Effective end-user training can reduce calls for service, improve overall end-user confidence in IT, and enhance the IT department’s image within the organization. Sadly, many people fail to see these benefits and consign the help desk to damage control. This doesn’t have to be the case. In a recent interview, IT manager and TechRepublic contributor Janice Ward shared her experiences creating a very successful end-user training program.
TechRepublic: What was your organization’s end-user training situation prior to the implementation of your program?
Janice: When I started at the university 14 months ago, there was no end-user training in place. I thought this was a total travesty. An organization has an obligation to provide some type of end-user training, whether they send their people out or handle it through their own IT department.
TechRepublic: Why did your organization not have an end-user training program in place? Was there a lack of funding or resources?
Janice: Not really. It was never an issue of funding or a lack of personnel. End-user training just wasn’t getting done. A previous training program had fallen into disarray five or six years before my arrival, and no one had taken it upon themselves to renew end-user training efforts.
TechRepublic: What was your first step in creating your end-user training program?
Janice: I first conducted several “technology seminars.” I avoided using the term “training” because many people had a negative opinion of the previous training program. These seminars allowed us to evaluate the desire for an expanded and permanent training program. During each session, we conducted surveys, asking the attendees if they would like to see the training program continue.
More training information
For more information on end-user and IT staff training, check out these TechRepublic articles by Janice Ward: "Reduce your prep time with customizable courseware" "A Viewlet is worth a thousand words on your help desk’s Web page" "Train your help desk staff without hurting customer service"
TechRepublic: How many users attended your initial technology seminars?
Janice: The response was overwhelming. We originally planned to conduct two 30-person sessions, but demand was so great that we eventually conducted four 30-person sessions and a couple 15-person sessions. Even then, we had a lengthy waiting list.
TechRepublic: Once you had proof of the end user’s desire for a training program, what was your next step?
Janice: Fortunately, I report directly to the university’s CIO, who was very supportive. I took my proposal to him, and with his help, was able to find the necessary resources. Luckily, funds were available because of a salary adjustment for an open position. It was a matter of being in the right place at the right time and using a little creativity.
TechRepublic: Now that your program is up and running, how do you determine which subjects to teach?
Janice: We focus our attention on those classes that receive the highest attendance. MS Excel, Access, and general Internet use are very popular right now.
TechRepublic: If someone asks for a class on a specialized piece of software, are you able to accommodate their request?
Janice: Right now we’ve said no to that. The demand for the general sessions is more than we can actually keep up with. As a personal policy, if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it well. Additional classes would spread our resources too thinly, degrading the quality of overall training.
TechRepublic: How many trainers do you have and how do you determine who teaches each subject?
Janice: Two others and myself teach all the classes. Whoever has expertise in a particular area will take that class.
TechRepublic: What one piece of advice would you give to other IT professionals who want to start their own end-user training program?
Janice: Get the proof you need before trying to sell management on your program. Find a way to do some trial runs and survey the interest. Some people don’t see the value in training, but with a little persistence and proof, you can usually win them over. When pitching my proposal, I actually used several TechRepublic articles to bolster my argument.
It also helps to have your end users voice their support. Each time end users would ask me about training, I directed them to call or e-mail their boss and express their desire for training. I solicited support from anyone and everyone who was willing to help.
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Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.