Deep, underlying issues may be to blame.
The sales force may fear that the new tool will replace them—not support them. Sales reps and managers may need incentives, guidance and accountability measures to strategically deploy the new tool in their operations. Internal communication activities may be needed to introduce the technology, explain reasons for change and report on ongoing adoption and results.
But time and again, companies with sophisticated training operations fail to consider the broader organizational issues that affect technology change. They undertake extensive, and expensive, training initiatives to transfer knowledge that doesn't stick.
Why? In most cases, knowledge cannot be transferred through training alone. Whether implementing e-learning or introducing processes, a range of critical elements must be in place to achieve success. Employees and the organization must be prepared and mobilized for change and supported throughout the learning process.
Before any training begins, ask yourself if your employees understand what the change will mean for them. Has management addressed their fear of change and expressed their questions and their concerns? Viewing the change process from the employees' points of view, assessing preparedness and tackling concerns before training help ensure they are willing and able to receive new knowledge and will apply it on the job.
Change of any kind requires dedicated support from the organization's top executives, and technology training initiatives are no exception. Leadership alignment is a defining element when implementing something new, so identify key sponsors across the enterprise who will actively and visibly support the change initiative.
Effective communication also plays a key role in supporting the change process. Communication should be carefully planned and tailored to announce when the change will occur and help employee groups understand the reasons for change in their particular environment. An effective mix of targeted communication helps win commitment—a key component for learning—and continues to reinforce the process by reporting the resulting performance improvement and organizational benefits.
The training itself must, of course, be carefully crafted to meet the organization's business objectives. A customized, targeted mix of classroom instruction, self-paced e-learning, mentoring or coaching can cut through the clutter of information to deliver the information each employee needs to improve work performance in an exacting, timely manner. With a blended learning approach, downtime is minimized and performance is maximized.
Finally, after employees have received training and are back on the job, where do they turn for help? Who do they call when they can't remember what they learned in class? Who helps them apply what they've learned to the task at hand? Continual support is needed after an initial training activity. Coaching, mentoring, support systems and the like must be provided to complete the learning process.
Successful deployment of new technology is essential to maintain an effective, focused workforce. The key, then, is to set performance improvement, not training, as the goal. In doing so, the broader spectrum of success factors becomes apparent, helping the organization effectively plan and deliver a learning solution for maximum impact.
Mark Herron is president and ceo of Productivity Point International, Raleigh, N.C., firstname.lastname@example.org.