Did You Know? There Is a Direct Correlation Between Your Training Investment and Your Return on Technology Investments
The truth is that your business will only benefit from technology if your employees actually (know how to) use it.
Everyone would probably agree that technology has become invaluable in the past few decades. Yet, many organizations report that they’re not receiving as much value from their technology investments as they expected. When assessing “what went wrong,” some are quick to blame the hardware or software (or both). But you can’t forget about the human factor.
Though a specific technology solution could provide many great benefits to your business, your people are the ones who will dictate the return you ultimately receive on your investments (ROI). Not just those responsible for selecting, implementing and maintaining the hardware and software components, either.
What you may not hear as often as you should from a sales representative or a solution architect is that choosing the right technologies and deploying them the right way for your workflows are just the first two steps in your journey to creating a safer, more secure, more efficient and/or more sustainable operation. The only way to cross the finish line is to garner 100% acceptance and adoption of the solution. If even one person refuses to use the technology tools provided – or simply doesn’t understand how to use them and, therefore, abandons them – then you will not be able to receive the full ROI. User adoption is one of the critical stages of your technology modernization journey and the key to faster ROI realization in your target “value zone.”
That is why training your team on how to use the technology they’re being asked (or told) to use is the final – and arguably most important – step to ensuring a successful digital transformation and securing the ROI you expect.
The problem is that this is the step where most companies tend to stumble a bit. (Or a lot.)
Training Your Team to Prioritize Training
Change management is never easy, even if you have an in-house team dedicated exclusively to this effort. Any time you introduce a new technology solution, or even a new feature or capability, you have to go to great lengths to ensure every single employee knows how to use it, even if they aren’t technically the end users. Why?
Those involved in the evaluation or selection of the solution must understand how it can and should work within each business process and workflow.
- IT must be able to manage and troubleshoot the tool.
- Managers must be able to answer staff questions about how to use certain features and applications.
- Trainers must be able to teach employees how to use it, even if they aren’t embedded in front-line operations daily.
- Front-line workers will only benefit from the technology – and the technology will only benefit you – if they remember how to use it after the initial training is complete. If they walk back out onto the floor or into the field and forget what to do, it is very likely they will revert to the “easy way of doing things,” which could very well involve pen and paper.
In other words, training is both an impactful and intense exercise – and necessary if you want to breathe life into your technology investment and your operation.
And like physical exercise, it doesn’t have to be overly complicated to be effective. In fact, the more you can simplify training – for all of your employees – the more likely you are to increase training compliance and technology solution adoption rates. Watch this:
Rethinking the Trainer’s Role
If your organization has a dedicated trainer for new technologies, workflows or process changes, then you might feel as though you’re “covered” in the change management department. But did you know that even the most robust training departments within the largest companies often struggle to execute an effective training program? And, by “effective,” I mean one that results in 100% user adoption of technology solutions and compliance with related processes and procedures.
That’s because your team, though close to your workforce, is still operating from an “outside looking in” position when it comes to the technology implementation and business re-engineering processes. Your employees aren’t the ones who built the solution, and they may be relying on the step-by-step instructions from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to implement it. They typically don’t have the deep domain expertise that the solution provider does. So, it may be hard for them to understand what kind of training mechanisms will be needed to accelerate and achieve user adoption of this solution – and even harder to provide individualized support to end users once the initial group training is complete.
What many of our customers have learned, though, is that bringing in the solution provider to drive training initiatives can instantly skew the odds of a successful business transformation back in their favor.
Whether it’s the (OEM)), software developer or one of their partners leading the charge, you can trust that your solution will be “fully implemented” because they will be able to show your stakeholders how to fully use it. Your internal trainers won’t have to come up with relevant materials on their own or revert to manuals to teach your employees how to use technology solutions that they may or may not fully understand themselves. They can just follow the lead of the learning services experts. This is particularly beneficial for small-to-medium sized businesses (SMB) that may traditionally rely on (very busy) supervisors or front-line staff to train their peers.
That being said, enlisting the help of an expert third-party “learning services” team does not mean that your internal trainers will take a back seat in the change management process. In fact, we recommend that they remain very involved in the development and delivery of training curriculums, as they are your domain experts. They can provide perspective on processes, policies and workflows – all of which have implications on technology training strategies and toolkit design. They will also have the strongest pulse on what’s resonating with employees and what training components may need to improve outcomes.
Plus, it is very rare for a learning services provider to come on board full time. Though there may be an extended service level agreement (SLA) in place that allows for 24/7/365 expert access, your team is going to be the day-to-day, go-to resource for employees. That’s why, here at Zebra, our learning services team focuses on “training the trainer” (or managers and others who may field questions) first and foremost.
In other words: once you reframe the trainer’s role as a collaborative one – with the solution provider delivering the framework for curriculum and complementary support – you’ll find that both your change management team and end users gain a tremendous advantage during solution onboarding.
Things to Remember When Revamping Your Training Toolkit
Deciding how to train your team on new technologies is just as critical as deciding who will do the actual training. In fact, we’re quickly finding out that many front-line workers grasp new business processes and technology solutions faster when they have access to mobile learning platforms and other technology-based training tools.
Ironic? Maybe. But then again, the proliferation of computers and mobile devices in our everyday lives has empowered even tech novices to become “tech experts” in recent years. Perhaps that’s why we’re seeing such a tidal shift in training models.
While classroom-based training used to be the norm, many workers now prefer to learn anything job related in a hands-on, experiential manner. They like when they can go through the motions and apply the technology in real-world scenarios. Plus, many people’s brains just aren’t trained for long, drawn out classroom-style sessions anymore – and our schedules don’t accommodate hour-long, much less day-long, workshops. It’s no secret that healthcare, retail, warehouse, transportation and manufacturing workers don’t stop from the minute they clock in until the minute they clock out given the demands brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many don’t even clock out when they’re supposed to because there’s just too much work to be done. If technology is disruptive in any way, it will be rejected, no matter how beneficial it could be.
Some of the messages we’re hearing loud and clear from your front-line workers are:
- “I’m open to using new tools, but if they don’t work the way they’re supposed to, I’m not going to spend a lot of time troubleshooting. I have customers/patients to tend to. Translation: “If this app isn’t easy to figure out, I’m going to go back to doing things the ‘old’ way.”
- “I don’t have time to spend hours or days in training sessions. Nor do I have the capacity to retain everything I learned after hearing it one time. You’re going to have to show me again how the tool in the real world.” Or, to put it another way: “I lead a busy life in an on-demand world. I crave snackable ‘how to’ content.”
- “It seems like the workflows and technologies we’re being asked to use change every day. I can’t keep up, and these changes are slowing me down.” In situations like this, workers are likely to do one of three things:
- ask someone for help (likely a peer, manager or IT support);
- “wing it” (which could lead to a mistake); and/or
- skip the tech-reliant task all together (which poses a major compliance issue).
In other words, supplementing traditional training mechanisms with short step-by-step “how-to” guides that are easily accessible on a mobile or desktop computing device may be the secret to accelerating user adoption of a new technology, workflow or process. In fact, much of the work that the Zebra Learning Services team now does for customers is centered on this premise.
We frequently develop “video on device” (VOD) content that shows technology end users how to complete simple actions while on the go, such as cleaning the device or changing the battery – things they may not remember how to do after a single mention during introductory training session. We also develop more customized workflow-specific content for our customers that can be delivered via the mobile learning platform or in computer-based training (CBT) module. These include screencasts, animated videos and 3D demos of how to use certain buttons or navigate applications in the context of their roles or current task. We can even geolocate workers’ devices to help them quickly retrieve content that aligns with their current position in a facility (i.e. the stockroom or bathroom.) This reduces the time spent scrolling for guidance and helps ensure they are retrieving the most applicable on-the-job (OTJ) training content for that moment in time.
Offering such training reinforcement tools at “the point of need” also help to boost job satisfaction.
The quality and speed of task execution improves as your workers become more knowledgeable about processes and policies, which is facilitated by the quick-access VOD and mobile learning platform content. It only takes a few seconds to pull up a workflow app to confirm what’s expected of them and then reference the VOD to figure out the steps they need to take in the technology solution to meet those expectations.
What to Expect from a Learning Services Provider (If You Expect a Full ROI for Your Technology Solution)
Once you commit budget for training, the next best step would be to sit down for a “learning advisory workshop.”
Like the inquiry meetings you may have held with the sales or solution engineering teams, the goal of this collaborative discovery session should be to communicate your business transformation goals to the learning services team, identify potential barriers to solution adoption and then define training requirements. This is when you’ll want to closely analyze your workforce in terms of:
- Experience: There will be variable skill sets and a variety of roles impacted by any operational change. In order for your investment to pay off, workers will have to grasp the technology in the context of the task. It can’t just be about which buttons to push. They need to know when to push them and why. But not everyone is going to be tech-savvy, so you’re going to have to figure out how many different levels of information may need to be conveyed to drive adoption.
- Learning preference: Most likely, you’re going to have to incorporate visual, audible and hands-on training options, but you won’t know until you understand your audience. Younger workers may be fine learning entirely online, while older generations may prefer in-person sessions. You’ll also have to consider the need for individual training in some cases, as not everyone learns well in a group.
- Availability: Some workers may not be able to attend a group session during working hours and you’ll have to accommodate shift workers’ varied hours.
Remember: no single training approach is going to work universally for all technologies, and not all end users are going to learn in the same way or at the same pace. Therefore, you can’t teach workers how to use any technology solution – even a seemingly familiar Android handheld mobile computer – in a templatized manner. Everything you do must be tailored to the person and task at hand.
Once this analysis is complete, you can work with both your change management team and the learning services team to determine training resources and assign roles for both short and long-term initiatives. Even though change management and user adoption are the “end game,” neither effort really ever ends. People are going to need remedial training – and they’re going to need training on new features, processes and applications. Business technology solutions are not static, not even the most basic mobility solutions.
Still Not Sure If Learning Services are “Worth the Money?” Remember This…
- Technology investments only pay off if your employees actually use them. But they won’t use them if they don’t know how. That’s why you must add a line item for training resources when you budget for your technology solution. You will be surprised at how quickly everyone becomes comfortable in their roles, confident in their workflow execution, and compliant with processes and policies once they have 24/7/365 support, whether they’re a trainer or end user.
- Training must be continuous and tailored to several different audiences. To be honest, that’s why so many organizations are starting to outsource training to learning services providers. They need 100% of their end users to understand and adopt the technology, and internal teams just don’t have the bandwidth to manage training all day, every day, for the foreseeable future for every solution. A learning services provider can help set up your organization with the training curriculums and on-demand refresher content that makes employees self-sufficient and your technology investments valuable.
Leveraging any number of learning services can take the onus off your trainers to “ensure a successful transformation.” The solution provider assumes more responsibility for driving value and compliance, which means they become fully invested in your investment from day one.
Want to know more about the types of learning services that Zebra offers? Check out this fact sheet. You can also reach our Learning Services team here. We’re always happy to answer any questions you may have or schedule a more in-depth discovery session with your team at your convenience to ensure your workers are able to hit the ground running when new technologies or capabilities are introduced (or when they’re new to your organization).
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