Whether in a large corporation or a small retail store, implementing a new piece of software can be a daunting task. One of the largest mistakes an organization can make is overlooking the training investment required with new software.SoftwareInsider recently conducted a survey of potential software buyers and asked what the most important buying factor was when choosing a product. Here were the results:
Most buyers focus on the dollar figure, but with “ease of use” at the bottom of their priorities, it’s clear that customers aren’t factoring the cost of training their staff into the equation. In order to save you time, money, and headaches, here are a few best practices for training your staff to use new tools or technologies.
Successful training starts during the software selection process.
It’s no secret that learning is most effective when the student wants to learn the material. This is why when you’re considering your software options, it’s imperative to include your users in the decision making process. They’ll get excited about the benefits of the new application and will be fully on board when training starts.
Let any future users sit in on live demos and give them access to the trials that each vendor offers. Not only will this encourage “buy-in” from the team when you finally select a new system, but it will give you the chance to see which aspects of the software everyone cares most about. For large companies that want to avoid having too many cooks in the kitchen, find “super-user” representatives that will be champions for the software product and also go-to resources for help.
Clearly define your training goals.
If you’re implementing new software, you probably have goals in mind regarding the return on your investment. In order to meet those goals, you should have specific and measurable objectives for what each employee will be able to accomplish with the new product.
For example, when implementing a new POS system, you can set a quota for the number of new entries that your cashiers must add to your customer contact list during each shift. Keep these goals in mind when training starts to ensure the training is appropriate and on-schedule. And remember to set targets that are easily achievable for the team members, but that promote use of the new tool to complete them. At first, your goal should just be to get people using the software, not to turn them off of it by associating it with challenges. Ultimately, if the product you’ve chosen solves the needs of your business and employees well, it should be a breeze to keep them using it once they understand how.
Choose the right audience.
Pay close attention to who you’re inviting to each training and make sure that sessions that people are attending are pertinent to their job. If you’ve clearly defined your training goals from the previous step, it should be easier to decide who belongs where.
For example, if you’re implementing a new accounting program, see to it that you only train people who will actually use it. Rather than having your entire staff go through the training process, you should only invite those who handle your finances and who deal with accounting issues.
Nothing poisons the well for your staff like being forced to attend irrelevant classes. The negativity of “wasted time” regarding training can quickly spread throughout your organization and impact the overall sentiment of the software, and this can be very difficult to undo.
Feedback, feedback, feedback.
And did I mention feedback? Repeating “feedback” is both for emphasis, and to point out the many stages of feedback as well. Every training session and user acceptance test is an opportunity to improve. Formally open up quick, optional, and anonymous communication channels. Users with actual issues will respond and allow you to improve processes while the vendor is still around to make changes.
Feedback shouldn’t stop after implementation. Even though formal training may be over, the learning process continues well beyond the go-live date. Continue to take the pulse of your users (especially ones who struggled through training), and get them the help they need. Internal help sessions and knowledge sharing done shortly after implementation will pay dividends down the road.
Upgrading to a new system can often mean changes in business processes and infrastructure, so you cannot underestimate the importance of making a smooth transition. It may require a significant amount of effort to keep everyone on the same page, but if you chose the right system, it will be worth the effort in the end. Many companies will manage to get by without going through all of these steps, but you can bet your company’s earnings that you, your team, and your customers will be much happier if you take the time to do it right. Remember these 4 steps to ensure your new software implementation is a success:
- Involve the will-be users in the research and buying process to get key feedback and establish “buy-in.”
- Set “usage” goals for your team that will make sure they are interacting with the tool; it is ideal when these goals align with existing business objectives.
- Keep training sessions effective and focused by including the right people.
- Relentlessly seek and address the feedback of your employees who use the tool, especially early on.
About the author: Bryant Chan is a product manager at SoftwareInsider, a leading software comparison site that provides buyers with detailed information on everything from accounting software to point of sale solutions.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.