Best Practices in End-User Training
|End-user training, when well done, will increase
employee productivity, build credibility for the IS
and training organizations, and even reduce TCO.
Here are some best practices.
How should companies build and optimize their
|Deploy E-Training: E-training has become
the learning tool of choice for some organizations
(see Note 1). For enterprise outposts (with less
than a dozen employees), it remains the primary
alternative to walk-in public classes. Of the myriad
variations of e-training, the two that are
best-suited for general end-user instruction are
off-the-shelf, self-paced courses and
synchronous, "virtual classrooms." Where
off-the-shelf, self-paced courses exist, and the
culture, infrastructure, marketing and tracking are
in place, they are a highly cost-effective and
flexible strategy (see Note 2). Where off-the-shelf
content does not exist, such as for a rollout of a
custom application or an enterprise resource
planning (ERP) implementation, many companies use
synchronous, "virtual classroom" technologies and
services (see Note 3). Each synchronous session must
be kept to less than two hours. Unlike self-paced
courses that take less time than classes,
synchronous sessions take more time because they
must be highly interactive to work effectively.
Many enterprises consider developing their own
custom self-paced e-training courses to teach
custom applications, but in most end-user training
situations it is not practical. If companies are
actually creating the content themselves by using
tools from vendors such as Macromedia or Asymetrix,
the course must be used by more than 250 students to
provide a sufficient payback for the investment
required over using virtual classrooms. If companies
use outside firms to create the content, the course
requires an enrollment of more than 500.
Easing Into E-Training
Teaching people who are uncomfortable with
technology how to use new operating systems or
applications as their first exposure to e-training
is almost always destined to fail. Consider using
high-quality, non-IT courses to help students
through the transition and more quickly embrace this
new learning medium, and then present the more
Some Off-the-Shelf End-User E-Training Course
- CBT Systems
- Instruction Set
- Ziff-Davis University
Some Synchronous Technology Vendors
- Horizon Live Distance Learning
|Use Personal Trainers: For people "too
busy to be trained," for reluctant users, and
sometimes for everyone during a big rollout,
best-practice companies use personal trainers —
floating teachers who spend from 10 to 20 minutes
with each end user. For big implementations,
companies have reported that it is essential that:
1) the IS department keeps a master spreadsheet of
when people are to have their machines installed.
Stickers should be affixed to each cubicle when its
machine has been installed, which indicates to the
personal trainer that it is time to introduce
themselves to the end users and be available to
answer questions. 2) End users have the option of
saying, "I'm too busy, come back." 3. If the end
user is not there, the personal trainer should drop
off an "I'm sorry, I missed you" note with the
handouts. 4. The personal trainers are the same
people who teach the courses, so they get to know
the enterprise culture and common issues. They also
keep logs of user questions.
"Cheat Sheets": Most companies have done away
with handing out big instruction books and binders
to all class participants. Best-practice
organizations still make these materials available,
sometimes through redeemable coupons handed out at
training. Instead, organizations are using handouts.
These are an inexpensive channel; however,
enterprises should avoid cutting costs on design and
production, which limits the value. Handouts should
include quick references, high production and
marketing value, color, easy access to information
with contents on the front, revisable modularized
structures, coupons for additional information,
well-tested content, special symbols to indicate
what users should type, phone numbers and help
references, "trifolds," consistent use of fonts and
symbols, logos to help differentiate material and
cubicle cards. Handout should not include irrelevant
graphics, high-production values for the throwaway
documents, bulky manuals, or manuals that are
written too technically.
Complete the Curriculum: End-user training
must have three primary components: 1) How To's
cover new features. 2) Policies are often
left out of curricula, but clearly explaining
corporate policies can lead to behaviors that reduce
the total cost of ownership (see Note 4). 3)
Future Help is the single most important content
area to teach end users. It details how end users
can get their questions answered, both through
self-help channels and help desks.
Five Goals of Policy Material
Professionalism: To avoid behavior that is
inappropriate in a business environment or which
distracts staff from their business focus.
Business: To prevent users from increasing
corporate computing costs without business
Standardization: To increase the level of
consistency in computing to improve efficiency.
Security: To eliminate the occurrences of
vulnerable corporate information.
Maintenance: To reduce the wear and tear on
|Use Marketing: Marketing has to be run as
a project, with tight goals and timelines. The
important messages include class times, location,
enrollment instructions, the cost to the budget
center, optional ways of taking the course, and the
e-mail and phone number of a contact person.
Common Questions About End-User Training
Should the training be optional or mandatory?
Two best practices are to not let the users use the
new application until they are trained, and to give
managers rebates from IT for end users who
successfully complete follow-up training.
Should the training be a whole or half-day?
With the growing time crunch, best-practice
organizations squeeze end-user training into no more
than a half-day.
How do we minimize no-shows?
Overbook one extra student for every 12 students
What is the ROI of end-user training?
Careers have been lost pursuing the ROI of end-user
training. Determining the ROI of any training
effectively doubles its costs, which is hard to
justify for anything but the most experimental,
strategic training. Furthermore, the number turns
out to be highly controversial and pragmatically
useless. More significantly, it is the IT project
managers, not the trainers, who are responsible for
the ROI. All training can do is greatly increase
employee satisfaction and compliance with the new
tools while reducing "how to" help desk calls, which
are all valid metrics of program success.
What is the budget of end-user training?
Reducing the cost of end-user training beyond a
threshold should not be a goal of the training
program. Instead, best-practice organizations
consistently spend around 10 percent of the total
project budget on the training (except for ERP
implementations, which require about 20 percent of
the cost of software and implementation). They then
work to optimize the effectiveness of this constant
Enterprises that only use traditional end-user
classes and "how to" curricula to support IT
rollouts are suboptimizing their improvement
capacity. Adding e-training, personal trainer, and
paper-based channels along with expanded processes
and available help material will enable and even
increase the IT application benefits.