most influential step companies can take to help their teams learn new software.
This should include both initial software training and supplemental references for troubleshooting issues that come up in the early stages of implementation.
The impact of technical assistance is undeniable. The Primary Care Information Project (PCIP) and Weill Cornell Medical College conducted a study of how health practitioners implemented Electronic Health Records (EHR) and found that small practices without sufficient training resources struggled the most with their EHR systems.
Medical practices that received eight or more training and support visits had the highest levels of success.
When interviewing vendors, ask about their after-sale support. Plan to have a variety of resources and technical references that everyone can use for ongoing training.
Focus On What Matters
As much as 60% of software features are never used. This happens so often there’s a name for it: “shelf-ware”.
To some extent, shelf-ware is inevitable. Commercial software developers need to appeal to as many users as possible. They’re constantly adding new features in a quest to widen their customer base and stay relevant.
The resulting software has a host of shelf-ware most users will never touch.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to teach every esoteric function in the program during training. Focus on the 20-40% of commonly-used features and just touch on the rest.
Leverage Influential Users
In every group there are users who adapt quickly to new software. They’re comfortable with technology and like helping others who run into trouble.
Leverage their enthusiasm by designating them as transitional training leaders.
They can solve low-level problems for their co-workers and maintain any reference tools. It helps to give them a small bonus or other incentive, as well.
Address Problems Early
Communication is key when the training is finished and the software goes live.
Even the most experienced companies experience bottlenecks and setbacks when integrating new technology into their workflows. The only way to overcome these challenges is through communication.
Schedule meetings once every week or two where the whole team can share what’s working and where there could be improvement.
Check in with individual employees between progress meetings. Keep the conversation casual and talk to a variety of team members.
Managers, supervisors, support staff, and even outside vendors have unique perspectives that can help identify problem areas.
Once those issues are identified, schedule additional training on a group or using the transitional training leaders. Early intervention keeps frustration levels down, so employees aren’t tempted to go slide back into the old system.
Use Online Training Materials
Many vendors have extensive training materials on their sites, including videos, walk-throughs, information guides, and downloadable reports.
Self-paced training like this offers another avenue for employees to build their skills and gain confidence in the new software program. Share vendor resources where everyone who works with the software can find them at need.
It’s not always easy to convince employees to use new technology, but the payoff is worth it.
Support the team with quality training options, step in when there’s an issue, and foster an environment of collaborative training. When the employees have the right tools to learn, the project is on the best path to success.
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