How to Avoid Unnecessary Training
When done right, training costs a lot less than you think, and has a bigger positive impact than you think – the key is how to identify and avoid unnecessary training. The right training ensures that the business can deploy new software successfully, and then continue to operate successfully over time. The right training ensures that you can realise that most powerful of objectives: return on investment (ROI). If your users cannot work with it, your new system is a very expensive waste of resources; when training is not done right, it is perceived as expensive and ineffective.
In this blog, I want to explore how training and enablement can help you deliver your processes to your users in the most effective way, while at the same time side-stepping the perception that training is an expensive waste of time and effort.
Context is Queen
At some point in our careers, most of us have attended some training andenjoyed it, but on returning to our day jobs we find we’ve forgotten it all. This is exactly what I mean by unnecessary training.
The course may have been the best course ever run, but if I do not get the chance to apply the newly acquired knowledge fairly quickly, it will soon evaporate. Context is critical. Most training teams will tell you that content is king (and they’re right). I would say: if content is king, context is queen.
Let’s explore a typical project scenario. Say your company has purchased SAP software, and is currently going through an implementation, planning to go live on January 1st. The project team is busily building the system, and plans are being made by the training team for the training rollout. At some point between now and January 1st, we have hundreds or thousands of users to prepare for the changes to come. Training has to be scheduled, resourced, delivered, assessed, updated – all before the go live. Let’s assume you can get all your users trained in December, just before go-live.
Now let’s take a look at one specific group of users in an organisation: your good friends in finance. What will they be doing on January 2nd? I would suggest that, despite your successful go-live, 99% of them will not yet be using the new system. Instead, they will be busy with year close activities on the old system. And this is likely to still be the case on January 3rd and 4th. In fact, most of January is likely to be consumed by routine year-end tasks.
By the time your poor finance team get their hands on the new system, it’s likely to be February. This begs a host of questions:
•How effectively will they have retained the knowledge that was delivered to them in December, if the first chance they get to look at the new system is two months later?
•What will they have been taught? It’s likely to have been day to day activities, month end activities, quarter end activities, and year end activities.
•Does it make sense to train them on all of these tasks during the pre go live period? They may not encounter some of them in the real world for months or more.
What chance is there that they will be able to effectively perform these activities unsupported, based on knowledge they learnt in a course which was one year ago? I would suggest that training these users to perform, for example, year end tasks, before go live would be a waste of time and effort – this is unnecessary training because it is delivered out of context.
So this poses yet another interesting question: how do you handle these exception cases? You still do need to educate users on the full range of transactions we’re going to ask them to use. However, if users are not enabled until the time is right, the training project may well be over before you even get to that point.
Providing Content in Context
Context is not just about timing, although that’s certainly a large part of it. Come back to our year end example above. We might argue that these exceptional tasks, which may be handled very infrequently, don’t need the same provision of training. Context here is not about the timing of a transaction, but about its relevance.
Finally, as information providers we need to think about how our training and documentation is actually going to be used, and importantlyhow the actual practice of the users related to what was intended during the project.
During an implementation project, it is not uncommon that what is implemented, what is tested, what you train your users on and what actually happens in reality do not completely match. In an ideal world there should be consistency between what is tested, trained and delivered. This ensures that your training is relevant to the original process design and lets your users see that there is one version of the truth.
Looking at the importance of context gives us three challenges: timing, relevance and consistency. Our user enablement strategy needs to address all three challenges, by looking at learning as a process which includes the classroom, but doesn’t begin and end there.
Where transactions are infrequently used, e-Reference is as important an idea as eLearning. Appropriately developed and located reference material can help introduce or revise a transaction the user has not encountered for some time. Similarly, not all transactions are best explained in an instructor-led session. Assessing the value risk of each transaction – the combination of the frequency, complexity and business value – helps determine what method of enablement is most useful. Knowledge transfer from a more expert user does have its place in a holistic enablement strategy, and is particularly useful for high value, low complexity, low frequency transactions such as some at month end.
Consistency comes from matching your enablement documentation to the rest of your project. Ideally documentation taken during the project should feed the testing process and the training, and then act as the basis of your business-as-usual documentation (e-reference) to support your users. However, the system might well be changed as a result of the project, testing and so on. The challenge then becomes how to keep these different sets of documents synchronised and up-to-date. There are various tools available which can accelerate the process of building and updating your documentation, including generating different forms of output to address our other context challenges. Standardised content is also available, which can act as a baseline, simplifying and accelerating the adoption even further. A comprehensive learning strategy in place will help you connect all the dots.
Replay our Webinar
We ran an interactive webinar on 11 June, where one of SAP Education’s Learning Architects spoke about these challenges, and provided some practical tips on how you can address them. You can access the recorded webinar here.