Any time you adopt a new software platform or system, there’s going to be an adoption process to train and transition employees. For some companies, this process goes on for more than six months, while others only need 60 days.
What sets one company apart from the rest? Successful onboarding and introduction of the new tool.
Before you implement new protocols, follow these steps to reduce friction and get your employees on board.
1. Ask Your Vendor for Onboarding Tools
Before you invest in a specific tool or software platform, ask about their client onboarding plans and services offered. As Paycor writes, “Before purchasing any new technology, ensure that your provider has a strong implementation program that will empower you and your staff through training and setup — for as long as you need.”
Not only should you have an extra set of hands working with you through the onboarding process, but you will also need a point of contact for more advanced problems down the line.
One of the main elements of your vendor’s training program should be multiple material types. According to Laura Winkeler at World Wide Technology, this is the easiest way to make sure some of your team members don’t get left behind. “Remember, everyone learns differently, so it’s important to account for different learning styles,” she writes. “Some are going to respond better to on-demand videos, while others are going to want printed, step-by-step instructions on their desks within arms reach.” If the company only provides video tutorials, you could lose people who don’t want to watch hours of footage to answer a question.
Francesca Nicasio for VendHQ finds employees are more likely to use software that’s perceived as useful to them.
“When you’re considering your software options, it’s imperative to include your users in the decision making process,” Nicasio says. “They’ll get excited about the benefits of the new application and will be fully on board when training starts.”
She recommends inviting a few employees to sit in on demos to see what they get excited about so your priorities match their needs. This also helps introduce the product, creating a sense of familiarity when training finally starts.
2. Remove Barriers to Adoption Beforehand
First, pick one software tool and stick to it.
Some companies get trigger-happy and sign up for multiple software options per year, either switching from the old one or adding it to their current plate. Employees who are given new tools that are ignored six months later will start tuning out management’s requests.
As Wayne Turmel explains at Management-Issues.com: “If you’ve been on this planet for any length of time, you’ve seen plenty of technology changes. You also remember the time wasted, frustration in learning the new tool, and the annoyance when it is inevitably replaced with something else.”
Your team will pick up on the pattern and resent your for it.
Next, take the time to sell your team on the benefits of the tool. In an article for Recruiter.com, Roz Bahrami highlights ways to convince employees to give up the old system in favor of a new one. “Benchmark your proposed new system against legacy systems to ensure that the new system will be easier to use than the legacy systems,” Bahrami says. “If you implement a truly user-friendly system that provides clear benefits to users, you will remove barriers to adoption and increase the rate of uptake.”
It may be better for your team to highlight all of the problems you have had in the past year and then highlight the tool as a “hero product” to save them from those issues.
If your team is still digging in their heels, talk to them about the problem to understand their needs.
Len Markidan at Groove found “uncooperative employees are in the eye of the beholder,” and understanding the motives for their behavior can uncover deeper problems and solutions. “Rather than expecting people to give you what you want, start by understanding what they want,” he says. “Helping them get that is the best way to get what you want from them.”
3. Host a Training Session or Learning Retreat
Once you have a software solution and team buy-in, set up some time to introduce the new system formally. This will review why you decided on this tool, how it will help, and provide a brief training on setup and the basic uses.
The team at BLR’s Training Today created a comprehensive guide for hosting an employee training session, from quizzing team members as you go to running a timely ship. One piece of advice worth highlighting is to identify experts in the field who can share their experiences. “Many trainees are experienced personnel who have valuable information to contribute,” they write. “All trainees will get more out of sessions by hearing about their co-workers’ experiences with the subject — and not just the trainer’s lecture points.”
And if you can’t pull your team away for a retreat, at least grab them for lunch.
ezCater specializes in creating lunch and learning environments for employee training. They found the key to success is to break up the session beyond a manager simply running through a 40-slide deck. “Incorporate opportunities to complete interactive or group activities,” ezCater says. “For example, invite the larger group to break into smaller groups to test out a new sales strategy, or use fun Internet memes as brain breaks.”
This also opens up opportunities for employee bonding as they work together to solve problems or complete assignments.
4. Identify Experienced Peers to Continue Training
During the training session, identify experts who can run peer-to-peer training after the meeting convenes.
Mitchell Causey of Lesson.ly highly reccommends peer trainging as a way to disseminate valuable information. “People are more likely to respond positively when they are given information from others who are on or near the same level of the business as they are,” he says. “It is an opportunity to ask questions without the fear of being ridiculed or dismissed, because they realize their peers have been in the same situation.”
Instead of your team always asking you or other managers for help, they can ask their co-workers instead.
Sharlyn Lauby, the HR Bartender, designs trainings for a living, but she admits that some of the best learning happens outside the conference room. “When learning does happen, it’s important to recognize it — both in terms of the person who conveyed the knowledge and the person who received it,” she says.
This can simply be a shout-out during the week to thank someone for helping others, or sending an email designating them as the point person for assistance.
Furthermore, these acknowledgements can lead to more adoption by other team members.
Christopher Pappas, founder of The eLearning Industry’s Network, agrees that a pat on the back goes a long way toward full company adoption. “As praise makes it more likely for a desired behavior to re-occur in the future, positively reinforcing an employee who has learned a new technique during online training increases the chances of good performance happening again.” Not only will the employee continue to use the software, but others will start to join her.
5. Create Accountability Checks and Teams
This peer-to-peer training will also aid accountability.
As Laurie Reeves explained on The Nest, accountability requires teamwork and your employees to support each other, whether they’re in a group or not.
“Instead of following up with other teammates to ensure the project is completed timely, the unaccountable worker forgets about the project the minute it leaves her desk,” Reeves says. “A person who demonstrates accountability makes it a point to follow up with team members so that the project doesn’t fall through the cracks.”
Nathalie Lussier at Ambition Ally recommends forming accountability groups where teams state their goals and keep each other on track.
These can review problems they’ve had with the software and work together to troubleshoot them.
“Often just the act of sharing what you commit to doing with another person will move you into action, because you don’t want to return empty handed if you didn’t even attempt to reach your goal,” she says. “…I can personally trace major business breakthroughs to participating in various business accountability groups over the years, not to mention actual revenue increases.”
Peer pressure can actually be a good thing in the workplace when it’s applied in healthy doses.
Ellen Bard at PicktheBrain recommends avoiding friends when selecting an accountability buddy or team so there’s someone objective to call you out. “Sometimes, friends have a hard time offering constructive criticism, and a little distance and objectivity from group members can be helpful — when encouraging each other to focus more, for instance, or calling each other out on a lack of progress.”
6. Reinforce the Training Weeks After
Your onboarding session is not the end of the road for training; it’s more like a product launch or rebranding.
In an article for Training Magazine, Kendra Lee, President of KLA Group, shares her expertise in reinforcing training messages. “It’s about the experience that will make the learning stick,” she says. “You can’t accomplish that with a few videos, or even a two-day class. You need a blend of strategies that will cement the content and move it from training to application.”
This can be accomplished with follow-up meetings, fun quizzes with prizes, and individual coaching for stragglers.
One of the most important aspects of new software onboarding is emphasizing the permanence of the change. Employees need to know that this isn’t something that’s going away, and all members of the organization are affected by it.
The team at Shapiro Negotiations Institute explains it perfectly:
“Effective reinforcement is all about reminding attendees of the content covered within the training and holding them accountable for its application. And, you must have buy-in from the top. If VPs and managers aren’t supporting the initiative, the long-term impact will be lacking.”
Employees need to know that management is checking to make sure the new system is getting used, and managers need to know what works and what doesn’t. While it’s important to have a plan in place for execution, they should also be flexible and tailor their software launch to their employees’ needs.