Good change management is essential to the success of every project. When new ways of doing things are delivered to employees, they must be able to adjust to those new ways. Change management helps that process by pairing a proven process of helping people through change.
There are no bigger changes in any organization than technology change that affects everyone. Applications are always changing and for processes that haven’t been digitized yet, they likely soon will be. That means employees have to change along with technological progress.
No matter how simple the technology is supposed to be, it’s not that simple for everyone. Most people still aren’t that comfortable with changes in technology.
Does that sound familiar? It should be because most people are perfectly comfortable keeping things the way they are because it’s comfortable. The problem is, you don’t know what could be better until you’re introduced to something better. Then it could seem that something was broken.
Even employees from younger generations who grew up with the internet and fast-paced technology changes aren’t always comfortable with change, especially technology. Some younger employees are but it’s unfair to assume that because someone grew up around technology they understand it and can do anything with it.
No matter someone’s age, some people are more comfortable with technology changes than others. This post will help you understand how change management is essential for technology changes. It also covers how training plays an essential part in the change management process.
Once you’ve read through this information you’ll be prepared to help employees do better work and take advantage of IT department innovations.
The first step is to understand change management for technology so you can have a better understanding of the whole process. That will help you understand how training fits into it all.
Change Management For Technology
Change is inevitable in any organization. That’s because life is a constant journey of constant improvement and innovation. It’s human nature to always want to find a better way. That means new projects and finding out how to improve the things that are already done.
That’s kind of what drives investment in IT; technical enablement so the organization to grow. Yes, part of it may be to keep the servers and systems running, but a lot more is about constant improvement in technology and process. So, where does that put change management for technology?
What Is Change Management For Technology?
Because of IT’s natural tendency to innovate and always look for a different and better way to do things, change management is essential to technology especially. Yes, change management applies to almost every part of an organization, but nowhere is it more important than IT.
First, what is change management in general?
Change management is an enabling framework for managing the people side of change.Prosci’s definition of Change Management
That means when technology is launched, it can’t just be sent out there into the ether and expected to be used. When IT upgrades the time clock system, we don’t just expect people to know about the change and know how to use it, right?
That’s why for every tech innovation there must be a process in place, a change management process that helps people understand and manage change. That often involves a lot of communication and training though some projects could involve more.
Why Change Management Is Important To Technology
I already mentioned a few reasons why change management is important to technology. Without it, how would we know a project was successful?
How would anyone know that software is being launched? And how would anyone know how to use it?
There’s a whole process involved in making sure change is announced, communicated well, and employees are well-trained to know how to properly navigate the changes. Without good change management, no technology would ever have a chance of being successful.
Even without a formal change management process, some change management is happening in how IT interacts with the rest of the organization. The formal process just makes every IT project a lot more successful.
Here are some stats from Prosci’s research about how change management benefits organizations. Prosci is an authority on change management, processes, and research.
- Organizations with a formal change management process are 6 times more likely to achieve project objectives.
- They’re 5 times more likely to stay on or ahead of schedule.
- Two times more likely to stay on or under budget.
Those are some pretty staggering results once you apply them to your project numbers. That means tech projects directly benefit from a formal change management process.
Now you know that change management is made up of process, communication, training, and maybe even more for some projects. You also know why it’s important to technology projects. You can’t isolate a single part of change management and say it’s the most important, but training does play a huge part in it.
Just like you can’t offer training without communication (how else would they know about training?) you also can’t offer communication and expect everyone to adjust to changes.
So, training plays an important role in change management.
The Role Of Training In Change Management For Technology
How do you manage the people side of change? There are a lot of different parts of it. There are frameworks, methods, and steps to take to ensure change is managed successfully. This ensures we can look back and see what was done and how successful the project and changes were.
But, at its core, change management consists of a lot of communication and training.
While communication is important to change management, training might even be the most important part. Communication only covers the surface, such as why and when. Training covers the how which typically goes more in-depth into the actual changes required by people.
Now it’s time to take a deeper look into how training benefits change management for tech and how it improves success.
How Training Benefits Technology Change Management
I would like to think this is obvious but just as it’s not fair to say IT applications are obvious, it’s also not fair to say training is obvious. Since communication can only do so much to tell people about upcoming changes and how they will affect them, training is typically a necessary part of every IT project launch.
Some basic training can be included in communications but it can only go so far. Things like how to log in, request access, and other basic steps of a new change are best left to communication. That’s because they’re simple enough for perhaps a graphic that can go into an email or a simple job aid with a few steps.
But, when it comes to making the change from one way of doing things to another, training is an essential part of making that adjustment and change. When an organization launches new technology, it’s not necessary to make experts out of everyone, but it is necessary to give employees the minimum knowledge they need to use the new software.
When training is done well, by the time employees have to use the new process or technology, they’ll know how to use it effectively for their job. That means they’re not experts but they can do the most essential tasks for their job.
When employees feel like they were allowed to learn new software before being thrown in, the organization will benefit in several different ways.
- Employees feel supported and are not simply thrown into the job without proper support.
- When people feel comfortable in their job and well supported, they’ll be happier.
- People who are trained well will also be more efficient at their job because they’ll know how to do it better using all the tools IT gives them.
- Reducing employee turnover will occur when the job isn’t intimidating and employees don’t feel isolated and unsupported.
That means training has a direct effect on change management and how successful that process is. When change is managed properly for a tech project, training will play a big role in it.
Almost every statistic for how change management benefits an organization applies directly to how training benefits change management and the organization. One of the biggest effects training has on change management is that it will increase the adoption and usage of IT systems.
Training Improves The Success Of Technology & Change Management
Without good training, employees are left to their own devices. That’s inefficient, doesn’t make employees happy, and often leads to using a tool wrong or downright harming the organization. Training will help the success of new technology and the change management process.
Yes, training benefits the impact of change management as well as the actual technology adoption itself. While change management is great at a lot of things, without training the more detailed parts of a project change are lost.
That is, the communications part of change management can help people understand why the change is happening. But, it cannot help people actually use the new changes and adjust to them well if they’re a new system that requires new ways of doing their job.
By training employees on using new tech, training helps the success of change and the technology projects overall.
Of Prosci’s 10 aspects of change impact, training affects most of them including how people learn about new processes, systems, tools, critical behaviors, and more. Sometimes communication is useful but when people need to know some of these changes to effectively do their job, training leads to more success. Communication in the form of emails, intranet notices, or some other simple forms of communication only does so much.
But what’s the best way to train employees for technology change? There are many ways to train people and there are big improvements in how it can be done more effectively. We’re past the days when we had to fly everyone to a huge conference room to train employees better.
For most types of corporate technical training, there are more effective ways of training employees. We’ll look at all the ways of training for technology, though.
Types Of Training For Technology
Not all types of training are created equal.
There are many different ways to train employees and some are more effective than others. Even how effective a certain type of training is isn’t universal. One method may be more effective for one topic whereas another could be more effective for another. It can even change from organization to organization depending on the culture.
That’s the same idea behind learning styles being bogus and counterproductive to training and our growth in general. There is no specific learning style that is best for any one person just like there’s no single best type of training.
Otherwise, I might be a nasal learner because I need to attribute smell to what I’m learning. I don’t need to touch, don’t need to do, I need to smell my way to learning. Just kidding.
There’s no way to prescribe what the best type of training is for every tech project, but I can say there’s one way that’s expected by most (not all) employees and one method that will save more time and money than others. But, even that method is fallible (I’ll get to which one it is) and could be overkill even with more simplistic training doing the job better and cheaper.
Let’s get to the different types of training that could be used for good change management for technology projects.
In-Person Instructor-Led Training
This one is somewhat self-explanatory. Sometimes it’s an interactive event and sometimes it’s simply someone standing at the front of the room with a PowerPoint. Just standing at the front of the room isn’t very productive or effective for training, but it is a training method.
I’ve been to events that are full-day events with salespeople that involve activities, roleplaying, presentations, and more. I’ve also been in events that are in a conference room for 4 hours and bore me to tears. How effective in-person training is depends entirely on the trainer, how well it’s all coordinated, and the length among many other factors.
One fact remains, though. In-person instructor-led training can be expensive and takes people away from their job. If not everyone is in the same building then it involves travel including potentially long flights, days out of the job, and the discomfort of having to stay somewhere unfamiliar.
So, there better be a really strong case for making people go somewhere in person if it’s overly disruptive to their lives. Children have to be left behind, daily routines can get impacted, and they’re all around pretty disruptive and unpleasant.
If in-person training is in the same building, it’s still difficult. You miss content when you have to go to the bathroom and it becomes exceedingly difficult to focus the longer you’re in a conference room doing one activity. Not to mention you’re completely pulled away from your job while in training.
So, even if training is done in the same building it’s not ideal and impacts employees a great deal. It’s what we call synchronous learning in the instructional design field. That’s because everyone is doing it at the same time.
Virtual Instructor-Led Training
This is also a synchronous format of training because you have to log into a virtual room with everyone else and the trainer at a specific time. It’s less disruptive than in person but it’s still mildly disruptive. Usually, they’re shorter, though, which makes the disruption a lot more bearable.
You still have the problem of missing content if you do have to step away for a minute but that’s not as big of an issue. There’s no travel involved which is another bonus unless you like to travel for your job. I suspect most people do not, though, especially if they have a family.
If they do like to travel because they have a family then I’d argue that they need to reevaluate their priorities and their life.
In-person and virtual training are the two main types of synchronous training types. They introduce interesting obstacles to learning and to us don’t fit how technology should be trained. This is the main reason we don’t do either instructor-led or virtual instructor-led training.
Then there are the asynchronous learning types of training which can be done whenever and typically wherever.
Self-Paced Training or Performance Support
This next group is all the asynchronous types of training. They’re there when you need them and can be used anytime you like at your convenience. You can even pause and step away for a few minutes if you’d like. Pretty much all the major education platforms out there such as LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, and Coursera are entirely asynchronous training platforms.
These are my favorite types of training and judging by employee feedback, in almost every type of organization they’re employees’ favorite too. There’s the occasional holdout for in-person training and the thinking that’s the end all be all for the best way to learn. But they’re in the vast minority and with no proof to back it up.
Every survey I’ve reviewed from courses confirms that asynchronous training is the preferred method, especially self-paced courses which are commonly also known as eLearning (however you want to spell it). Let’s get into that one!
No, these aren’t Udemy courses which are typically a big compilation of videos organized together in modules and units. Those are self-paced but they’re not eLearning.
eLearning is typically built into a presentation or simulation format and is more interactive than videos since they’re typically interactive rather than passive. That means you may have to drag and drop, click on stuff, and use your brain to solve problems. A well-designed eLearning course is never for passively consuming content that rolls by on the screen such as what happens with training videos.
While not every project requires an eLearning course, we end up developing a lot of them because they’re extremely effective for corporate IT training. It’s a great solution for developing software simulations that help employees use new software and learn about them in a safe environment.
If you haven’t guessed yet, this is our favorite form of training and judging by employee feedback, often theirs too. It’s quite convenient being able to start it when you want and also pause for a bit when you need. It’s also more effective because of that as well as its highly engaging format. Also, content can be condensed better because there’s often a better process for developing eLearning courses as long as an instructional designer is involved.
Not all training requires an eLearning course, though. There are many times when it’s overkill and wastes a lot of employee time. That’s why there are better options for some training requirements.
Job Aids, Quick Reference Guides, and In-App Help
While job aids and quick reference guides have been around for some time, in-app help hasn’t. But, they’re all on the same side of the coin. Their goal is to accomplish similar things that are small task-based help. Here’s what each of these training types is.
They’re all classified as performance support in one way or another.
- Job Aid: A short document that usually is printed or is a PDF that helps employees accomplish a very specific task rather than multiple tasks. If multiple tasks need to be done, multiple job aids are good to create on each distinct task unless they’re directly related. One such task might be to add alt text to an image in Microsoft Word.
- Quick Reference Guide (QRG): This one is similar to a job aid in that it’s a short and sometimes printable document. It varies because it doesn’t necessarily cover how to perform a task. Rather, it might be a nice way to reference how something works or information that you can reference to do your job better. A cheat sheet in a way. A good example is a QRG that gives you common shortcuts on the computer which we have available in our portfolio.
- In-App Help: This is a new one but rapidly gaining popularity. It could be an overlay in a mobile app that shows you how to use common functionality in an app or it could be a little more in-depth. That is, it could be a full help center that is searchable and then has guides that walk users through specific tasks in the application. This is similar to a job aid but is interactive and all the instruction takes place right in the app. You’ll find most of these implemented with a digital adoption platform (DAP).
Last but not least is training videos. These are growing in popularity rapidly and for good reason.
When you need to change the cabin air filter on your car, where do you go? It used to be that you probably referred to the car user manual. Not anymore! Now YouTube is the most popular place to head when you need to learn how to do something or need a visual walkthrough of how to do something.
That’s why training videos are so popular. YouTube is full of videos that help you do specific tasks. Now, people also expect this same convenience at work. Just like job aids, videos are best when they cover a specific short topic and walk you through that process.
Even though videos are popular, they’re not always the best way to train. One good reason for that is that training videos are completely passive. You just sit there and watch the video and do nothing. Okay, sometimes you are trying to do something while it’s playing (maybe a Photoshop tutorial) but that’s not the easiest thing to do.
Also, training videos can’t provide you with the ability to practice in a simulated environment and do the work while learning. Training videos are amazing for specific tasks and for helping employees in a pinch, though. When used properly they’re an effective way to train conveniently and inexpensively for technology.
How To Choose The Right Training For The Project
There are a lot of things to consider when choosing the right type of training for tech. There are specific requirements such as do employees need to practice and then there are more broad requirements when choosing.
These are some of the most common considerations when choosing the right type of training or even a handful of the right training types for your next technology project. Often no single type is even the best solution, most of the time it takes a mix of training types for effective training and technology change management.
Of course, this is a factor that you need to consider. No company has an endless budget and cost must always be factored into training. You have to keep in mind the hidden costs that are buried in many types of training.
For in-person training, there’s the cost of travel, trainer, lost work time, food, and a lot more costs. For virtual you get lost work time, longer training times, and other costs.
When it comes to eLearning, while it’s a lot cheaper than in-person or virtual training on a large scale, it can be a lot more expensive than job aids and other types of performance support. Self-paced courses are extremely convenient and typically takes half the time as virtual session take. But, for certain types of content, self-paced training isn’t possible.
Then there’s video, it’s cheaper than many training types but as you add up the need for videos on each topic, the cost goes up and they simply aren’t as effective being that they’re passive. There are also many factors such as professional voiceover, animation costs, and more which can add immense costs for complex training videos.
The point is, there’s a lot to consider in a project and the cost of each training type can vary a great deal.
How Much Needs To Be Trained
When new software launches there can be a lot that needs to be trained. Maybe you must make every employee an expert in the software. Or, maybe there’s a bare minimum that needs to be trained to make employees proficient.
There are a lot of considerations as to how much needs to be covered in training. That’s why we always start each eLearning course out with nothing and only add content if it’s proven required for employees to successfully do their job.
Always keep in mind that the more you want to train, the less a person will remember (see below). That means you could very well be shooting yourself in the foot thinking everything is important.
Human Capacity To Remember
Nobody can remember everything and nobody can spend all day in training while remembering it all. If you throw too much at a person then you risk them not learning anything. That means your entire effort and cost could be for nothing.
The cognitive load theory covers this well because we all have a limited capacity to learn. Everybody’s capacity is different, too, so there’s no way to know what your limit is. That means it’s best to stick to less rather than more. Just sticking to the requirements will always help training in the end and providing resources for remembering is also effective.
The last thing you want is to turn employees’ brains to mush with train brain and have them learn nothing. That’s counterproductive and costs a lot of money for no return.
How To Approach Training For IT Project Change Management
Professional instructional designers have an entire process for determining the needs of a project whether technology or anything else. We follow the well-known ADDIE process in our own special way (it’s somewhat unique to everyone since it’s so broad) for creating effective training.
Because every project is unique and training isn’t even always the answer, we start every project from a business and a change management state of mind. That means we’re not fixed on training and it won’t always be the answer to help change management for technology.
Here’s how we do it.
Identify Training Needs
The first step in our process is to identify whether training is the right approach. If training is determined to be a good solution, we’ll figure out to what degree and what the right approach is to training. This step in the process is what’s called needs analysis and is an essential part of training and change management for tech.
This isn’t even the only step of needs analysis, it’s just the highest level because it determines if we move forward with training and how. If training is required, needs analysis will come up in individual training item needs too. That means needs analysis takes place in a self-paced course also. It’s just important to be aware that needs analysis can’t tell you everything about your audience.
This step will also help determine what the exact training needs are. Would in-person training be the most effective or will a short video do for this project? These are all things we will analyze based on the level of change, the complexity of technology, and the specific needs of the organization and employees.
There are a lot of different variables involved in needs analysis but it’s a necessary step to spend a good amount of time on. It could involve business partner discussions, technology reviews, or possibly even interviews with employees if that is possible and within the budget.
Entire books have been written about needs analysis, so there’s no possible way to cover it all here. We’ll write more about our process and specific topics of needs analysis in the future.
Set Goals And Requirements
Every project has goals and requirements that likely relate to business goals and employee performance. I mean, without project goals then what’s the point of even doing the project? With change management for tech, there’s likely an IT goal that relates to the business goal.
So, you can look at it from a training goal that matches the project goal that matches IT goals that match the business goals. Pretty convoluted, right? But, it’s helpful because it makes every project useful, and accountable, and gives something to track for success.
Here’s an illustration to make it a bit clearer how everything connects.
Part of the needs analysis is to learn how the IT project goal and business goal connect. Then, with that information, it’s easier to determine if training is the right solution to meet that business goal. So, by performing needs analysis you’ll likely know what the goal of the training will be since you will know the goal of the project.
Evaluate Training Effectiveness
After the project is complete and the software (hopefully) successfully rolled out, it’s time to evaluate the overall project’s effectiveness. Was it a hit, or was it a flop?
The only way to know if you’re doing a good job and how to improve is to evaluate the training’s effectiveness. You could do this internally only by thinking of lessons learned, having discussions with business partners, and just simply evaluating the outcome of the project.
Or, better yet, you can see how successful the project was from employees’ eyes. This is the most important feedback and evaluation because they’re who you truly serve. It’s not the business partner who is affected by poor training, it’s the employees.
That’s why it’s important to always survey users of the training to find out if it was truly effective. And no, using smile sheets and NPS survey questions is not a good way to survey employees. NPS surveys are great for figuring out if a product or service went well but not training.
Why? Because the most important aspect of training is not whether someone liked it or would recommend it to someone else. Liking it is important but it’s not essential, that’s better left as an auxiliary question or even just left for open feedback.
A good survey for the success of IT project training, or any training for that matter, is whether employees felt they learned what they needed. Of course, they won’t necessarily know if they didn’t, but you can get an overall sentiment as to whether they feel they’re prepared for the launch or not.
There are ways to do more in-depth analysis but the cost of it could very well outweigh the benefit and for new technology, it’s hard without starting with a baseline. That would be things like analyzing performance before training and after. That level of training evaluation is much more difficult and it’s also not guaranteed to tell you anything at all.
After reading this post you should now have a good sense of why training is an essential part of change management for technology. Of the different parts of managing change for IT projects, training, and communication have the two largest effects.
Communication is important for every project, but employees will only be truly prepared with a good strategy for training. For every new piece of technology, training will ensure success and effective change in the organization from adoption to overall project success.
Our specialty is helping organizations make the appropriate change with digital training solutions when new technology is launched. When we analyze new projects, we first decide if training is the answer. After that, we work with you to help employees learn how to use new technology effectively with the right mix of eLearning, performance support, video training, and any other digital training methods that are required.
We’d love to discuss your next IT launch and how we can help your project with our thorough needs analysis, help you set the right training goals and requirements, and help your employees be more successful at their job using new processes and technology correctly.