As a small business owner, you just spent a lot of money to purchase new business-critical software and the hardware to run it. How much of that investment may be wasted because it is not used it to its potential? Did you just load the software on workstations and say, “Just figure it out. How hard can it be? - Oh, and by the way, get all your regular work done too.” Have you given your staff members the tools they need to use the new technology more effectively? Do your business processes and goals match what the software can do?
As a training and consulting organization, Patricia Egen Consulting knows that employees do a better job when they know what they are supposed to do and how to accomplish it. So how do you get employees up to speed when implementing new software? What is the best type of training? The answer to those questions are, it depends. You want to provide training that sticks and helps your employees do their jobs better and faster.
When you buy a car, you know that the finest car costs serious money upfront…but that is not the end of it—the real kicker is the continuing maintenance and upkeep costs that last the length of the car’s life. The technology you use every day is a lot like that car. You spend a lot of money upfront on the hardware and software, but often don’t figure on the ongoing costs to care for it: training, maintenance, upgrades, the Futz Factor (that trial and error clicking until you get it right).
Many formal software training classes are designed to teach the steps that most people will need to know to use the software instead of teaching to the business problems the software should be used to solve. As adults, we learn better when we can apply the knowledge to what we need to accomplish, so your training should always use real examples and situations. Your computers and the software they run are merely tools to help you get your work done. You need to know how to use your tools productively. For example: would you want a brain surgeon who only knew how to use a drill and scalpel and not when, why or how to use them?
Any training is good, but it is important to remember that adults learn in different ways. Mostly, adults need relevant examples and the resources necessary to learn. Let’s talk about the pros and cons of four basic types of training…
Formal Computer Training Classes
- Typically an established course curriculum in a formal training center
- Regimented structure that does not veer from original course outline
- Full day or more in the classroom that results in lost time on the job
- Mixed class participants who have different agendas
- Classes held on center’s schedule not yours
- Difficult to apply what is learned back on the job because examples are generic
- Cost can vary, but is often around $250 per day, depending on topic and presenting organization
CD or Internet Training
- Often no access to an instructor, so you can’t ask specific questions
- Limited topics and examples
- Most courses simply take you through steps, Click here, then enter this, then click OK
- Class can be taken at your leisure
- Cost can be from free to $250 per class, depending on topic and amount of time
Peer or self-support (Casual or Informal Learning)
- Location in your office and around the water cooler
- Learning from non-experts (co-worker in the next office) and errors are passed on and tend to morph into something that does not accomplish the original purpose
- Trial and error (the Futz Factor-keep trying until you get it right-maybe) o Experience teaches slowly and at the cost of mistakes. James A. Froude o Experience is what allows us to repeat our mistakes, only with more finesse! Derwood Fincher o Experience is directly proportional to the amount of equipment ruined. Harrisberger's Fourth Law of the Lab
- Cost is free, or is it? (It’s free only if you have unlimited time)
Coaching or customized training
- In your office, at your computers, using your documents and examples
- Learn what you need (that might mean a little Word, a little Excel, a little QB)
- Goes beyond merely telling you where to click, helps integrate solutions into your systems
- You determine the schedule
- Cost on the surface may be more expensive but the ROI is much higher
Don’t shop for training solely on the up-front cost. Just as the most expensive anything is not necessarily the best, neither is the least expensive necessarily truly less expensive. Purchase training that matches the needs of the people you need trained. You want a trainer who has not only read the book, but knows how to apply the software in real-world settings – preferably yours. And finally, make sure your trainer not only has the ability to communicate well and make the learning environment relaxing and less confusing, but understands the importance of what your employees are doing in the business.