Showing your client’s users all the features of a new application will offer them little if any benefit unless you show them how to apply the application to their day-to-day jobs. To minimize a client’s productivity losses due to technological change, target the job activities of the user and compare the new and previous tools to allow users to embrace new technology.

After working with IT representatives from affected businesses to help you learn how the change may affect the jobs of different user groups, you can design training to meet your users’ specific needs. I’ll explain how you can make sure that users will benefit as much as possible from your efforts to familiarize them with new technology with an example of how these tactics were applied during a contract with a Words By Design client.

Second of two parts

The previous article in this two-part series focused on making technological change easier for your clients.

A real-life example
One company we consulted with had a global technology transition involving 90,000 users. We were tasked with creating transition materials for the 50,000 users in North America.

Initially, the corporation supported the transition from Windows for Workgroups 3.11, MSMail, and Office 4.3 to NT, Outlook 98, and Office 97 by supplying computer-based training through the corporate intranet, a series of technology demonstrations at major sites nationwide, and customized end-user manuals. Generic instructor-led mini-sessions for best practices were also held as the software was deployed to various sites. However, the generic training didn’t show users how to apply the tools to their jobs.

We developed and delivered job-specific training to restore and enhance productivity, focusing on how sales reps and administrative assistants would use the software. For example, sales reps were thrilled with Outlook’s link to Expedia in its Contact form because it allowed them to quickly get a map to a contact’saddress. In another instance, a salesrep had an eight-page appendix she would cut and paste into each new proposal she created. We showed her that, with the new application, she could select the eight pages of text and graphics and create an autotext entry titled appendix. Whenever she wanted to insert the eight-page section, she would type appendix and Word would prompt her with an AutoText entry. When it did so, she would add the appendix to her proposal.

Productivity sessions
Instead of delivering productivity training on the dates of deployment, we found it more beneficial to present the training after the end users had had a chance to work with the software long enough so that they had some familiarity with the features. We devised a two-hour training session that focused on the key enhancements provided by the upgrade to NT, Office 97, and Outlook 98.

To publicize the sessions as we toured facilities around the country, we used an internal marketing campaign incorporating posters, e-mails, the intranet, and voice mails, all designed around a humorous theme. The campaign drummed up user interest and helped ensure attendance at the sessions.

In the sessions, we focused on what the new enhancements could do for the users. We highlightedfeatures that may seem obvious to the more technologically savvy but aren’t always considered by other users. For example, many of the users we worked with had never accessed commands by right-clicking on the mouse.

Even the more advanced users benefited from some of the basic mail tips. For example, we showed admins tips on mail management, which was anenormous issue for our client’s admins because they’re limited to 40 MB of storage on their e-mail accounts.

One of the more popular tips washow to use the Rules Wizard in Outlook to automate the sorting of incoming mail, including how to set up rules to automatically place mail from users’ managers into a specific folder. We showed them how to right-click on the Inbox to check the Properties and find out the folder size so they could start thinning it out before they got messages that they were exceeding their file size limit. We also showed them how to share calendars and schedule meetings.

To support users after the sessions, we developed a searchable, database-driven hints and tips application on the corporate intranet that provided a repository of the tips we had taught during the sessions.

After raising the knowledge level of the users and dealing with specific productivity issues, we received several “raving fan” letters from people who had received generic training from a national training provider prior to our sessions. Eventually, productivity became both a buzzword for the client and a part of the division’s name.

Lessons learned

  • Even after using the software for more than a year, without training, end users hadn’t learned the new features and functions that would enable them to do their jobs better.
  • Users won’t automatically use the new features in software—they have to be shown what difference the features will make in their duties.
  • A marketing campaign can drive attendance to learning sessions.
  • It’s better to conduct training based on job-specific tasks than on all the features of the software.
  • Productivity sessions should be conducted at least six weeks (or even a year) after users have received the new software.

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