Your company has just purchased an enterprise software system. The road to get here has been long. It’s been a significant investment for your business. The platform seems to be a perfect fit for your organization. You’ve found a software partner in your industry whom you can trust, and you are optimistic about the new technology. You understand that it will help your business grow, and you know that this decision will yield a strong ROI by saving you time and money and increasing efficiency.
But when you invest in a software solution and not in educational training for the staff that will be using the system, it can be like throwing all these benefits away.
Unlocking the true value of any software your company uses depends on excellent training. And excellent training depends on several things. To realize the full value, it’s essential to understand what makes training effective and how to chart a course that makes your software work just as hard for your business as you do.
Asset management in the joint use industry is unique because it involves multiple stakeholders from electric utilities, telecoms, municipalities, and construction and engineering firms who must all collaborate in order to deliver services and maintain safe, reliable infrastructure. This means that training becomes even more essential to software platforms, as one weak link in a system can have detrimental impacts downstream in the process of completing one job.
Jacquelyn Davis, a Sales Engineer and Trainer for Alden Systems, has trained countless companies on how to use the Alden One platform, an end-to-end asset management system that provides clarity and control through business process automation. Along with Dianne Costello, Alden’s Account Manager and Director of Customer Success, Davis shares insights from working with companies just like yours to ensure that they unlock the full potential of the software. Let’s take a closer look at why training is often overlooked and how it could be the most valuable tool in your toolkit.
Why is Taking the Time to Engage in Training Crucial to Success?
So often it’s simply taken as a given: “Of course, training employees on how to use business software is a good idea.” But have you ever stopped to consider all the reasons that this statement is true?
Quite simply, you’re not getting the most out of any application unless you have a good understanding of it. “When you go to use the application — if you don’t have a strong understanding — you will not get your money’s worth,” Davis says.
It’s long-term thinking versus short-term reward. This correlation has been proven time and time again. So why do some well-meaning companies continue to resist investing in training for their employees? It comes down to mindset. If you view the time it takes for training as simply a matter of lost labor hours, you may want to re-adjust that lens.
Costello likens software training to training for any sport. “If you don’t fully train, you can hurt yourself — lack of training can mean that you won’t know what your responsibilities are, and you won't be utilizing the skillsets you were hired for,” she explains.
There’s also the matter of being a “good corporate citizen.” We logically accept that our actions in society impact others, and most people strive toward being civic-minded. In joint use, where multiple stakeholders must coordinate, forgoing training on a system will most certainly impact others in your company — or even outside of your company — as the uninformed user will inevitably take extra time or use the system in a way that produces error.
With all these reasons in mind, it makes sense that smart leaders don’t even flinch at the thought of educating their workforce.
What Makes Training Work for You?
Even when you grasp how crucial training is for your success, you’ll have to take the next step — putting in the time to make it work. This starts with understanding what makes it effective. As with most any process that involves humans, communication should be top priority in ensuring a smooth process.
Effective Training Starts Before Training Day
Some of the most important aspects of training happen before an employee ever walks through the door. Leadership must model complete buy-in for employees. Management teams should clearly communicate the link between software use and how it helps employees’ jobs become easier, faster, and more accurate. Then, it’s key to make the link between how doing so will ultimately make the company more efficient and profitable. Don’t assume this is a given. Costello explains, “This message needs to go out to the right leadership team: Let’s immerse ourselves and learn how to use this system.”
It's also important to understand that exemplary training results happen only when employees take full advantage of training resources and videos that are delivered prior to a training event. “One-on-one training shouldn't have to start from ground zero,” Davis says.
Individualized Training Works Best
The reason custom training is superior to high-level basic training is that it can be tailored to meet employees’ very specific needs. In fact, in Alden One training sessions, Davis encourages participants to work on their own devices, using their data and implementing workflows that are specific to a job that they are working on. It’s this kind of meaningful work that holds their attention best. “I like to show them the happy path,” Davis says. She’s noticed that it’s best to focus on one way to perform an operation rather than immediately launch into the multiple options available for accomplishing a task. “It’s important to meet the customer where they are,” she says. After training is complete, a good software partner can then begin to nurture customers on using all the bells and whistles built into the platform.
Not only is individualized training key, it’s also an opportunity to deliver a hands-on experience that matters. Costello compares it to learning how to drive. “When they can follow along as we are showing them, they get to do the work.” In other words, when you put employees “behind the wheel,” they are more likely to retain knowledge.
Excellent Training Is Based on a Culture of Curiosity
As with learning any new process, questions will be inevitable. Again, this is where paid training yields a major advantage. When employees can ask questions, they become active, rather than passive, participants in their own learning. This type of experience means that they will more likely feel ownership of the material, which sets them up to engage with the software later. Davis explains that she prefers to design training sessions that accommodate questions the moment they occur: “When it comes to training, interruptions are a good thing.”
Live training allows for the kind of spontaneous questions that might not occur if an employee does not have access to an expert in the moment. “We let them challenge us as trainers and make it interactive,” Costello says. It becomes very clear that problem-solving one-off scenarios that are unique to an employee's workflow help to make training more meaningful, and thus much more likely to be retained.
Take Training to the Next Level
Paying for educational training requires a capital investment. That’s because it goes in depth on how to use the processes people are actually working with, how to capture items, which ones to capture, and how to populate the right fields. But one thing is certain: Lack of training, or inefficient training, will cost you more in the long run.
Of course you want to maximize the ROI on your brand new software purchase, so it’s important to understand that training is not just the first step — it's the only path to doing so. When you work with a trusted software partner, they should offer custom training that is designed to fit your company’s needs. But your company must play a role as well. By understanding the value of training and effectively communicating that to your employees, you’ll help to ensure that your new software purchase delivers everything you’re expecting.
At Alden, we offer customized training for our software, Alden One. Set your workforce up for success by engaging in education. For more information, visit offers.aldensys.com/training or download the brochure here.