According to HR Magazine, companies that invest $1,500 on training per employee can see an average 24 percent more profit than companies who invest less.
Additionally, a study of 2,500 businesses done by ATD found that companies that offer thorough training generated more than twice the amount of income per employee over firms that offered less training.
Training for training’s sake, however, is not the end-all, be-all answer. The training that you provide to your employees needs to be impactful, meaningful and useful to their job; if not, it will backfire, leading to high employee turnover.
Like it or not, proper training is essential to the livelihood of any business. This includes effective training on new technologies implemented by your company. A new email system, computer network, communication and collaboration tools, even something as simple as new headsets for a phone system, can throw employees into a panic if they haven’t been properly trained on how to use the tech. How do you ensure that your employees are able to fully utilize the new business tech for optimal efficiency and productivity? Here are 10 best practices for training success:
Know Your Audience.
Adapt training to different learning styles: Everyone learns at a different pace. Some people will grasp concepts quickly; others will require more hand-holding. Moreover, employees who are visual learners might catch on more quickly with a one-on-one hands-on demonstration. Others might find success via a formal classroom-style presentation of the new equipment.
Engage End-User Before Purchasing New Technology
There’s nothing worse than integrating new technology into your business and facilitating comprehensive training sessions only to learn later that your employees aren’t fully utilizing the new tech. For this reason, “it’s important to engage your users for feedback before the technology is chosen,” suggests Tony McQueen, senior director, UCN Collaboration, for Carousel Industries. His company provides enterprises with IT consulting, management, integration and training. “What we’ve seen in the past are IT decision makers choosing a certain type of equipment—like a telephone headset–purely for financial reasons, then roll it out and discover that the employees don’t like the way the headsets fit or feel.” In this example, Carousel recommends setting up a demo prior to the purchase of the equipment offering employees an opportunity to try on a variety of headsets to gauge their preferences. With their input, an IT manager can rest assured that the headset chosen for the staff will be fully utilized—and that training on the new phone system will be worthwhile. “IT decision makers need to move away from everything being 100 percent an IT decision,” McQueen continues. “If you don’t first find out what’s working for employees, what’s not, and what types of tools they wish they had, training will become a moot point.”
Embrace a Long(ish) Learning Curve.
Some employees are eager to embrace new technologies. Training this type of person won’t take long. For those who harbor skepticism about the implementation of new tech, training could take much longer. “Getting folks to change their workflow and habits is the biggest challenge when it comes to training,” says McQueen. “It takes us about three weeks to build and have employees embrace a routine for something simple (like a new email program); it could take three months to a year for employees to fully utilize and maximize a larger more complex tech addition.”
Focus on the User Interface.
Few employees need to understand the inner workings and the back end of a newly implemented system. In most cases, they only need to grasp the basics on how to operate the system. Focus on this point in your training. You’ll only confuse and overwhelm employees if you get too deep into a discussion about the features of the technology. “We try to make every technology we install for corporations simple enough for people to walk into a room and know how to use it,” says Jeremy Caldera CEO of IAS Technology. “Some people are frankly scared of technology so we mitigate this by ensuring the user interface makes operating a system as simple as possible.” By adopting a simple user interface, the time spent training employees can be dramatically reduced.
Identify Tech Champions Within Your Organization … and Utilize Them.
Particularly for larger organizations, it can be nearly impossible to get every employee together for formal training sessions. It can also eat up a lot of time and resources. Often a more effective way to execute a training program is to identify “key personal” in your corporation, including the IT staff of course, and have them go through training on new equipment. “These people become the IT department’s ‘first line of defense,’” says Caldera. “and can be given the responsibility of training Tier Two users.”
“Times have definitely changed,” adds Joseph Legato, vice president of operations, USIS AudioVisual Systems. “Historically, we would train a room of 20 or so people; the trend now is to train the IT staff, who then train the rest of the organization.”
Departmentalize the Training Approach.
The employees of your human resources department will utilize a new system, product, or platform much differently than employees of the billing, engineering, marketing and other departments. Training should be tailored to the skill level, needs and expectations of each department. For efficiency, train one person from each department on the new technology and have them customize and handle the training of the employees in their department. “They understand more clearly than the IT staff what their employees need to know, their learning style, and other variables that could impact the effectiveness of a training program,” says Legato.
Involve Marketing and Communications Team.
It’s important to get everyone on board with the plan for new technology … and it’s consequent training required, Utilize your marketing and communications department to notify employees of upcoming training and to help rally the troops when the time comes.
Get Outside Help.
Your time is a precious commodity, and developing, implementing and facilitating employee training on new tech will eat up a lot of it. It’s not just the initial training that will command a good portion of your time; it’s the follow-up and refresher courses you’ll need to squeeze into your schedule due whenever there’s a system upgrade or a new employee to bring up to speed. For this reason, an outside IT consulting firm can be a valuable resource. If you’re strapped, they can provide as-needed training services. “Particularly for large tech overhauls, you may want to explore training options outside of your organization,” McQueen suggests. “It can save a lot of heartache and increase employee satisfaction and utilization of the technology.”
Your employees won’t necessary need to see all the nitty gritty schematics, documentation and user’s guides for the new technology that’s being implemented. However, it can serve as a valuable tool for your IT staff. Armed with all the particulars, they can be better equipped to “fix” the litany of issues and problems that can crop up as employees adjust to learning a new system, software or products.
Share Information on a Need to Know Basis.
They say knowledge is power … but only if it’s in the right hands. Sometimes going too deep into the technology during a training session can confuse employees or give them a false sense of entitlement. This can lead to improper operation of a system. Even worse, with improper training employees may feel compelled to diagnose and “fix” tech issues on their own. “This only makes things worse,” says Legato. “During training, IT managers should set strict parameters for employee—especially when dealing with software. These rules identify the steps employees are permitted to take before they should escalate the issue and get IT involved.”