my world of work and user experiences

April 30, 2022

Organising training is more than delivering the session

Filed under: Adoption — frederique @ 22:54

I am often involved in training that is part of the roll-out of Microsoft 365. And what I notice, especially when I am not involved from the beginning, is that it often is thought that it is just about delivering some training sessions. But you do need to take into account a bit more to make that training effective. You should prepare a training that fits the participants’ needs and situation, invite the participants early and tell them what to expect, publish the content, arrange for follow-up help, make the follow-up clear, and gather information to keep improving. Let us take a closer look.

Prepare a training that fits the participants’ needs and situation

It is would be easy to just offer some standard training. But that will not help the participants, especially if they are new in this domain and not that savvy. You should teach them things that they need to know, in a format that fits with their experiences:

  • Explain scenarios that make sense to them
  • Only discuss apps and features that are available to them.
    This sounds obvious, but recently it turned out that part of my audience was working in Citrix and did not have any of the desktop apps. And another group had not yet been migrated to Exchange Online, so that not only Outlook but also things like the Teams Calendar and the To Do app were not available to them.
  • Set up a demo environment. If you want to show where they can find real information, you take them on a tour in the real environment. But it you want to show how to make any changes, use a playground, where you can demo without risking anything ‘real’. For example, when you want to demonstrate how they can collaborate smartly in teams, set up a playground Team. Put in some example channels and tabs, and some neutral, non-confidential content: documents, announcements, posts linking to documents etc.
  • Make sure the language settings in your demo align with the language that the participants see on their computers.

Invite the participants early and tell them what to expect

When you organise a live training session, whether it will take place on-site or online, you need to make sure the intended participants can be there, with the right expectations.

  • Make sure the people are allowed to spend time on the training. Are their department heads / team leads / bosses on board and do they stimulate or at the very least tolerate the people to participate in the training? Otherwise they won’t be able to make time for it.
  • Invite the participants plenty of time in advance. If you want people to participate in your training, you need to claim a timeslot in their calendars before these are filled with other commitments.
    Send a ‘save the date’ placeholder, if you don’t have all the details yet. But whatever you do, don’t wait too long with the invitation. How long beforehand you need to invite them depends on how busy the people are and how long your session will be, but as a rule of thumb I take at least two weeks.
  • Give a brief agenda: what topics will the training cover and what type of session will it be. Is it an interactive session or more ‘listen only’ with hopefully still some room for questions?
  • Tell them what they need to prepare or bring. Do they need to have some basic knowledge in order to understand the training? Do you want them to fill in a poll or survey beforehand, to help you tailor your session? Do they need their laptops, with its charger? Make sure it is very clear.
  • Link to additional information. The invitation itself should be concise, but some people may want to know more about the context. So include hyperlinks to information about, for example, the programme that is training series is a part of, the information portal about the topics of the training.
  • Provide clear instructions and offer help if your training is online and the participants are unfamiliar with the tooling.

Publish the content

The first thing participants ask, is if the presentation will be made available. Yes, of course. But rather than emailing the materials as an attachment or some other ‘old school’ distribution method, publish them, for example in a SharePoint site that is accessible to everyone who might be interested in it. It works best if you set this up before the training sessions.

  • Set up an information portal or at least an ‘information corner’ contains the relevant information and is easy to find.
  • Publish the slide desk in that central information portal
  • Publish the recording of the session there too, if you do an online training.
  • Publish additional information and a quick reference summary in that same place.

Arrange for follow-up help

After the training session, the participants are supposed to apply what they learned in their work. And usually, they find that they have additional questions once they try to take action by themselves. So they need to be supported and you need to make sure beforehand that they can get that support.

  • Who will be the first contact point for follow-up questions? Maybe the trainer still available, but is always tricky if the contact person is one person rather than a team, as that person may not be there all the time.
  • Engage the keyusers, if you have keyusers who can help their colleagues. I always invite one or more of the keyusers to attend the training. They may already know everything, but then they also know what the others are learning and they may be able to contribute to the discussion, on how to apply the new tools in .
  • Brief the helpdesk. The helpdesk may be the designated first point of contact, but even if the are not: some people will call the helpdesk by default. Make sure the helpdesk knows what is going on, what the answers to frequently asked questions are and who to contact if it gets more complicated.
  • Make sure you monitor the place(s) where people ask questions, if you set up a specific environment for short-term follow-up, like a mailbox, a feedback list or a Hypercare Team. The advantage of a ‘public’ place for questions & answers like a Hypercare Team, is that others can also see these answers. If the Q&A is organised via email or calls, you will be sure to get the same questions over and over again.

Make the follow-up clear

Once you have set up the help materials and processes, you need to make sure that everyone knows where to find them and how they work.

  • Point out where the materials are published at the end of the training. For example, show where they can find the information portal and the materials that belong to this training on it (it is in the navigation menu of the intranet for example?)
  • Tell where they can ask their questions and get help, if they cannot find what they need in those materials: who & how to contact the right people. Is it a channel in a Hypercare Team or a ticket system for the helpdesk where they should enter a form? Show where it is and how it works. Don’t assume that everyone knows this – at least ask if that is the case.
  • Send the hyperlinks and instructions on how to get help after the training. Use a communication channel for this message that reaches the participants. Maybe just send a ‘reply to all’ on the invitation that was sent to them. If you did an online training, you can post this information in the chat at the end of the session. In any case, send these hyperlinks and help contact details the same day or the day after at the latest, so that the training participants have this information at their finger tips as soon as they get started using their new knowledge and hit any snags.
  • Make sure you follow up anything that you promised you would follow up on, like finding out what you did not know during the session

Gather information to keep improving

Especially if you do a series of training sessions you’ll want to know what works well in the training and what you should improve.

  • Take notes of the questions that were asked, things that were hard to understand, what took more time than expected, et cetera. I usually ask a moderator to take these notes.
  • Ask for feedback. Just ask at the end if they have tips or other immediate feedback. Set up a short feedback form (make it anonymous if you fear that they won’t feel free to be honest) and send the hyperlink with the links to the helpmaterials at the end of the session.
  • Check attendance. Even if you don’t need to officially prove how many people you trained, you want to get some sense of the attendance. If only a small fraction of the people invited show up, what is stopping the others? Did you schedule the sessions at the wrong time or too late? Do they not see the relevance of the training? Because they won’t use it anyway or because they already know everything?

So if you plan to organise some serious training, please make sure you prepare and communicate it properly. And that you set up the materials and processes needed to support the training participants, instead of just letting them just fend for themselves afterwards.

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