Digital adoption – onboarding and training employees on new digital tools – is arguably one of the biggest, and yet understated, challenges for businesses today.
Think about it: organizations constantly adopt new software, while existing software typically has feature and interface updates throughout the year – with the resultant risk of overwhelming even the most tech-savvy among us.
Corporate training sessions designed to help employees start to use new software have been a mainstay at many businesses for years.
But times are changing.
As employee expectations evolve, traditional jobs get replaced, and new technology flourishes, forward-thinking organizations are ditching traditional classroom training in favor of more effective solutions.
At the end of the day, your software users are humans. And if your approach to training doesn’t mesh well with the way humans prefer to learn and work, it will always be an uphill struggle.
Training rises up the corporate agenda
Organizations usually treat traditional training as a ‘tick box’ exercise during the onboarding of new employees or when trying to bring large numbers of employees up to speed simultaneously. The latter usually happens when the organization introduces new systems, software, and processes that large numbers of employees must use.
However, with intensified global competition and a rapidly changing future, HR functions are growing in influence as companies become increasingly aware of their digital skills gaps. They know that, if left too long, a skills gap may soon turn into a skills crisis.
According to Deloitte’s 2021 CEO Survey, attracting and retaining talent – and how to get the best out of employees – remains the top strategic priority for many global business leaders.
This includes digital upskilling and reskilling of existing employees, which many leaders prefer instead of hiring new staff. They argue – quite correctly – that reskilling is critical for sustainable long-term growth and an inclusive future workforce.
The first step in developing a digitally savvy workforce is to ensure employees build a deep understanding of and become fully skilled in the software and other digital technologies they use. This not only has an impact on overall business productivity and output, but it also provides an optimum employee experience.
Unfortunately, many organizations still rely heavily on ‘old school’ teacher-led training methods, an approach that will only be detrimental for them over the long term.
Modern, less resource-intensive, and more practical alternatives are emerging, with many underpinned by automation. Other departments are already digitally transforming – and to get ahead now would serve L&D (learning and development) and HR teams well.
The trouble with traditional training
Historically, software training has been viewed as a one-off experience you complete early on and leverage throughout your career. This dated mindset, together with a combination of other factors, adds to the challenges of traditional training.
First, in a digitizing world, technology changes constantly due to regular release cycles and the continual adoption of new applications. In some instances, budgets are stretched to the limit, with more and more companies questioning whether traditional software training is a sensible investment for HR and L&D functions.
The general feeling is that the budget could yield a better outcome if spent on other critical areas for L&D, including a greater focus on areas like mental health awareness or people management.
Second, the sheer volume of different training materials available to already time-poor employees can be overwhelming. This is an issue because if an individual has a very specific query or challenge, they often have to spend time trawling through huge numbers of documents, slide decks, and videos to find the right answer. In an agile working environment, employees need these answers at their fingertips, with minimal disruption to their ‘flow of work’.
Lastly, with increasingly dispersed workforces, assembling a group of employees in an office for an instructor-led training course is no longer as practical as it once was, especially during the pandemic.
In most cases, individuals benefit more from an assortment of training techniques. Therefore, academics in this field have progressively placed more emphasis on ‘individualized’ learning for quite some time.
A new way to train
In the rush toward technological advancement, it’s easy for organizations to overlook the workforce and focus instead on their new software and digital tools. The reality is that new technology only works well if used correctly, which requires employee buy-in and training.
As mentioned, the effectiveness of software training ultimately depends on the individual’s ability to derive value from it. Still, in general, a good training structure displays the following four characteristics:
Embedded learning – the concept of ‘learning while doing’ rather than ‘learning, then doing’ – involves introducing practical training that employees can apply directly to their daily work. This is much more effective than passive learning, where a lecturer or trainer explains something or shows a demonstration without actively involving the employee.
Embedded learning could be in the form of a practical training course, but you want it to be always available and not just intermittently. If employees can consult reminders or guides privately without admitting to needing help, they’re much more likely to refresh their skills at regular intervals.
One of the best examples of this type of embedded learning is digital adoption platforms (DAPs), which personify in-application training experiences. They provide employees with interactive guides that steer them step-by-step through key processes whenever they need it, as they use the software to complete practical tasks.
Closely associated with embedded learning is personalizing training experiences as far as possible. This isn’t always doable in a traditional training environment, where employees often come from diverse functions and job positions but may use a common piece of software such as a HR or HCM system.
The software trainer may use abstract simulations that employees find difficult to match with situations they face in their daily work. However, today’s technology can bring personalized training into real life.
Therefore, training content should be personalized and embedded (made practical) simultaneously to help the individual strive towards specific objectives. It will also simplify their jobs. In-application training is the ideal vehicle for this, as interactive training content can be tailored to suit particular job roles or work processes.
Not everyone is equally excited or tech-savvy enough to embrace new training, an aspect that traditional training sessions seldom consider. Employees have different skillsets, and a rushed, blanket approach to training may result in unengaged and inefficient workers. The use of software needs to be an empowering experience, not a threatening one.
Consequently, in addition to being embedded and personalized, training should also be inclusive. Give employees the freedom to set the pace at which they learn, especially those that don’t have a natural knack for adopting new technology.
Ultimately, it’s the people behind a digital transformation that will determine its success, so the more people you include, the greater the benefits.
Building a continuous learning culture is perhaps the most important element. Training, especially where complex software and applications come into the reckoning, is rarely a ‘one and done’ exercise.
On-demand access to knowledge and training resources allows employees to set the pace at which they learn and ensure they learn continuously. As mentioned, this isn’t easy to achieve with traditional training sessions as they are prohibitively time-consuming and expensive.
Offering continuous learning opportunities is also critical for digital upskilling or reskilling at regular intervals. This enables businesses to react swiftly to a demand for new roles or requirements while making employees feel more valued and confident to take on new tasks or responsibilities.
The scalability of continuous learning is particularly useful for large enterprises with complex requirements. A continuous learning culture means creating a constant flow of new training resources that will benefit both the organization and its employees. The rewards will be even greater if these resources are centralized or embedded in commonly used software applications via a digital adoption platform.
Time to reimagine training?
Digital adoption has taken a quantum leap to feature prominently on most boardroom agendas. This calls for HR and L&D teams to reimagine their training methods by creating sustainable, inclusive training.