Coaxing and Coaching: Software Training Best Practices for Employees

Coaxing and Coaching: Software Training Best Practices for Employees

The key to making new software rollouts successful is good training.

For a construction executive, the reasoning behind purchasing new software—improved productivity, streamlined operations, automated processes—seems obvious. However, many employees shudder when company management purchases new software and struggle with questions like: Will this new software replace me? Will it be too complicated for me to ever understand, so I lose my job to someone more tech-savvy? Why do we need to change things when I was happy with the way things were?

The key to making new software rollouts successful is good training. Coaxing and coaching employees toward new tech tools is about more than just using the software well; it’s also about change management, understanding processes as they stand and what will change in each employee’s day-to-day once the software is implemented.

Savvy executives typically purchase the training offered by their software vendor, as they not only know their own software well, but also have experience with hundreds of other companies and what worked for them—or didn’t. With your software vendor’s support, you can set up the software to work best with your business.

Software providers have developed proven processes for training new users. This methodology includes solid prep work, not just putting the software in place. The best software providers partner with new users to improve the relationship between the businesses, making the trainee feel they can reach out to the vendor at any time.

Successful training programs deliver a holistic approach to training that involves mapping all business processes to determine how the software will work within the customer’s business. Software is not “one size fits all,” and the training should not be either. Successful training programs involve all departments affected by the software, such as finance, operations, IT, executives, safety and engineering. The departments need to see how the new software will work in the business, how it affects day-to-day operations and what its benefits are.

Types of Software Training

Software training can be offered at the customer’s location, provided at the vendor site or made available virtually. There are many types of training available from vendors, but this outlines processes that have been proven to support customers’ success long-term:

Implementation Training. This training is typically offered by the vendor, sometimes included in the software price and helps you get started. Onsite implementation of software typically involves several days and includes planning, implementation and post-deployment phases. During the planning stage, customers will work with a training professional to create an assessment of their company and define their implementation scope and requirements, as well as install the new software. The Implementation stage involves reviewing old and creating new processes, performing solution work-throughs, and building integrations with other software that will interact with the new solution, like accounting software. This phase will create action items, define requirements and conduct user testing until the entire software system is up and running. In Post-Deployment, customers receive follow-up calls from Professional Services and continuous education and technical support.

The onsite implementation involves hands-on training where users of the new software will learn and practice using functions of the software specific to their role in the company.

Expansion Training. Another type of software training involves expansions. If your company adds another business unit that will use the new software, this unit will also need to be trained. In addition, if the software is upgraded, some people might want to have training on these new upgrades.

Continuous Training. There is ongoing training where companies may need to brush up on training once a year as they’ve added new employees, or the employees need a refresh on the original training.

Customized Training. Most vendors also offer specific or customized training, which helps train users on features in a specific product.

Additional training can come in the form of virtual learning summits where the vendor will spotlight popular pain points in the industry and how the software can address those issues. The trainers could also point out a particular feature that is underutilized and would help meet specific challenges the business faces.

Holding monthly workshops can help to manage customer training after the implementation is complete. New employees or others who did not take the initial training would be invited to participate in these workshops to learn the latest software.

Safety Training

Safety training is a whole new ballpark. The best vendors will use contractors who are certified safety professionals to deliver the training on safety software. These certified professionals are senior safety officials with decades of industry experience who can go beyond just reviewing a checklist of features of the product. They will actually address the company’s safety culture, working with employees to instill a corporate culture that focuses on safety.

Safety performance is only as good as the company culture. Safety professionals who train others know and understand all the laws and regulations from OSHA and other safety standards. They know how to create an effective safety program built around a safety culture and processes.

Once the software is in place, how do you know that your team will use it? This is where change management enters the picture.

Change Management

Change management is important because it helps your workers gradually accept the changes that will occur because of the new software. Even with a formal change management process, approximately 50 percent of all organizational changes are unsuccessful, so this is something that has to be handled delicately. Critical steps in the change management process include:

  • Preparing the organization for change
  • Crafting a vision and plan for change
  • Implementing the changes
  • Embedding the changes within the company culture
  • Reviewing progress and analyzing results

A Few Pointers

Deliver training that mirrors a company’s real-life business with all its complexities. In other words, provide real-world challenges that the participants can solve using their newfound knowledge and skills.

Don’t try to include too many things in training at once. For many students, complicated technology training can be a nightmare. Use the 80/20 rule, where training is focused on 20 percent of the main functions that employees will use 80 percent of the time. This speeds the training process and provides the greatest usage of the new system.

Keep communications flowing freely with employees so they understand how the new software implementation is going, who is benefiting, and what the overall impact is on the business’ growth and competitive advantages. The more each employee understands how their efforts to change processes affect the business, the more likely they are to invest time and energy into making those changes.

Offer training incentives for employees to encourage them to use the new software. These incentives can range from certificates and plaques to gift cards or cash. Provide a variety of training formats, from online to in-class. Give employees the choice of when to take the training, allowing them to consider their current schedules. Give them plenty of advance notice of when the training must be completed.

Ask for feedback from the trained people by sending out a survey throughout the implementation and training processes to make sure the vendor is on the right track. Then rely on the surveys to guide how the vendor is doing and what they can do better.

Offer virtual or in-person workshops monthly, which can be a forum for advanced users to pick the brain of the vendor engineers and other power users. A vendor may also offer introductory courses that cover all the essentials. For example, a workshop on construction bidding software would cover estimating, bidding, quoting, pricing and reporting.

Ongoing online learning that can be consumed at the employee’s own pace is another option. Giving each employee access to this learning environment will provide them with as-needed refreshers on performing specific actions with the new software.

User’s Group Meetings (UGMs) are another excellent way to provide training. Customers send executives, project managers, fleet managers, and others to a UGM hosted by the vendor. At the conference, attendees are treated to hundreds of classes they can choose based on their interests. UGMs are also an excellent place to network with other users to understand how they use the software. UGMs can include Q&A with developers who will discuss where the product is now and where it is going. Users can provide the vendor team with feedback to help with their software roadmap.

Software training is important. When businesses invest in employee software education, they get a better return on the software they purchase.

This article originally appeared in the February 1, 2022 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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