Dos and Don’ts of Successful Software Training for Your Employees

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Sometimes, you need to upgrade the software that your employees are using so that you can improve efficiency or you can provide better service to customers, thereby increasing your profits. Sometimes, you need to train employees on new skills or new procedures, and you use software to assist with that training. Either way, software training plays a big role in the growth of your company, so you need to get it right. Knowing a few dos and don’ts can help you get it right. Here are a few of the top dos and don’ts for when you are training employees on using new software or you are using software to help train your employees:

DO Identify Clear Goals and Outcomes for the Training

How can you expect to get your employees excited about their training or even to feel engaged in the process if they don’t know what the point of it is? Or if they don’t know what they are meant to achieve with the training? You need to identify clear goals and outcomes for your software training so that your employees understand why they are doing what they are doing and believe in it. If they don’t, they will not be engaged in the process, which will make it harder for them to learn what they need to learn, and they may even fight the process. Identifying clear goals and outcomes for your training will also help you to choose the right software and create the right change plan. Everyone on the team needs to know where you are going so they know how to get there.

DON’T Focus on Abstract Concepts or Academic Learning Alone

People learn only so much through study. To truly master concepts, people need the chance to put them into practice. That is especially true for learning and mastering new skills. If your software training involves only classroom or theoretical learning, your employees will not learn the new processes or skills as quickly. They will go through a period of trial and error after the training ends. They will not hit the ground running with new skills. Instead, include a period of hands-on learning in your training schedule. After employees are done with the software training, they need an additional learning period that involves them applying their new skills. That may mean using the new software for low-risk yet real-world transactions, or it may mean putting their skills to work in other low-risk situations. Think of this trial period like a phase during which your employees can use their training wheels before they have to ride alone.

DO Develop Engaging Materials for the Training

You can get more flies with honey than vinegar, and you can engage more employees with interesting and funny training materials that are tailored to their interests than you can with formal, stilted materials that are overly “professional” in nature. Search for software that includes engaging materials, modules, and demonstrations. If you can’t find software that has the perfect set up already, you should develop your own supplemental materials that will make the software training more engaging. That might include companion guidebooks, role-playing games to do alongside the software, fun exercises, and more. Think outside of the box when you are creating your training materials. The more fun, quirky, or interesting they are, the more excited your employees will be about the training and the more engaged they will be with what they are learning.

DON’T Give Employees Too Much to Learn Too Quickly

Sweeping changes can shake things up and lead to big growth, and that can make everyone feel excited. But don’t get lost in that excitement and put too much on your employees too quickly. They will get burnt out and overwhelmed by the process, undermining their ability to learn and lowering their morale. Offer software training in manageable chunks. That might mean teaching them about one software package at a time, parsing out the training in stages, or giving them time to master one skill before moving onto training for a new skill. If you aren’t sure just how much is “too much,” identify employees who can provide feedback throughout the process to help you understand the impact the training will have. Also include surveys and feedback forms regularly throughout the training to hear from the employees themselves.

DO Provide Incentives throughout the Training Process

Sometimes, training can feel like a punishment. Employees are told that it is mandatory, and they are told all about their expectations to learn and perform. Yet little incentive is often provided in return – other than the “incentive” of keeping their jobs. To make employees feel truly engaged in their software training, you should provide incentives throughout the process. You can go big with a bonus or stipend at the completion of the training, or you can offer smaller incentives like certificates of completion or recognition of employees who did especially well during the training or made some contribution. Providing these incentives will get employees excited and will undercut that feeling of “punishment” that a lot of training can carry.

DON’T Make the Training Optional (Or Make It Seem Optional)

Software training should always be required so that you get 100% compliance. However, just saying that the training is required isn’t enough. You have to follow that up with action that shows how important the training is. That means that you cannot cancel training at the last minute or continue pushing it around on the schedule. That will make it seem like you are not putting as much importance on the training as you say you are. You need to establish a consistent schedule for the training, and you need to stick to that schedule. Make sure you consult with employees when creating the schedule so that unforeseen obstacles or conflicts do not derail your schedule or the progress of the training.

DO Provide Testing throughout the Training

Testing can fill some with dread, but it serves a useful purpose. Testing can help students feel more engaged with the material, and it can reinforce the concepts that were learned. Your employees can reap those same benefits if you provide routine testing throughout the software training process. Use small quizzes to cover the most recent material, and end the training with a final exam (which can also double as a certifying exam). Recognize employees who perform the best on the quizzes and tests to provide incentives and boost morale.

Manage Your Training with the Right Change Software

Any time you are introducing software training for your employees, you are engaged in a change process. Formalizing that process with a change management plan can keep your training on progress and help you meet your goals.
Jason is the Lead Author & Editor of TrainingStation Blog. Jason established the Training Station blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to training, learning and development.