What is the difference between helping users and training users?

If your company is going through a digital adoption process, an obvious priority would be to train users so they understand the software. You would bring in training consultants, run a variety of sessions and get staff to start completing a variety of practical tasks.

This is all fine… but does it actually work?

Research confirms what many already know from experience: training is not all that effective. In fact, almost 90% of all learning is forgotten within a month! What is more, most employees dislike training. It is often irrelevant, takes them away from their real work and feels like a box ticking exercise.

The alternative is to ‘help’ users. Helping is about providing specific support at the moment of need. How is this different to training – and why is it more effective?

What are the limitations of IT training?

For decades, the most common approach to supporting adoption of a new corporate IT system is to provide in-person training sessions. Unfortunately, this has some serious limitations:

  • Relies on memory

Training sessions rely on the user to memorize the things they learned in the class. While taking notes is helpful, this would not always be practical, and so many must simply try and store all the new information in their heads. Unfortunately, relying on memory is problematic. People rarely remember information at the moment of need when trying to complete a task. In fact, study after study has shown that people forget most of what they learn just 48 hours after a training session has ended.

  • Expensive

Another serious drawback of traditional training is cost. The average US company spends over $1,000 on training per employee, per year. This is a serious outlay but would make sense if training was actually effective. However, as noted above, a large proportion of this training will be forgotten and therefore represents money wasted.

  • Never granular enough

There are some kinds of training where classroom sessions are suitable: interpersonal skills, management training or learning new theories. On the other hand, training people to use IT makes no sense. You could never walk people through every single piece of functionality in a platform like SharePoint or Office 365 in one afternoon session!

  • Only relevant to some

Of course, there are some instances where training users with IT is necessary. This is especially true for enthusiastic ‘power users’ and IT departments. These people will benefit from hands-on training where they get to learn the platform inside-out (it also means they can help colleagues later on). However, the vast majority of users will not benefit from this level of training.

How helping beats training

So, how is helping different to training?

Put simply, helping gives every employee the ability to use a software application without having to remember every single process and procedure. In fact, they do not even need to attend a training session. Instead, help is provided whenever they are confused or unsure.

Now, to provide help manually would require having a team of IT help staff continually available to provide tips and guidance. That makes little sense and would be very impractical. But, this is where digital adoption platforms help:

  • Whenever a user is uncertain about how to use a software feature or complete a task, they simply click on a help button
  • An overlay appears on screen with a range of articles, videos and walk-thrus that show the user how to complete various tasks on that page
  • They follow the guidance and implement it right away
  • The user learns on the go and this gradually enters their ‘muscle memory’

So, why is this better than training?

  • Saves time

Employees are no longer required to attend lengthy training sessions to learn to use technology. Instead, it is available at the moment of need in short, bite-sized nuggets.

  • Avoids disruption

Training sessions take time out of people’s days and therefore reduce productivity. At the same time, if they are ever stuck with using software, it can seriously hold up their day.

  • Costs less

A digital adoption platform costs significantly less than lengthy IT training sessions.

  • Remote working friendly

With more people working remotely than ever, in-person training is not appropriate. Helping them with bite sized contextual microlearning allows you to keep training them wherever they are.

  • Creates a culture of continual learning

Most business IT training happens once or twice per year. On the other hand, helping people with contextual microlearning tools means they are constantly learning – and this diffuses throughout your organization’s culture.

Help, don’t train

There is a world of a difference between training users and helping them. In many ways, this is about taking on a totally new mindset. It’s about viewing IT support as a continual activity, rather than a one-time transfer of information. While this may at first seem like a major shift, the benefits of offering help rather than training are huge.

To learn more about what this kind of help looks like, read our blogs on contextual microlearning.

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