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Are your training efforts actually getting in the way of successful tech adoption?

MSP cloud technology
(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/everything possible)

Customer organizations of every size invest in technology for a simple reason: because they believe that it is going to help improve their businesses. Achieving these positive outcomes, however, relies on successful user adoption. Only when adopted by the majority can tech capabilities score positive business impact.

Watch out, because there are many potential hazards lying in wait that can derail adoption. Here are a few prime examples: 

  • Early-stage buyer evaluation efforts might focus on getting buy-in from the steering committee or the senior executives – but not from key practitioners who will be using the technology daily. 
  • An organization might take a ‘one size fits all’ approach to training, presuming that one specific approach – whether it’s live training, e-learning, or some other modality – works best for all participants rather than presenting an array of options. Pro tip: In 2021, users’ learning needs and preferences could change from moment to moment. It’s best to provide them options if you’re looking to drive adoption. 
  • Perhaps the biggest mistake seen of late is overwhelming users with too much training rather than using purposeful, targeted communications (which – by the way – are much more cost-effective). We each have amazingly powerful, feature-rich, and sophisticated technology on our mobile devices. Can you recall the last time anyone attended mobile phone training? 

These are but a few scenarios where ill-conceived approaches can sink technology adoption before it even gets underway. Volumes could be written about other common mistakes: having a lack of measurable business targets, failing to enlist managers to drive organizational change, and letting IT objectives (instead of business needs) be the catalyst for change. 

The possibilities for low adoption are virtually endless. Given the sheer number of possible missteps around change and adoption, how can enterprises avoid critical errors?

Win over the end-users 

Successful education efforts should start with a focus on winning over the end-users. If the actual end-users aren’t convinced that this product is going to be worth their while to adopt and that it will improve their daily working lives, they're not going to use the technology – regardless of how much someone in IT or the C-suite might like it. They’ll simply continue using what’s worked for them in the past or find a workaround. 

How is the new tech faster, better, or more convenient than what was in place before? How will it provide less stress or greater peace of mind for the end-users? How will it help them do their jobs better every time they use it? Selling the benefits to the end-user is essential and helps to ‘season’ the organization, making professionals more receptive to the training that will follow because they know it will ultimately benefit them. 

Provide your workforce a smorgasbord

It should be no surprise that in an organization comprised of many different individuals, there are many different styles of learning. Certain individuals appreciate being able to interact with an actual human while learning; others prefer to tackle learning on their own. Being able to support a multitude of learning styles is hugely important. Many businesses, however, preordain what type of learning will be available, without even asking their people ‘What style works best for you?’ 

That’s a missed opportunity. There’s an abundance of teaching and learning modalities these days, from full-blown, self-paced e-learning courses, to one-on-one instruction, to helpful videos with quick tips on how to complete certain tasks. organizations should take a smorgasbord approach, where users can consume the learning that makes most sense for them. This training must be delivered in the appropriate dosage, though – more on that below.

Resist the urge to ‘overtrain’ 

The only thing worse than ‘undertraining’ busy professionals on new technology is ‘overtraining’ them. This might seem counterintuitive – how can too much training be a bad thing? As it turns out, there are several ways it can be detrimental. For starters, it usually requires hijacking the better part of someone’s workday, taking them offline for multiple hours. Putting aside the fact that execs are busy enough as it is without losing the bulk of their day to training, the simple truth is that very few people can maintain dedicated focus and attention for that span of time. After 25 minutes, most will be checking their phones and thinking about upcoming obligations. 

Then there’s the fact that different people within an organization have different responsibilities. In a law firm, for instance, the way a litigator works is different from how a contracts lawyer works, and how an IP lawyer works. The key to successful training is to target only those tasks and workflows that help each of these personas perform better within their workflows. One good way to accomplish that is to communicate more, and train less. 

Here’s what that means: In the normal course of talking to your workforce – maybe in a weekly newsletter that already goes out on a regular cadence, or in regularly scheduled meetings that are already on people’s calendars – you can show the capabilities of a platform and how it's going to benefit individuals as well as the organization as a whole. If you provide this level of communication over an extended period of time, it has the same effect as training – all without having to take people away from their workday and hold them captive for hours on end. 

Back to the smartphone example for a moment: Nobody gets ‘trained’ on how to use the latest and greatest model of smartphone that comes out. That’s because the vendors have typically done a very thorough job ahead of time of communicating the latest features to the target audience – so there's very little actual ‘training’ that needs to take place. 

organizations can take a similar approach, instilling a baseline, minimum level of proficiency in their users through communications. From there, they can make the array of different training modalities available to help the various users drill down on the functionality that will be most relevant to their job duties and workflows.

No time for stumbles 

There are many pitfalls that can sink tech adoption efforts in organizations, but in the current hybrid workplace, where technology adoption and new ways of working are critical to business operation, there’s no room for stumbles. The successful adoption of a new cloud-based messaging platform, document management system, time entry solution, or other technology could be the difference between smooth sailing and continual scrambling. 

By winning over the end-users by clearly explaining the benefits of the new technology; providing an array of training options; and then delivering training in the right format, at the right time, in the appropriate dose, organizations can avoid the ‘death by training’ that has long plagued tech initiatives within enterprises, and successfully unlock the benefits that the technology provides.

Brian Jones, Senior Director of Customer Adoption, iManage

Brian Jones is Senior Director of Customer Adoption at iManage where he leads a team focused on the art and science of driving customer success.