William Balvanz is the Training Specialist at Voyant, LLC. He is a guest writer with The UCBuyer and would like to give some advice about how to properly train your employees to use new services and products.
The term “Buyer’s Journey” is thrown around a lot, but there is also another important journey - that of the learner. Before your products are truly appreciated, they must be understood.
As I stated years ago in my article "Fundamentals of Training", knowledge transfer is an integral part of successful adoption. Below are some tested steps in the Learning Journey which go a long way to minimizing costs through inefficiency, as well as promotes successful adoption of the new product.
I have found that the best way to present training information is in a three stage process. This can work for delivered material or self-guided, and can be used for building SOP guides and training manuals.
Stage 1: Foundation
The first step in learning is to lay a foundation of knowledge by defining all terms and jargon. A little bit of history also helps, as does a mission statement describing what the training is meant to accomplish. The point of the foundational step is to make sure all students begin at roughly the same base level of knowledge on the particular subject. The learner should be made aware of gum disease, halitosis, of the goal of reducing pain and expense incurred through dental visits to correct cavities, and should have terms such as “circular motion” defined clearly.
The foundational reference is especially useful when cross-training or educating a learner who has a similar but not identical background to what you want them to do. Taking calls in an inbound call center is different than making outbound cold calls for a sales team, even though the two jobs share many useful skills.
This stage is often very knowledge based, as you are teaching a new language to your learners. This stage is the most difficult to engage, so activities such as reading material aloud or socratic learning can help move through this somewhat tiresome but critical stage. After the fact, a reference book or knowledge base will help ensure the points are known and understood.
Stage 2: Systems and Tools
At this point you should be able to begin training on the systems, tools, software, and other items specific to the job at hand. This can be done content agnostic, but each tool and system should align with a piece of the foundation. It in this stage you would teach how to hold a toothbrush and the appropriate amount of paste to apply to the bristles.
The purpose of the Systems and Tools step is to demonstrate what unique systems are used, and by relating them to the foundation you show why each one is functionally important - even before you teach the exact purpose of the system.
During this stage, hands-on activities are important. Show then observe their understanding. Remember, it is OK to leave context out of it at this point. You can use a toothbrush to make circular motions on a desktop instead of inside a mouth, because you are learning to use the tool.
Typically, at least in the case of software, there are help files that can continue to reinforce the steps necessary to use the tools. These guides should be available for later use, whenever needed, via study guides or knowledge base.
Stage 3: Process
Finally, now that a foundational understanding has been built and the tools are comfortable, it is time to go over procedure and process. This is where you outline the processes for procedures like preparing the brush with paste, and cleaning the mouth thoroughly.
By this stage, you do not need to stop to explain why you are doing things. That has been discussed in the foundation step. Have your learners tell you why an action is necessary. When they can feed back to you the importance of steps without being coached, you know you have made an impact. It is still important to practice these processes, but at this point your students have proper context. Ask your learners when they would need to do “such and such”, and let the knowledge grow organically.
Process manuals are critical, but since they do not need to define how to use the specific tools, these processes can oftentimes be built as flowcharts or bullet points and checklists. Referencing back the foundation guide and the systems guides from before allows actors in the future the ability to strip away the parts they don’t need when reviewing material.
By bringing your clients and employees along the proper path, they can arrive at a point where they understand, adopt, and enjoy the new systems, processes, and procedures that you have set forth.