End-user training is a tricky business, especially when it comes to technology. The purpose of training someone is to equip them to properly and effectively use the tool at hand. There are many variables involved in doing this. Are you training to implement a new tool? Are you training a new hire on a tool that has been around for a decade? Or are you training a contractor who is going to use the tool for a short period of time and then will likely move on to a new assignment with a different company?
Good training principles and methodologies address these different scenarios. However, training comes at a cost, and it can get expensive if you aren’t careful. You must find the right balance when investing in training to make sure that users feel equipped with the necessary knowledge to get the job done. The following is a must-have list for providing the best end-user training for virtually any scenario.
1. Use Real Life Examples/On the Job Training
When training users, some trainers try to use a test environment with old, bad, and/or irrelevant data. But that is not going to help connect what is being learned to real-world scenarios. For example, let’s say you have a construction worker who builds and remodels houses. Instead of training this individual to use the tool on a real house, you train using the tool on a kid’s toy house. Is the construction worker going to know how to use the tool on a real house after you’re gone? Maybe, but more than likely, they aren’t going to grasp how the made-up stories on the kid’s house translates to a real-life scenario. If you focus too much on the theory and vagueness of the tool, it will go in one ear and out the other. Training will have been a wasted effort.
2. Focus on Value Added to the User, Not the Software
Software, especially a tool that we use called FileMaker, can do a lot of cool things. However, when training users (especially the first time) on a new tool, it’s important to not overwhelm them with the bells and whistles. Business analysts and tech leads can often get very excited about all the cool functionality and fancy tricks. Chances are the user doesn’t share this excitement.
You must focus on the basics. Help the user know, at a minimum, how this tool will make their job simpler, reduce redundancy, or streamline the processes of their team. By doing this, you will help them see value and accomplish the goal of helping them feel comfortable using the tool. Then in subsequent meetings, if possible and necessary, you can dive deeper into the additional features that could add value for the user(s).
3. Know Your Audience
In every interaction with the user, tailor your message and speech to your audience. Whether speaking to one or two individuals or speaking to a group, connect and resonate with them. Otherwise, your end-user training will be subpar or fail altogether. Do some homework before the training to prepare and train effectively. Consider integrating this tip with all others in this list for user training that makes an impact.
4. Build Great Relationships
The business of software begins and ends with people. Focus on your relationships with the users. Without people, the technology wouldn’t exist. Actively listen to your users in all of your interactions with them. You might discover a new feature opportunity.
Plus, by connecting with your users, they will be more apt to listen to you and not so easily get stuck by bugs or issues with the software. Ensure them that they will be supported by a human when troubles arise. Without that support, it will be easy for the user to abandon the tool altogether or get very limited value because they don’t know and/or trust who to reach out to when an issue arises.
5. Find a Super User and/or Champion
This tip works better when implementing a new tool but works well for a mature applications too. Super users are folks at a site or within a team who believe in and “get” the tool. They can help troubleshoot a lot of the quirks and minor issues of the tool.
They often share value with others and make your job a lot easier. With the help of super users, you’ll most likely discover great enhancement features that could add even more value to other users.
Super users can also help provide end-user training in the future when new people are hired. It’s easier to train 10 super users and maintain relationships with them than it is to individually train an additional 50 or 100+ users across the organization.
6. Diversify Your Documentation
Training can sometimes be as simple as a Word or PowerPoint document. Videos are another great way to help others learn or remember how a tool works and operates. Remembering the tip above of knowing your audience. Tailor the documentation to their needs. Be willing and able to adapt. That will further articulate to the users that you are there to help, and they have what is needed to sufficiently learn the tool.
7. Be Intentional
Training can be an afterthought to some. Don’t let it be. Don’t just check a box. That wastes time, money, and resources. Plan for what the training should accomplish and then execute on that plan. Are you trying to train super users? Are you seeking to educate people where the tool exists and if they can use it if they see fit? Or should training be on an individual basis because that is truly what it takes to effectively train someone? By being realistic and intentional in the efforts of your end-user training, you’ll be way more successful.
With all this being said, you may not have the resources to train users thoroughly and/or effectively. Or you may not have the time. That’s why hiring out training can be a profitable option. You no longer have to staff someone to train, instead paying for it as needed. If you go this route, be sure to have clear and intentional objectives. That’s what we do at Soliant. We not only develop a high-quality solution but also help with training on using the tool when and where needed. Contact our team to learn more about our consulting, development, and training process.