Training is Vital Or: Why Navigating a Cozy Coupe is Not Driver’s Ed.
Twenty years ago, almost to the day, I was the personification of gleeful. It was my 15th birthday and I was in line at the DMV getting my driver’s permit. After years of studying car magazines, playing with Matchbox cars and navigating the house in my Cozy Coupe as a toddler, I was ready. I couldn’t wait to jump behind the wheel of the family’s 1998 Saturn SL2 and get the Led out via my Discman-to-tape-deck converter. Best of all, the state of Illinois and my parents knew I was prepared and let me skip the entire driver’s education requirement. Well, that was the dream anyway. Despite a very convincing PowerPoint slideshow complete with dazzling WordArt, there was no way I was going to skip the most vital part of driving: training. For similar reasons, one wouldn’t hand over the keys to an ERP or CRM system without properly training the client, yet so many organizations place little emphasis on this step.
We’ve all heard or even made the excuses. “They’ll figure it out once they play around with it.” “Just do a write-up with some screenshots.” “We’ll hold a quick Go-To and get it over with.” It’s so short-sighted and foolish. Training provides so many opportunities to make a system implementation successful and can very easily make it disastrous. Let’s look at just some of the reasons intensive training is vital.
- Preparation : The last thing management or a VAR wants on go-live day is for everyone to stand around, freaking out. Training allows users to experience the system, understand the processes and interpret the reasons certain decisions and features were implemented.
- Buy-in : Most users are skeptical of any system upgrade. Everything was working fine before, why does it need to change? This is the time to get the users on-board and, dare I say it, excited for the new features and enhancements. More often than not, a new system will make their lives easier.
- Collaboration : Not only are system upgrades seen as unnecessary, they are often perceived as marching orders from the C-Suite. System upgrades gives management and workers a chance to improve together as a cohesive unit. The upgrade is probably new to everyone so try to make it a team-building opportunity instead letting it devolve into a Real Housewives episode.
- Reprieve : Building a team of users who understand the new system invariably makes it easier on management and the VAR. Empowering other employees with knowledge gives everyone additional resources for troubleshooting and training.
- Course Correction : Intensive, hands-on training gives the decision-makers access to the people who use the system. Often, it’s those individuals who will identify potential issues, risks and better methods. This is a great follow-up to the surveys, interviews and process documentation that was TOTALLY done before the project began.
So now that I’ve lined out the importance of training, we need to establish a successful methodology. Frankly, there’s no ideal strategy that works in every company because every corporate culture is different. What works well for a small industrial manufacturer probably won’t work for a multinational chemical company. The only true universal method is the one I developed and sold until the state of Illinois sent out a cease and desist. What I can legally offer is some advice. I’ve yet to find a method more effective than getting onto the floor with the users and walking through the upgrade. Get to know them. Become someone they can approach without fear of reprimand or embarrassment. Tell them why the system is changing. Explain how their job will be different but better. Walk through real-life examples. Listen to their concerns and address questions (don’t flake out on this one!). Finally, for the love of all that is good, be encouraging! If a user can figure out a procedure on their own or explain why a process is done in a specific way, that deserves to be celebrated. I guarantee that level of excitement will make its way through the rest of the organization. Training should be a way of bringing all workers together.
A well-managed and comprehensive training program will make or break a system implementation. By empowering users and dissolving the “because management said so” barrier, a company will build a stronger system, embolden teamwork and encourage all employees to become experts at their jobs. In addition, management and the VAR will have the opportunity to make proactive process changes and rely on a larger pool of people to make the go-live a success. Don’t just toss the keys and look dumbfounded when they smash through a chain-link fence.