For any major business transformation, training is a critical element to organizational readiness planning. Whether it is a functional re-organization, a new system implementation, an Agile transformation, or any number of strategic initiatives; the quality and availability of training can help make or break the success of a project. Oftentimes, when clients understand the importance of a training strategy, they have engaged SEI to answer the following question: How do you build a comprehensive training plan? How far ahead should you start? And what is the best approach?
Preparing for Change: Big Picture
A major business transformation will inevitably involve a high degree of change to the organization and will require significant planning. This planning period can be used as a time to introduce the change itself, to raise awareness, and to answer the important question of “What’s in it for me?” While it may be too early to provide in-depth answers, there are still useful ways to prepare:
- Change Management training: Check the availability of online skills training within your organization, often available at no extra cost to the business unit. Many providers feature introductory offerings that will help individuals prepare for change and managers to lead during times of change. These titles can be packaged into optional or required learning paths, and referred to in follow-up communications, meetings and/or workshops.
- Methodology training: Similar to change management training, many providers will have online training with an introduction to new methodologies, such as Kanban or Agile, as teams may require an introduction to prepare for a change.
- Skills training: With transformative change likely comes a major shift in individuals’ roles. For instance, a systems implementation that significantly streamlines and automates tasks will greatly impact how an employee spends their time. When a change shifts the focus from manual tasks, allowing more time for higher value activities, the employees will likely need training to be able to successfully shift their mindset and perform these activities. Training in areas such as data analysis, reporting, or presentation skills may be helpful to ensure a smooth transition.
An organizational readiness assessment may be a good way to establish general training needs early. This can take the form of a simple template that evaluates the organization’s level of understanding when it comes to the change(s) the project will bring. An alternative approach is the use of anonymous surveys that ask questions such as “I understand how this project will impact our business.” or “I understand what I will do differently in my job to support this project”. Getting a feel for the landscape of understanding will help tailor a general Change Training approach.
System/Application: The Right Training at the Right Time
When an organization is ready to go live with a transformative business initiative, the training needs becomes more tactical and should ensure that employees know how to perform their function with the new system or under the new methodology.
- Well-designed training will focus on the job tasks of key users and provide the right level and amount of information to ensure success. Including extraneous topics and “nice to know” information dilutes the value and should be provided as an appendix, reference, or removed entirely.
- Content should be available in multiple modes and manageable chunks whenever possible. Learners will best benefit from anytime, anywhere access to engaging content via multiple modes such as video, eLearning, and written guides. In-person workshops can help reinforce concepts and allow employees to collaborate and share perspectives. This combination aligns to different learning styles and schedules, giving the learner more control.
- Success should be measured by following up after the implementation to ensure training was successful. Pulse surveys and focus groups are effective ways to check in on progress and identify any areas for which additional training or communication may be required.
At SEI, we see clients with varied training needs, which require custom solutions to address. But the best way to approach getting a team ready for a project, process, or new technology is always to take a proactive tact. One client’s Agile transformation was significantly stalled due to a late-stage recognition that no team members had been trained on the basics of the methodology. A lack of training also meant a lack of appreciation for the benefits of the change, meaning that team members were not only ill equipped to adapt, but also had not been educated about “what’s in it for me?”.
The key role that training plays in preparing for and executing transformation initiatives is enormous. A thoughtful approach that begins early in the planning phase, clearly identifies and meets objectives, and is measured and evaluated for effectiveness will greatly contribute to the success of any initiative.