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Software Training Focused on the Work, Not the Tool

— by Bill Cushard


Much of my training career has been about designing and delivering training on new software implementations. These software implementations included financial software, CRMs, and many internally developed tools designed to help people do their jobs in organizations. Most of what I did was teach people how to use the tool. You know, click here, enter data there, save that before you move on to the next task. Particularly in new software implementations, I mostly taught the mechanics of using the tool and not so much about how to do the job.

Which Came First, the Software or the Work?

The assumption I made was that people already do their job, they just need help on how to use this new tool. It worked out fine much of the time. But not always. So when I saw this article titled, Are Employees Trained By Their Tools, it brought back memories of these software training classes I designed and delivered.

It is an interesting question, “Are Employees Trained by Their Tools?” I think there is some truth to this, especially for people who are both learning a new job and a new tool at the same time. But what about experienced people who are used to doing a job a certain way, and are compelled to begin using a new tool. Then what happens?

Well, we know what happens, many people resist the new tool because it very often changes the way people work. People do not like change so they resist (or reject) the new tool causing some software implementations to fail. Why do you think Change Management is such a big business?

Focus on the Work, Not the Tool

The problem is that we focus on training the tool and not on how people will need to change the way they work. We do not address the underlying change in how people will do their job. I made this mistake many times in my training career.

You probably work for a company that has, is, or will soon introduce new software to a large audience of employees. You have likely been asked to help with the training. You may even be creating some eLearning courses in Mindflash right now on a new software implementation, taking screen shots, screencasts, and creating process and workflow graphics to explain how the software works.

If this is the case, I recommend spending more of your time creating training that teaches people how their work will change, be better, and how they will work differently, as a result of using the new software. By doing this, you will help people learn the functionality of the new software in the context of a new way of working. This will help make a more successful implementation, and it might even make you a hero in your organization.

How to you use Mindflash to deliver software training? Do you focus on the tools or the work or both?

Bill Cushard, authorblogger, and learning experience (LX) designer, is a human performance technologist (HPT) with extensive, in-the-trenches experience building learning organizations in start-up and hyper-growth organizations like E*TRADE, the Knowland Group, and Accenture. You can follow him on Twitter or on Google+.

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