How To Boost Software Adoption With More Engaging Training

5 Steps to Boost Software Adoption Through Engaging Training

  • Show Empathy
  • Explain the “Why”
  • Get Their Hands Dirty
  • Cater to Different Levels of Knowledge
  • Get Feedback and Iterate

Purple Gradient Dividing Line

Change can be uncomfortable for most people. It’s often seen as a threat to a process that is “good enough.” Although harmless enough at first glance, maintaining the status quo with process that are “good enough” seldom leads to innovation or competitive advantage. To continuously improve efficiency, to increase collaboration, or to solve customers’ most difficult problems, innovative companies are increasingly transforming the way they work with the help of technologies that give them an edge. One of their most common stumbling blocks during this digital transformation is to get team members to fully engage with and adopt the new tools.

To make the most of their investment in technology, companies rely on Software or Application Trainers to champion this change. These champions are key to successful adoption, but they’re also the first people to face resistance to change. To help them be their best, my team at Sensei Labs will often support trainers and help them to deliver engaging content, that’s easily digestible, while priming their team members to be ready to learn.

Here’s what’s worked well for us in the past:

5 Steps to Engaging Training

While these aren’t meant to be the only ways to engage people who are learning a new software, here are five ways to make your training sessions more productive, whether you’re training one or 100 people.

1. Show Empathy

It’s natural for changes to rules, processes, or tools in the workplace to be met with frustration, and even push-back. Team members are asked to adapt to changes that can sometimes be seen as being forced on them, with little time to orient themselves or voice their opinions. Particularly when introducing a new software, team members often need to learn a new way of working that integrates the new software into their existing processes, or develop entirely new processes from scratch, which can be seen as an obstacle rather than a benefit.

Since Trainers are often the first people to introduce the change to team members, they can be met with questions, objections, or resistance to learning and adopting the new software. The best way to defuse the tension and to get everyone in the same mindset is by showing them empathy and support. Show that you are there to guide and make learning easier for them.

When we first rolled out the new Task Dashboard to the whole organization, we received some push back and reluctance to adopt this new feature. We had revamped the way we filter tasks, the look and feel of it, and removed some sorting functionality that wasn’t as user-friendly. But to the people who used that filter and sorting functionalities everyday, it was frustrating that they had to adjust to the new tool. To overcome this, I met with the users to give them a chance to express their frustrations. We had an open discussion and I was able to show them how to get the result they wanted by using the new interface. Since then, our team members have been using the new Task Dashboard interface to manage their daily tasks and loving it!

2. Explain the “Why”

Often training sessions focus solely on the “How” and not much on the “Why.” This means students often perceive the answer to “Why” to be “Because you’re being told to” which doesn’t exactly encourage enthusiasm for the material. The best way for Trainers to encourage their learners to use a new feature voluntarily is by showing them the value they will reap by it. With a clear “Why” complementing every “How,” team members will feel more connected to the outcome and more driven to learn.

Back in February last year, we rolled out a new Resource Scheduling Tool that allows Project Managers to book resources ahead of time. This new tool is an upgrade from the previous version but the adoption was slow because team members were used to the old version and were reluctant to move to the new one. Part of the hesitation in adopting the new tool was that it didn’t have the exact same layout and functionality as the old tool.

To overcome this, I began the training session by addressing why a new Resource Scheduling Tool was needed, what issues we’d seen our team members were having with the old tool and how we had solved those issues in the new tool. Then I introduced all the time-saving functionalities that we’d built in such as: saving your last view so you don’t have to reconfigure in the future, simplified forms to create bookings, faster loading time, automatic project access to team members when a task is included in the booking, and so on.

Once our Project Managers heard of all the time-saving benefits, they were more inclined to try it out and two weeks later, the new tool was so well adopted that we were able to remove the old tool completely!

3. Get Their Hands Dirty

The best way to learn how to swim is by getting in the water. The same analogy applies when learning a new application. Listening to a Trainer presenting slides of information to a room full of participants without getting anyone involved is a surefire way to kill engagement and interest in the new application.

To counterbalance this, build interactive moments throughout the session. Encourage students to experiment and make mistakes as a way to learn and explore the software. After they have seen and done the basics themselves, Trainers can give documentation on the new topic covered and let them practice on their own.

At Sensei Labs, we use Academy, the lightweight learning management system built into SenseiOS®. Through Academy, anyone at Sensei Labs can become a Content Creator and craft their own courses and help articles. Academy holds all the related assets ranging from PDF, slides, videos, links, and many others and lets content be arranged into short FAQs, Assessments, Courses, and multi-course Specializations. Once participants complete their assigned training, they can earn badge that shows up on their profile page.

Team Member Profile in SenseiOS showing badges for Academy and Giving, contact info, and Connect social feed.

4. Cater to Different Levels of Knowledge

One area that’s often overlooked in application training is curating the content to different levels of knowledge that the learners might have. It’s easy to assume that all team members have the same knowledge when it comes to a new piece of software, but training content will be more relevant when we know a little bit more about who our target audience is.

Whether levels are needed might not be obvious at first. To help identify if levels are needed, Trainers can try a few options:

  • Go over the basics of a new application and assess levels from there.
  • If it seems like the basic material is new to some learners, but familiar to others, then it might be best to hold separate sessions.
  • Or better yet, ask participants to self-select which sessions they think would be most relevant to them.

Back in April, we rolled out a new File Management system in SenseiOS. This tool serves as a central place to store and locate project files. Team members can upload files directly from their computers or transfer them from their own Google Drive folders into SenseiOS. These files can then be accessed through a Local Area Network drive or through Google Drive interface.

During the roll-out, we found out that some team members weren’t familiar with Google Drive or internal storage systems. Upon realizing this, we knew that we should hold separate sessions to learn Google Drive and Office Storage Systems before introducing File Management System within SenseiOS. As a result, everyone received the right training for their needs and were able to take full advantage of the new tool.

5. Feedback & Iteration

Trainers are always on the lookout for ways to make their training more engaging and drive learning outcomes. The easiest way for Trainers to improve is by listening to what participants have to say post-training session. By building feedback sessions into your training, each new training session becomes an opportunity to improve and enhance your content for the next session.

Ask specific questions about a broad range of topics and give learners open fields to share their thoughts to get the most insights. Consider asking about the quality of the content, the trainers, the format, what went well, and suggestions for improvement. Provide a safe space where learners feel that they are able to give suggestions and comments about the sessions openly. This way, Trainers can always iterate on the things that didn’t work and enhance the parts of the training that learners really loved.

After each training session, to keep the feedback loop going, we message some key members who we know are more vocal and more willing to share their thoughts and feedback and ask them about things that we can improve for next training session or what we can do to help them and their team to adopt the new feature faster. If we end up meeting to discuss improvements, it’s important that we arrive with the mindset of a listener and that we aim to be as open as possible to feedback in both content and flow of the training session.

Final Thoughts

Launching a new software is often met with resistance to change, but by starting from a place of empathy and taking the time to understand where the resistance is coming from, you can ease the transition and stop negativity from spreading and creating roadblocks to adoption. Getting your teams involved with hands-on training and tailored content helps to encourage engagement and interest in the new application, while continuous iteration keeps your training fresh and relevant to your learners.

Keep these steps in mind for your next software or tech rollout and I’m sure you’ll have a successful launch!

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Agita Wijaya

Agita adds humor and a personal touch to everything she does – including her work on Klick’s instance of SenseiOS®, Genome. She is dedicated to continuously improving the platform to alleviate pain points, add value, and create an intuitive experience for everyone who uses it.

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