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Training Employees for Technology Should Be Performance-Focused

Training is essential for the success of every organization and even every project in an organization. It helps employees gain the skills to do their jobs better, be more comfortable, and increase workplace confidence. That also goes for corporate technical training, whether newly launched software or when major upgrades are made.

The main reason IT launches new systems is to drive better organizational performance. It could be through making it easier for employees to get things done or improving efficiency in a process. But it all boils down to IT having the sole purpose of helping the organization function better.

Unless the company is an IT company providing services to other businesses, IT in an organization offers a supporting role. That means all the technology, procedures, best practices, and other goals lead back to assisting employees in performing their jobs better.

The #1 job of IT is to help the organization run more smoothly by helping employees do their jobs better.

IT does a great job of helping organizations run better in most circumstances. But they can’t do it without a good strategy to train employees. Because IT focuses on helping organizations and employees perform better, training employees to use workplace technology is essential.

Our instructional design consultants and training solutions focus on the most critical aspects of training and performance. This is how we focus more on performance to help technology succeed and drive better performance results in organizations of all sizes.

How To Focus More on Performance

Focusing on performance is about helping employees do their jobs better using technology. That means when a new application is deployed, it’s IT’s job to deliver it and ensure employees know how to use it the best way possible.

The best way to help employees is to focus on performance. It’s all about helping employees do their jobs the fastest and best way possible. Training will be more successful if it focuses on training employees to achieve ideal performance. That’s one reason we think all training should focus on performance objectives rather than learning objectives.

Training Employees For IT Systems Should Focus On Performance

When we wrote about starting every course with nothing, part of our reasoning is that new company technology can be overwhelming. There are a lot of features and ways of getting the same work done. Unfortunately, that’s also overwhelming when learning a new system.

Focusing on performance for technical training is all about focusing on these two things:

  • Show/tell why employees are being given this new system and being asked to do things differently. A great way to do this is to have a champion, such as an executive whom people respect, who sponsored the project promote the change. It doesn’t have to be in great detail or very long. People will only change if there’s a good reason for it and they know the reason.
  • Keep training as simple as possible, which means after you answer why the change is needed, focus on what they need to do to be successful and the best way to get there.

Performance should always be the primary focus but why is just as important to set the stage for training that people pay attention to. If you don’t start with the why, then employees will be asking (or thinking) that throughout the entire training. That means the most critical question isn’t answered initially and diverts attention from learning.

Show/Tell Why the New Technology

You can do this in several different ways, and while it’s typically essential, it’s not always required. If the why is obvious, you don’t need to tell employees why. If it’s not apparent, you should cover why as minimally as possible.

It could be a few points before the training to help people understand, or it may require more background. Here are a few options for how you can show/tell why the new technology is being deployed:

  • A few sentences narrated with visual support.
  • A video message from a prominent leader about why the system is being deployed.
  • A recorded message from a leader with a still image of them.
  • An explainer video about why.

You can use many methods to show/tell why employees are being asked to learn a new system or change how they do things. The best part is that much of the training content can also be used in communications. It’s more effective if messaging is consistent across mediums. It could even be the same content (such as a video) sent via email, available on the intranet, and shown in a custom eLearning course.

It’s all about giving employees context into why they’re being given something new and asked to change how they’ve always done things. While it’s not about overwhelming employees with too much information, making it available is essential.

Just don’t force it, and you get bonus points if you can answer what’s in it for me (WIIFM)

Forcing information on employees won’t make anybody pay attention.

That means you shouldn’t lock down a course timeline, force people to watch all the way through, or anything like that. These tactics create resentment and pushback. Make it available, allow employees to watch, and make it as easy as possible. Other than that, you can’t force learning.

New is not a reason why, and new isn’t always necessarily better. People know this, which is why the message is essential to communicate. That is assuming you have the message and there is a reason beyond being new. If that’s the only reason, the project will likely fail.

With a good case made on why employees should care about new company technology, they also need to know how. That’s not always as easy as it sounds because experts often think more is better. Let’s look at why that’s not the case and why employees should be trained for performance only.

Train To The Essential Performance Points Only

Learning a new way of doing your job or new technology can be a massive undertaking for most. That’s why good training is necessary for IT projects. There’s a big difference between training and good training, though. Employees will be confident and ready for change if the training is good. If not, they could feel lost, overwhelmed, or ill-prepared for change.

Bad or mediocre training doesn’t typically come from not enough information or not covering topics sufficiently, either. Ineffective training comes from too much information more than not enough.

Too much information in training leads to poor results more than not enough information.

Because poor training results often come from too much information, it’s essential to stick to training for performance first and foremost. Every part of a video, job aid, course, or whatever must be what an employee needs to know to do their job successfully with the new technology, not every if, and, or but.

That means nice to know or optional routes to accomplish something are a distraction at best and harmful at worst. With technology, there is often more than one way to do something. Unfortunately, this leads to confusion and information overload. That’s why focusing on the best way to accomplish a job is best.

Similarly, information that is nice to know takes away from the ultimate training goal. The more non-essential information in training, the more it takes away from how practical training is.

If a task is only performed occasionally, it likely won’t be remembered from training. A job aid is better than real-time or self-paced training sessions for occasionally used tasks.

Here’s an excellent example of when it would be best not to train but to use a job aid for performance support. We recently worked on a project where a new time clock system was deployed. Employees used it to clock in/out and request time off, among other tasks.

Employees use the system for clocking in/out nearly daily, which should be trained on. Most employees aren’t regularly requesting time off, though. That means if you complete training on everything they may or may not do periodically in the system, the tasks they do often won’t get as much attention. It becomes only a drop in the bucket of all the content in the training.

It all comes down to nothing being important if everything is important.

The ideal solution would be to train on the regularly performed tasks and then provide performance support for functions performed occasionally or rarely. Train for clocking in/out, and any other routinely performed tasks, then leave the rest up to performance support.

When the focus is on the essentials only, employees will more effectively remember how to perform. For other tasks, they can assist their brain with performance support as long as they know it exists and where to go to find it. Just briefly cover additional resources available.

It always comes down to this: If something in the system doesn’t directly help an employee perform their job better or isn’t necessary for performing their job, then they don’t need to know it. Every nice to know will take away from a need to know.

Every nice to know takes away from the need to know.

That also applies to multiple ways of doing the same task. It’s unnecessary to make every employee an expert. It’s necessary to help them do what they need to do to be successful in their job and nothing more.

If an employee’s job changes and requires more skills, then a different level of training or coaching is necessary.

We have a specific way of working through content and finding only the most essential parts. Check out the one question we use regularly to get the core of training for job performance and helping employees be as effective as possible.

The Most Important Question to Achieve Better Performance with Training

There’s one question we ask regularly when reviewing a system for the first time and as we work through the content. It helps us make actionable, helpful, and relevant training for an employee’s first time using a system.

If they aren’t using it regularly and can forget something in between when they need to use it, it’s often best left to performance support. That means employees can find the assistance they need when they need it.

When you buy a new car, they don’t teach you how to change the oil, air filter, cabin filter, or everything you need to know about a vehicle. They show you the basics (if that) and leave the rest up to either searching for performance support or having someone else do it.

When I need to change the cabin air filter in my car, I go to the ultimate performance support resource, YouTube. Employees can be trusted to do the same thing as long as they know the support is available. An excellent way to let them know where to get additional training resources is both in a training session and communications.

Every part of analysis and design should focus on one crucial question: this.

What do employees need to do to be successful?

This is the one question we ask when designing training, sometimes even for each piece of content. We may phrase the question differently, such as “Is this something employees need to know to be successful?” or some variation.

Each learning objective we write often relates to what employees must do to be successful. That isn’t always 100% true, but for the most part, we do stick to actionable performance-based objectives.

Here are a few other questions we often ask during a project’s analysis and design phase to keep training focused on what employees need to do rather than things an expert thinks someone should know.

  • Can employees be successful using the system effectively without knowing this?
  • How often do employees use this feature/task? Is it daily, weekly, occasionally, or rarely?

Sometimes, the answers we arrive at mean the content must be trained on. If a topic helps employees effectively and efficiently use company systems, then it’s best to train on it.

This is a highly effective method of keeping content focused and to the essentials only. The more focused training is on the essentials, the more effectively employees will learn those essentials. That means more success for the system and more satisfaction from employees.

If we still end up with too much information for a training session that’s more than 30 minutes, then we can figure out a way to break it up into initial essentials to essentials that can be taught later. People can only effectively learn so much at a time and then apply it effectively.

Training will be more valuable and effective by asking essential questions about performance and linking every topic back to performance. It will save employees time, help them do the job better in the new system, and make them happier.

Everybody appreciates not having their time wasted and feeling overwhelmed to boot.

Wrap Up

It is essential to train employees when launching company technology or making system improvements that change how employees use it. However, not all training is created equal, especially for corporate training.

Every technology has a lot of important information that could be learned. There are often pages upon pages of information in user guides (which are horrible resources for training) as well as untapped knowledge from experts.

But not everyone needs to be an expert to that level. User guides are helpful for those who need to become an expert. Still, most employees are focused only on performing their jobs effectively and how company technology allows them to do that.

That’s why it’s essential to train employees to achieve ideal performance. It’s perfect to tell/show employees why they’re being asked to do things differently than how they need to do them. However, when shown how to use the new system, it needs to focus on performance and what employees need to do rather than what they could know.

That will help training become focused on removing unnecessary content or offer content as performance support when not needed immediately or often. Training will be more effective and performance-focused when you concentrate on asking questions phrased for performance.

If you have an IT project coming up with new technology launching in your organization, we’d love to discuss working with you and helping your employees be more successful with the new system or changes you’re launching. Schedule a free consultation, and let’s discuss how we can maximize your employee’s workplace performance.

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