Tips for Training Employees on New Technology
Every time I turn around, it seems there is some new system that uses technology to make an HR or workplace process easier. Think of the applicant tracking systems (ATS) many companies use now compared to the old way of managing paper applications and resumes. Technology can save time and streamline processes in ways that free employees up to work on other tasks and projects. Unfortunately, the implementation of new technology can bring a lot of headaches with these improvements. This is why it is essential to have a plan in place to train and support employees as they learn and adapt to new technology.
Training Employees with Varying Skill Levels
This post is not about your technology savvy employees. These are the people who get excited whenever they hear about a new system and jump on board right away. Such employees are easy to train and can often be recruited to help train others. When developing training on new technology, think of your workers who struggle the most with adapting to technology.
Much has been made of how different generations deal with the rapidly evolving workplace and the increasing demands technology places on jobs. This is an important consideration when developing your training. There are a number of older workers who have put in decades honing their skills and becoming experts in their fields, but they struggle with new technology. While some employers grumble and look to younger generations just now entering the workforce, this means we lose out on the expertise of older workers. Take the time to develop training that specifically focuses on this group of employees.
Finding the Right Training Approach
Several years ago I helped implement a new timekeeping system. The new system was much more robust than the old one and would make timekeeping processes easier for managers. The problem was that many of the managers had been working in the industry for decades and had been brought up on paper timecards. The new technology scared them. I knew that if we did not find the right approach to training, we risked losing some of our most valuable, long-time employees.
I have found that the most effective way to train employees on new technology is to take a hands-on approach. Simply standing in front of a group and showing them the new technology on a screen does not give them the chance to test it out and get a feel for how it works. If you have access to a classroom equipped with computers, this can be a great way to do technology training; however, most of us do not have that luxury in the workplace. With the timekeeping system, we had several trainers and set up training sessions with no more than three employees. We used office spaces where there were multiple computers or where we could set up an extra laptop or two. The trainers worked with these small groups and went through all the processes step-by-step.
It is also helpful to provide written instructions with screenshots that follow the in-person training. This will give employees a reference to go back to after the training. This approach to training is time consuming and requires patience, but it was effective in really helping those who normally struggled with technology to feel confident in the new system. Once they saw how the system worked on a very basic level, employees had an easier time adapting than if they had simply watched a quick presentation.
Training employees in small groups also has the advantage of allowing plenty of time for questions and individualized attention. It also creates a support group because trainees can work with others in their training group as they learn the new technology. Provide trainees with a way to contact the trainer should questions come up in the first few weeks using the technology, and be ready to give additional training as needed.
There will always be resistance to change—in the workplace this is especially true of technology. The key is to address this resistance head on and meet employees where they are. Accept that technology is a struggle for some people, and provide the training and tools to help them feel comfortable with learning the new process or skill. The more time and energy you invest in training resistant employees on new technology, the easier it will become to train them on such things in the future.
About the Author
Stephanie Hammerwold, PHR, is the co-owner of Hammerwold & Pershing and specializes in small business HR support. Stephanie writes as the HR Hammer and is a regular contributor at Blogging4Jobs, The HR Gazette and TalentCulture, and she gives presentations on a variety of job search and workplace topics. She specializes in training, employee relations, women’s issues and writing employment policy. Connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.