Are You Evolving Your Team with the Technology?
You probably don't have a 10-year-old computer on your desk, and you certainly don't have a 15-year-old phone. You're probably not reading this on a Netscape browser over dial-up. Your tools have evolved. But what about your team?
If you're like most businesses, you've adopted at least one new technology in the past couple years. Whether that's a cloud solution or Salesforce Lightning, you likely either trained your IT staff to implement the system or hired people. With the system installed and configured, now it's time to train the rest of your team. Those new applications and technologies can bring about higher levels of effectiveness and productivity — but only if your people know how to use them.
Luckily, training, too, is much different than 10, 20, or 30 years ago. Workforce education and development still rely on sound pedagogical practices, competent trainers, and well thought-out content. It can now be delivered as a self-directed, online service with the flexibility to educate your entire workforce, onboard new people, and prepare for any new technology.
As one training manager at Xerox wrote back in 1987, "[Computer-based training] is not a miracle technology, although it can be powerful if implemented correctly." Her evaluation of self-directed training from 30 years ago still resonates in training today's workforce for tomorrow.
Correct implementation of technology starts with training
Training shouldn't be an afterthought, or a last-minute rush at (or after) installation, configuration, or launch. It should be introduced to your workforce ahead of any technology adoption. Training should be figured into the project plan and its costs budgeted.
Everyone who uses the technology should have individualized training to their job role, and that's possible with self-directed, online training. With online training you can assign a course to any number of employees who watch their assigned content, take in-video quizzes to validate that they learned key points, and then take a practice test afterward. All that activity will then be logged and reported to a training manager.
It's like that Xerox training manager said in the 1980s: "You can't just send a bunch of disks out to the field with a cover letter." While the mode of training seems laughable now, the spirit of implementation ultimately remains the same — you need to manage training. Not merely send it out and hope for the best. Technology training is a multi-pronged process that ensures your investments are correctly installed and fully utilized.
For your IT team, they'll need training on installation and configuration. Specialized applications can have many complicated components that must all work in conjunction with one another to be effective. They should also take user training, so they can offer support at launch.
For your frontline staff, they'll need user training. By training, we actually mean education about the business implications for the technology, not just a tour through the application. At the same time, user training shouldn't be too deep in the weeds. Every employee doesn't need to understand every single component within an application or a suite of programs.
In some ways, the "correct implementation" of technology meant something different in 1987 than it does now. In other ways, it has remained exactly the same.
Evolving your leadership with training
Necessity often brings a new technology to your workplace — whether that's a necessity for efficiency, productivity, or security. However, enthusiasm coupled with lack of deep technical knowledge gets in the way of its success. These are also contributing factors to the classic over-promise of a technology on operations. To avoid over-promising and under-delivering, IT teams should start training the people making decisions as early as possible in the process.
For instance, let's say you're moving an application to AWS. We don't expect the ultimate decision maker to watch a 3-hour AWS Technical Essential course (and take all the in-video quizzes). Similarly, we don't expect support staff to earn their AWS Solutions Architect certification. That doesn't make sense. But the people pitching to that decision maker should. Learning how to communicate about the technology solves one non-technical challenge of implementing technical solutions.
The IT team must be in honest, constant communication with decision makers whenever new services, products, or procedures will be introduced. This helps to avoid assumptions on the part of management and lets you convey clear and precise facts about the state of your environment so that any ambiguity is cut out, altogether.
You still need to train your remote workforce
In 2016, 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely, according to a Gallup survey of more than 15,000 adults. The entirely remote workforce grew by 8 percent between 2012 and 2016 — with no signs of slowing.
This creates two problems for both the remote and on-site workforce: collaboration and training. If you already have the capability for remote work, then you should train your entire staff on how to effectively use your solution. In a major shift, remote workers are increasingly feeling more connected to their on-site counterparts thanks to collaboration software like Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Google Hangouts.
Onboarding your remote employees with self-directed, online training provides them with a solid introduction to the most important tool they'll use in their remote office every day. Online training is the realistic solution to educating the employees you can't get your hands on. Similarly, on-site employees should not only be provided with the collaboration suite but also should be trained on how to use it, preferably with the same training. When everyone receives decentralized and standardized training, you've set realistic expectations for using that tool — and are supporting a collaborative culture.
Remote work was not necessarily a concern in 1987. In fact, the Xerox training manager was more concerned about active resistance for computers themselves. Things have changed. We aren't fighting the battle over whether or not to use computers. We are fighting the battle over device flexibility and how to conduct business on multiple devices for an increasingly nomadic workforce.
Effectively using IT to evolve your team means adopting new technologies and also the proper training methods and techniques. Learning how to effectively manage the members of your team will take practice and perseverance, especially where innovative solutions need to be found.