While there are many change management strategies which will promote adoption of a new product, an effective training program is absolutely critical to help your users develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities to use the new technology. They won’t adopt the change if they don’t know how to adopt the change.
While Learning & Development Professionals spend an entire career honing their craft, there are many in the field of software development and change management who find themselves delivering technical training as one of many duties. For those people, the following are my top five tips to promote adoption through training.
TIP 5: DIRECT INSTRUCTION IS GREAT FOR TECHNICAL TRAINING
Madeline Hunter’s Direct Instruction methodology - while not perfect for all training needs - is really ideal for teaching people to use a new technical system. There are six steps in Direct Instruction: Introduction and Review, Development, Guided Practice, Closure, Independent Practice, and Evaluation. The big picture is, explain the skill, and then model the skill.
Guided Practice and Independent Practice are really important for learners. In guided practice, you watch and assist as learners practice the skill under your guidance. Independent practice is the “homework.” Learners go back to their desk and practice the skill on their own.
TIP 4: ACKNOWLEDGE RISKS & DO SOMETHING ABOUT THEM
Both adopting a changed work process and learning new technical systems involve a risk to personal image which is especially difficult to ask of employees in a workplace setting. We all want to protect our image in front of our coworkers, and asking questions, seeking help, and experimenting with unproven systems all put us at risk. Trainers who are teaching employees how to use a new technical system must work with managers to create an environment in which risk taking for the purpose of learning is rewarded and honored.
Explain to trainees that in a training and learning environment, asking questions, seeking help, and asking for feedback all support learning outcomes. Communicate to trainees clearly that these behaviors will be rewarded and explain to them the process for rewarding them.
In addition to praising this behavior, model it yourself. If you make a mistake or don’t know the answer to a question - ask for help. As a trainer, it’s also appropriate to model curiosity and ask a LOT of questions of your trainees. This has the dual benefit of modeling the desired behavior and drawing them out so they have to speak up.
TIP 3: CREATE JOB AIDES
The best classroom or online training in the world won’t result in trainees retaining 100% of the knowledge, skills, and abilities they need to maximize the use of a new technical system. Job aids such as checklists, worksheets, and templates provide a point of reference and help employees after the training. In technical training, these job aides often take the form of illustrated user documentation. Screenshots, and even GIFs, which illustrate key technical steps, are helpful reference materials for new users.
TIP 2: PROVIDE ACCESS TO EXPERTS & COACHES
Trainees will inevitably have questions after the training, and the good news is [that] the answers don’t all have to come from you!
Help your trainees build a network of experts. Establish and nurture a community of practice. If you’re teaching a class, you’ve got a cohort of new users who have learned together. Create an online forum and facilitate monthly meetings or calls to keep their social learning going. Identify the “power users” of your new technical system and recruit them to mentor others. You can add a badge or icon to their user profiles, or find other ways to honor them for their expertise. Finally, set up clear two-way communication channels between trainees and experts so users can request feedback and receive ongoing coaching as they make iterative improvements.
TIP 1: EVALUATE PERFORMANCE & MAKE COURSE CORRECTIONS
Keep a close eye on trainees during guided practice and watch whether or not they’re struggling. This you plenty of information about whether they can apply the new skills. If you’re training users on a new technical system, you can audit the product of their efforts during independent practice and provide feedback.
Training is one important tool in your change management toolbox and it is important to make sure your training plan is effective. These five tips are a great jumping off point for promoting adoption through training.