What’s the greatest challenge facing businesses today? Global competition? Maybe. Cash flow? Perhaps. But still many would argue that their biggest challenge is getting employees to use the technology that they need them to use.
This is because technology is a requirement of any sustainable business operating in the 21st Century. This includes everything from machinery, equipment, and digital interfaces to intricate software programs.
But the thing about technology is that it offers little value unless it is used by people (aka end-users) who are willing and able to leverage technology as a means to be more efficient. But the adoption and use of technology can be quite challenging for employees. And this is where end-user training comes in.
What Is An End-User?
End-users are the ultimate users of any technology or software program. Not the developers or programmers, but the users. You yourself are probably an end-user of programs such as Microsoft Office, iTunes, or Google Drive.
The end-users in your business are your employees. And without sufficient user training and support, employees are unlikely to use new technology correctly or efficiently.
But fortunately, rolling out new technology doesn’t need to be a nightmare. You just need to have your employee training priorities straight.
Why Is End-User Training Important?
We all know that feeling when you open your laptop, only to find that the software you rely on daily needs an update! Not again, you’re thinking. Because every time it updates, it throws you off your rhythm and sets you outside of your comfort zone (again).
Updates like these, together with new programs for performance management, time tracking, project management, CRM, SCM, and any other day-to-day technology is a change in the way employees are used to doing things.
When businesses roll out new technology to dozens or even hundreds of employees at once, a more intense version of this problem is experienced throughout the business.
Worst of all, investing in these software packages is usually not cheap, or frivolous. The business knows what it needs and how this software will be of benefit. But if the same understanding doesn’t filter down to the employees who are the end-users, then the investment is as good as wasted.
But it’s not all bad. Because this is where an end-user training strategy can come in handy and highlight mutual benefits.
The benefits of end-user training
● Employees feel less frustrated and confused because they can use the technology without getting stuck. This allows them to be more productive and efficient in their daily work.
● By seeing the practical benefits in their daily work, there is increased emotional buy-in and understanding of the purpose of the technology.
● Through end-user training, employees feel supported by the business and their resistance toward the new technology is reduced. This results in a more technologically capable user base, which enables the business to meet strategic goals.
● Ultimately, the business experiences improved return on the software investment and a sense of trust in the business’s ability to scale and evolve, while also balancing employee needs and concerns.
So, how do you achieve all these? By knowing your business, your employees, and your goals, and developing an end-user training approach that is sensitive to all of those needs.
End-user Training Best Practices
While end-user training isn’t really a one-size-fits-all approach, there are a few golden guidelines for achieving the best results.
1. Understand your users
First things first. You’ll need to perform a needs analysis to understand who you’re working with. This includes everything from their existing technical competences to their fears about change. Don’t underestimate the impact of apprehension on the process of learning to use new technology.
Also, never assume that all end-users are the same and have the same skills and needs, as the types of end-users fall along multiple spectrums. One example is the frequency or complexity of user needs.
At the one extreme are the very casual users. These are customers or employees who seldom need access to the software, and generally use the same features. Then there are those end-users that are constantly in contact with the software but tend to use the same basic built-in features. Finally, there are the more sophisticated end-users who require access to advanced features. They could even have complex requirements that need an intimate knowledge of the software.
No matter which category your end-users fall into, all end-users need training that covers their particular needs and provides the right amount of support.
2. Communicate clear training goals
As the business knows what it’s expecting from new technology (eg. a boost in efficiency for recording timesheets), make sure that end-users also understand what’s in it for them from using the new software effectively.
Communicating learning objectives at the start of training is a great way to get everyone on the same page. For example, if you’re rolling out a new time logging system, your learning objectives may include “record total daily hours spent against specific tasks in under five minutes” or “record daily hours without errors”. These simple statements communicate the value that both the business and the end-user can expect, and thus the purpose of end-user training.
3. Know your budget and schedule
You need to make sure that training is adequately budgeted for and prioritized as part of the costs of the software rollout. Clear cost limits will help you choose the best training provider for your budget and requirements.
It’s also equally important to know your software rollout schedule. In other words, how long you have to get end-users up to speed before everyone is expected to be comfortable with the new software. A simple update to an HR program may have the luxury of two weeks of training, but if you’re working in a retail environment with new point-of-sale systems, training may need to happen over just a day, followed by regular check-ins with end-users.
Finally, don’t forget about end-user support after the initial training is complete. Not every user is going to have the same needs after rollout, so you’ll want to use a training provider that offers continued support.
4. Encourage end-user feedback
Invite employee end-users to provide feedback about their experience of the new technology and the end-user training.
Do they feel comfortable using the new technology? Did they find the training useful and convenient? What could have been done differently to improve the end-user experience?
An open dialogue makes employees feel heard and reduces negative sentiment around change. Feedback is also critical for highlighting areas for improvement for the next time a new technology is implemented.
eLearning for End-users
When choosing an approach to training end-users, it’s often less effective to use exclusively face-to-face methods (eg. seminars and workshops). Learning takes place more naturally when you train employees on software through software, while maintaining a human element through communication and support.
Given that end-users are also busy employees, the best format for training to go for is one that lets users access at their own pace. Flexibility and convenience is key to getting all users engaged in training, especially when large numbers of users need to be trained within a short time period. This is where a high-quality LMS and online content can make or break an end-user training strategy.
When choosing an LMS for training end-users on new software, consider the types of end-users in the organization, and which features would benefit them. For example, a system that provides discussion forum capabilities will both encourage open feedback and allow users to help each other with questions when needed.
Don’t Leave End-users to The End
New software is no small spend. So, if your business is considering implementing a new software system, start with the end in mind. Consider your employees and the end-user training approach that will make this change smooth for them, and profitable for business. And if you’re thinking about an eLearning option to end-user training, make sure to find the LMS that will offer the best features and support for your needs.