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How to Train End Users for Maximum Productivity

Imagine: You’re given a brand new, manual transmission Porsche.

The problem is, you’ve always driven automatic cars and don’t have any idea how to drive a stick shift. You’ve heard the advantages of a manual transmission – handles better, is generally less expensive to buy – but those reasons were never compelling enough to learn because (a) no one was handing you a Porsche, and (b) your automatic car gets you where you need to go. Plus, learning how to drive can be scary. What if you hit another car in the process? What if you stall in the middle of traffic? It’s all too much, you don’t want to deal with it, and now you’re wondering if you can just trade in that Porsche for cash.

To many end users, trying to use a new application is just as foreign as trying to drive a manual car for the first time. They have a core set of programs they know and love – so well, in fact, that they often use those programs for unintended purposes because it’s faster for them than trying to learn a new one. Even if that new application would make them more productive once they mastered it.

This is where training comes in. For the most part, if they had proper training, they’d use the appropriate program rather than their workaround, increasing their efficiency and business value. So, how do you train end users for maximum productivity?

Make it personal

Time and time again, we see greater training success when end users understand how a new program, or an update to a program or process, directly affects them. While we can’t expect IT to know every function of every job in the company, you can hone in on different department needs and types of users. For example, your company may have analysts in Sales and Finance who use similar programs like PowerBI. Rather than train their entire teams on PowerBI, work with management to identify those specific users and create a training opportunity targeted to their needs. Similarly, OneNote may play a larger role in a Marketing manager’s day to day than in the HR department.

Create a network of champions to spread your message

While you often exhibit superhero powers, your team is just one group who only has so much time to spend teaching others. Creating and training a core group of “super users,” or champions, will help you expand your powers, have others advocate for the new applications within their own groups, and make sure the programs you’ve deployed are being used throughout the company.

Gamify (and reward) the training experience

Incentivize learning through friendly competition in your office. Create a leaderboard, offer prizes, and make it fun. Who doesn’t want to beat their boss? You’d be surprised how much success you’ll see by attaching prizes to different goals, whether winning is measured by who can make it through the online course (with the highest score) in the fastest time, or who uses a certain program, such as Planner, the most in a single month.

Get executive buy-in

This is vital. As leaders of the company, they are influential and can actively communicate the importance of adopting the new technologies. They should practice what they preach and use various programs in Office 365, like Yammer and Teams, to connect with employees.

Switch up the training styles

Different people learn in different ways. We all know this. Some are visual, some learn by doing (…and there are always the frustrating ones who will ask you the same question over and over until finally something clicks). Some training styles that often have the largest impact include a combination of:

  • One-on-one or small group sessions for a targeted, individual approach. You can address needs or use cases and demonstrate direct impact on their jobs.
  • On-demand learning with guides, training session recordings, and access to a knowledgebase.
  • Office hours, when end users can stop by and ask (non-urgent) questions. Not only will these help to streamline the “drive-bys” your team may experience throughout the day, but it shows that you’re open to facilitate learning and helps build relationships between the IT team and the rest of the company.
  • Instructor-led general sessions. These are great for getting your message out, especially at launch, but they often need to be used in conjunction with other training methods since they may be too broad to have a lasting impact.
  • Weekly “lunch and learns” where a certain topic or goal can be highlighted in a casual environment.

You may be thinking, I don’t have time to set up and manage all of these trainings, and you’re probably right.  That’s why creating a champions program and getting leadership on board will make a significant difference in fostering a company culture that supports the adoption of new technologies.

Track usage and program adoption

Delivering a handful of training sessions and then hoping for the best will only serve to increase the amount of support tickets your team receives. End users need to be trained in order to be self-sufficient. And to see full ROI on your Office 365 purchase, you need to make sure that applications are actually being used.

It’s also important to understand that training is an ongoing initiative. With cloud-based applications, new programs are constantly in the works and updates are frequently rolled out. Gaining visibility into which of your users, teams and departments are using which programs (and which are being ignored) helps you to develop a winning training program.

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