I have two boys, 12 and 10 years old. They are YouTube fans, and I hear daily accounts of their favourite “YouTubers” videos. I try my best to listen – to embrace the fact that they are still enthusiastically sharing their interests. Truthfully, sometimes I find that I’ve tuned them out. Nodding along as if I’m hearing them but in reality my brain is in some far-away place devoid of YouTube, Fortnite, and scooters (the two things they seem to watch the most about). I try not to let that happen but you can only listen to so many stories about the same topic!
The other day one of them was telling me a story about a video and said “…and then he said something about catching a fish versus teaching them to fish, or whatever…” and I interrupted to clarify and explain the statement and why it’s an important lesson (likely causing the same tune-out’age…karma, amiright?).
Alas, it struck me as the perfect way to start this post, because I’ve used that statement many times over the years when explaining my philosophy when it comes to training.
I believe the statement goes something like this:
Give a person a fish, you feed them for a meal. Teach that person to fish, you feed them for a lifetime.
(There are plenty of variations and differences of where it originated, but many sources point to Moses Maimonides, a medieval Jewish philosopher).
In the context of systems work, some examples might be…
I can run that report for you, or I can teach you how to run it yourself.
I can build that advanced find for you, or I can teach you how to build it yourself.
I can run that manual workflow for you, or I can teach you how to run it yourself.
See where I’m going here?
Training a user how to do something themselves pays dividends to both of you. The user better understands the system, and you are freed from answering (or pointing to resources that answer) the same questions over and over.
Training opens a window to enhanced user adoption (in theory, anyway). It also gives rise to an interesting situation whereby the more a user knows about the system, the deeper into that system they get therefore increasing the complexity of the questions they ask, not necessarily reducing the number of questions they ask. That might be a post in and of itself someday!
There is plenty to think about when considering training for users…
I want to talk about some of the aspects of training that I find particularly influential when putting together and ultimately delivering on a training framework.
The Framework Itself
Remember my post “The Art of Planning”? I can’t even pull of dinner prep without a proper plan. You better believe I find it most helpful to have a training framework crafted. In fact, I find this essential. Like a using a map (app or otherwise!) in a new city – it helps keep track of where we’re going and where we’ve been.
A training framework is simply an outline. It calls out some of the key aspects of what we’re trying to achieve with the concept of training. There are several components and sub-components of an effective framework I’d like to hone in on.
To maintain focus on what I’m trying to accomplish with all training, I find it helpful to reflect on IIEA…
Inform – this is why we train our users. So they are informed about the system, how it works, and most importantly how they themselves benefit from using it.
Instruct – this is what we aspire to do. We want to provide the instruction necessary for the user to have the fundamental understanding of how the system works.
Engage – we want engaged users. We want users that actively use the system for its intended purpose. We also want our users to help drive the system forward. We want their feedback, their insights, their pain points, and their data as they use the system.
Accountability – training is a way to ensure our users are held accountable for their work. It also helps the company/organization be accountable to the actual trends being experienced in our business. And finally, it helps us admins remain accountable by ensuring we’re providing the proper information, instruction and methods to engage the users in the system.
All of this comes together to formulate the Goal of Training – a succinct statement that clearly articulates the intent of the training program.
Other key components include:
Training Methods – an overview of the various types of resources that are created so users understand what they have at their disposal. Examples might be videos, tip sheets, tutorial documents, a knowledge base, or a more formal tool like a learning path.
Location, Location, Location – clearly explaining where resources are found so users don’t have to think too much about where to go to get the material they need.
On-boarding Sequence – this aspect should provide detail on how a new employee should work through the material. This should be an intentional, guided process that helps users understand the system through the eyes of the organization. Sure, someone might have experience with Dynamics 365, but they still need to be supported in how your company uses it.
The onboarding sequence should also include the anticipated time it takes someone to go through the initial review. Of course everyone is different, so consider that when putting a timeframe around it, but don’t leave it wide open (ex: over the course of the next 9 months…). The initial onboarding should be simple, to the point, and provide a holistic but high level overview of how the system is used by the organization.
In my current role I host a 20 minute welcome and overview for new users that helps them understand the core features and navigational elements of our CRM system. This primes them to start a more robust onboarding sequence by putting a face to the voice they’re going to hear in the videos that guide them through. It also gives me a chance to meet new hires which is a great way to start to build a rapport with them.
Glossary of Terms – this is huge but so often (yes, even in my own experience) overlooked. Words can have different meetings. Just think of the word “Status” – there are system definitions, but may also be organizational definitions. A glossary of terms (which may be a document or knowledgebase in and of itself), is important to help users understands things mean.
Training ‘Table of Contents’ – a listing of all content available. This could be broken into topics and sub-topics such as:
- Core entities
- Overview of the ever-present ribbon
- Navigating the system
- Opening Records
If you are using a knowledge base, this might not actually exist within the framework itself, and instead the user is brought from the framework to the knowledge base where all of this is laid out. I’ve used both knowledge base and files (manuals, tutorials, videos, etc.) – personally, I love the order and structure a knowledge base provides. Someone recently suggested OneNote (Thanks, Michael Hauck!), which I’ve yet to use for a training tool but I can absolutely see the value (excellent search, logical and intuitive organization, and ease of editing, to name a few features). I’ll likely be giving this a go in an up-coming project.
The framework is just the beginning – in my next post, I’ll dig into the methods of training and we’ll look at some of the variables that we need to account for when thinking about user training. Things like…
- Structure / Format of training
- Training Methods
- User Aptitude and Learning Styles
- User Ability
And of course, we’ll discuss content itself!
In the meantime, I’d love to hear how you manage your training framework in your organization? Any tips, tricks or considerations you can share? I’ve love to hear them! Comment below or toss it out on social!
Thanks for reading.