Why ‘helping’ beats ‘training’ when it comes to IT adoption

Imagine you were teaching a kindergarten child how to write. Would you start the lesson with a lecture on the history of writing, a talk on grammatical structures and a discourse on linguistics? Of course not! You would start with a simple walk through, guiding them to use pencils to form shapes and gradually building up their abilities.

When it comes to corporate IT adoption, most businesses use the first method described above. They start with fairly abstract notions, then expect people to remember these and apply them when the time comes. This is what we call the ‘training’ methods. It’s about "transferring knowledge to an end-user".

However, for many types of technology learning, it just doesn’t work. And that’s why we advocate ‘helping’, by which we mean “guiding an end-user through steps while completing a task". This is much more like the supportive approach to teaching a child to write.

Helping works better than training because it is about learning on the job. It is practical, useful, and enters people’s ‘muscle memory’, becoming something they no longer even have to think about.

If you have invested in business technology, you need your staff to adopt it to achieve real ROI. Helping them, rather than training them makes it much more likely that your business technology will ‘pay for itself’.

Problems with traditional tech training

Training is the default approach to encourage employees to adopt a business technology platform. In the best case, they will receive the training in a classroom setting and be given practical tasks by the tutor. But, more often they are simply left to their own devices, trying to figure out how the tech works and looking up information online.

In either case, training is ineffective for these two key reasons:

  • Training sessions usually involve the acquisition of knowledge, then an opportunity to put that theory into practice with some simple tasks. However, they will not immediately put that knowledge into practice in their real jobs. To remember how to do it, they have to look through their notes, trying to find out what they’re supposed to do.
  • Studies show the information covered in training sessions is forgotten incredibly quickly – most has evaporated within 2 days. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that knowledge retention suffers when the things we learn are not put into practice right away.

Because most end users naturally forget their (often expensive) training, the IT support team ends up having most of their time consumed by helping end-users with “how-to” inquiries instead of spending time fixing actual problems.

Of course, training end-users can help in some instances – especially when it comes to learning abstract concepts or theories which apply to their work. However, when it comes to business technology, people need help with practical tasks and using their tools effectively. And it is helping end-users that has proven to achieve organic and sustainable growth of both the number of end-users and the depth of usage of the platforms. Here is why.

The major advantages of helping end-users

With traditional training, there is a time gap between acquisition of knowledge and application of that knowledge. On the other hand, there is no such gap with helping. If help is at hand whenever someone is at the moment of need, they can quickly complete the task and keep going.

Benefits of helping include:

  • The information enters their muscle memory immediately. After completing a task themselves a couple of times, they no longer need to think about it – they just know how to next time the problem arises.
  • It is much less frustrating to resolve problems this way than it is to have to dig through classroom notes are call up the IT support desk.
  • People also feel empowered – they can grow in confidence using technology, rather than continually encountering barriers.

But how do you provide this ‘always on’ helping hand? It would of course be very expensive to dedicate an IT team to the task of help and support for the end-users whenever they need it. It would be laborious, impractical, and the result an unmanageable burden on the IT team. If every end-user needed help at the moment of need, you would require hundreds of IT support personnel continually on hand!

So, this takes us back to the beginning – perhaps it’s best to just offer training and leave people to work things out on their own? Not necessarily.

Automating help

Clearly, helping users works better than training. But, manually providing this help would not be sustainable. And this is where contextual microlearning comes in.

Contextual microlearning systems are able to provide the help that your employees need automatically. Whether it’s writing equations, choosing the correct permissions for a SharePoint document or setting up a meeting with an app like Microsoft Teams, contextual microlearning systems provide that help in-page when people need it.

This approach is as close as it is possible to having a 24/7 IT support team on hand, always available to provide tips and hints and workarounds.

Forget training your staff to use IT

Training people to use business technology is a waste of your time and theirs. Instead, try to focus on helping them to use business technology at the moment of need. This will give you better results and mean staff feel more empowered too.

Keep reading about contextual microlearning to understand more.

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