“We have an adoption problem”. I’ve heard these words many times over the years. What they should really be saying is “we have a critical problem – the entire project is failing!”. System adoption is not the only measure of project success, but it’s one of the most important. Retrospectively resolving a system adoption problem can be a huge challenge, and in such instances merely resorting to the original training programme is often not enough.
Successful projects require effective planning, effort, and perseverance, of which training is a key component. Unlike the blockbuster movie, The Matrix, you can’t simply plug people in and upload knowledge. A single training course, a week before go-live, is a ‘Matrix’ approach.
Here are some considerations when formulating a training plan:
Have a strategy
Your training strategy should focus on achieving project success goals, but you also need to quantify success and measure it. What will determine adoption success, how will you know you are on target and how will you establish that it has been achieved in the long-term?
We often create evaluation materials to test the effectiveness of training, but also consider how you monitor adoption. This can be done in several ways. It may be personal – proactively going into the business, observing users and gathering feedback. You can also create reports that analyse system usage statistics, such as print volumes, content creation, email traffic, and system access.
Create measurement tools that focus on your key success factors, and establish benchmarks – for example, for before and after implementation, by department and role. Monitoring such statistics can help you to quantify success, but they can also provide an early warning system for adoption issues.
It’s a process, not an event
The more content you cover in a single training event, the less effective the session is likely to be. Be realistic and take a phased approach, identifying learning objectives for each phase of the project, based on the questions: what do people need to know, and when do they need to know it?
Successful adoption requires several training interventions. What happens before go-live is important, but what follows is the key to adoption. People need proactive training support to minimise any frustration. This needs to evolve to anticipate and mitigate any further adoption risks.
You should also consider how this approach will transfer into your employee induction process, as poorly trained new hires can create an adoption problem over time.
Training needs to be recognised as a key project success factor by those at the highest level within the organisation. Ideally, a senior business stakeholder should be the person who communicates these key messages to the organisation, to help ensure participation in training events.
Don’t make assumptions about how people work, the tasks they perform and how tech-savvy they are. Also, don’t assume a training approach that worked well in the past will be effective today. It’s easy to make generalisations based on outdated views.
There is no standard user or group of users. There may be common themes, but there will be many unknowns. Question your assumptions and spend more time on discovery. Your training and support strategy should be built on up-to-date and accurate foundations.
Know your users
Take the time to understand people’s frustrations, pain-points, and motivations. Understand how they work, and the impact change may have. Understand and promote the benefits the change will deliver, to the business and individuals. Provide solutions in training that reference these factors.
People learn in different ways and have different learning preferences. Training solutions need to flexibly account for these variances. You may deliver formal classroom sessions, but you should also use other formats such as self-service learning (eLearning, videos, reference guides) and more personal solutions such as 1-2-1’s and workshops. The amount of effort required to achieve adoption will not be the same for everyone.
Context is everything
Training should be practical and relevant. When designing training, focus on workflows, real-world scenarios and user stories, rather than features. Learners have a lot to process and providing context can make training much more effective. ‘When’ and ‘why’ is just as important as ‘how’.
Don’t feel you have to train users on software in isolation. People utilise multiple applications in their day-to-day activity, so don’t be afraid to include other tools if they provide valuable context.
Sell value, not buttons
Training is as much about ‘selling the dream’, as transferring knowledge. Sell the benefits of the new solution and training in advance. People need to know why the training is worth their time, and the value that the solution will add to their working day. Create a buzz – if you’re not energised, they’re not going to be either.
Learning outcomes vary, but you can influence user perception. People should leave the training room understanding the benefits change will deliver. I would even consider sacrificing detail, if it has a negative impact on perception. You can work on capability, but it’s much harder to change a negative first impression.
Set people’s expectations
Change can be challenging. People need to understand that it will have an impact, and it might take a bit of time to see the benefits. They also need to know you are here to support them. Promote the full range of available training options and how they will be supported over time. This gives people confidence in the process and helps to minimise resistance to change.
Use professionals and trust them
I love to cook, but you wouldn’t ask me to cater your wedding! So, don’t let a technical consultant, project manager or super user deliver training. They may know the product, but they’re not a trainer and their enthusiasm will not make up for a lack of expertise.
Trust your training professionals.