Proper Training Feeds User Adoption

Like most 15 year-old boys I had a death wish.

OK, I didn’t really have a death wish, but judging by the risks I regularly took it certainly looked like I did. One particular day three of us decided we were going to use the water ski jump floating on the lake where my grandparents had a cottage. I have no idea why my grandparents thought it was a good idea to let a kid my age take a ski boat without supervision, but I can assure you – I was happy about it.

ski crashMy brother, a friend and I loaded up a pair of skis that looked like they wouldn’t kill us and took to the ramp. If you’ve ever seen this done, you know that you drive the boat close to the ramp at a fairly high rate of speed. The skier increases the speed by pulling against the boat, crossing the wake and launching into the ramp. As you can see, this is clearly not safe for a group of untrained adolescents.

Being the oldest, I thought it best to be the first to attempt the insanity. We had no training in either driving the boat or jumping, but we had plenty of bravado. On my first pass, the oncoming ramp looked like a brick wall. I figured I should lean back. The minute I hit the ramp, I slipped backwards, hit my head, and flew spread eagle over the jump, skis flying every which way and crashing into the water. It hurt, but being 15, I strapped on my skis and braced for more pain.

I crashed in the same manner 3 times before I finally landed on my skis, and it probably took another 7 or 8 times before I finally held onto the rope. It hurt, but I made it.  About that time a lady came running out onto her dock screaming at us. Not in anger, but in terror. She called us over and begged us to stop, claiming that we could actually kill ourselves if we continued. (Being 15 I thought she was the crazy one.) She asked us to come back in a few hours when she and her husband would take us out and train us properly to safely jump.

Learning the proper techniques didn’t initially suit my 15 year-old sensibility, but I can tell you this: it was MUCH easier to jump successfully after the training. Knowing how the boat should be angled to the ramp made a huge difference in the slack left in the rope after the jump, which made it more likely that my shoulders would remain in their sockets for another jump. It was a better experience in every way!

Why Training is Important to User Adoption

Many businesses approach their enterprise software the way I approached the ski jump.”Just jump in and try it!” While there may have been significant training at the front-end of the implementation, as new employees are onboarded or significant changes are made in business processes training often takes a back seat to the tyranny of the urgent.  But, in order to get the most value from your software solution, these steps are critical to ensure user adoption:

  • Understand the business, not just the software
    • How does your business work? What are the deliverables users are responsible to complete? What is the established workflow? Where do users spend most of their time? Only by sitting with users from different areas of the business will you get a realistic understanding of how the software solution should be applied in the real world. Forget about all the “shiny” things the software can do…based on the actual business, gain a clear picture of what the solution must do!
  • Put together a comprehensive training plan
    • From the onboarding of new staff to the training and retraining of established veterans, a plan that includes ongoing training will exponentially increase both efficiency and user adoption. People like to feel like they’re smart, and being clueless about how their key tools work will make them feel stupid. Training will give them the confidence they need to be effective…and happier!
    • The training plan should be based on user and business owner input. Again, what does the business demand from your staff, and how does this solution help them meet those demands? Put together your training with critical business processes in mind, and remember…this training is for human beings! IT speak is not helpful. Using language they understand will allow them to grasp the concepts and feel smarter.
  • If possible, track changes in adoption and effectiveness
    • Executive sponsors want to know why their staff are being taken off the “front lines” for training. Show them how your training plan has helped workers adopt the software and become more efficient and effective. When possible, assemble data that supports user stories that show off a well-trained work force.

There are certainly times when “learn as you go” is an appropriate approach to your business problems….especially in crisis. Still, it’s important to remember that you will have a smarter, happier and more effective workforce when end-users are properly trained and are motivated to adopt the solutions you offer!

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