Training for successful change

Vanessa Eversfield, Associate Consultant

Vanessa Eversfield head shot

Training for successful change

Vanessa Eversfield, Associate Consultant

Training is a crucial part of any change programme. It is often considered as a short stage at the end of the project but, after investing so much time, money and effort in planning and implementing a system or service change, it’s important to remember
that the people involved in the day-to-day tasks need to change what they do: they are the people who will actually deliver that change.

In this expert series, we look at why companies overlook the importance of training – and how to develop training through your change programme, that will make your change stick.

Start with the end in mind – plan your training early

Getting your business ready for change is vital. Making sure that your team know how to use a new system or process fully is critical if you want to land all the benefits. Training is part of the process that helps people unlearn old ways of working and replace them with new ones. And that doesn’t happen overnight.

It’s important to plan for – and keep in mind – the training element of the project from the beginning. It may come towards the end and look like a short stage on the project plan, but it’s a crucial element which takes time and input from all levels to design and develop. It needs to be on everyone’s radar from the start.

Make a trainer part of the project team

Once your change programme is underway, your trainer needs to get to work to understand the level of change for different groups of employees across your organisation. Once you have a clear plan of what you are changing from and to, they can start to plan the outline of the training and to build relationships with people in each area.

Specialist roles within the project team can often require a highly detailed and linear mindset. They may not need to think about the end-user but a good trainer will appreciate what the changes mean for those they are training. They know why people might resist change and how to design training that helps to overcome barriers.

The trainer doesn’t have to be an expert on everything, but they need to know the bits of the system or process that they’re training on and be confident with that. It’s hard to do that if they have had limited or no involvement in the project. Sometimes the trainer will be involved in another role during the early stages of the project or they may combine another role, such as Communications, with training.

One of the biggest pitfalls to avoid is giving your trainer poor access to the right subject matter experts or to the people who will eventually need the training.

Get the end-user involved in designing how they’ll be trained

You need to make your training right for your business and your project. Off-the-peg training may work for some generic skills but is rarely sufficient for a complex change programme. Training in this situation always works better if some of the end-users, as well as stakeholders throughout the business, are involved from the beginning and it is an integrated part of the project. The end users will be much more aware of the interdependencies that the training will need to encompass, and also the language or examples that people will understand.

It’s often tempting to involve only the hyper-positive employees in developing the training, but we find that the more vocal, critical users can be helpful too. They will be honest about what does and doesn’t work – which is what you need to know – and they often have strong influence with their peers.

Be open-minded about training formats and platforms

Businesses tend to go with what they are used to but using the same format continually, delivers diminishing returns. Training options are multiplying with digital advances, even more so since the covid pandemic. More sophisticated and innovative offers make online learning an effective element of most training programmes so it’s worth checking your business is up-to-date with new techniques.

Another top tip is not to set your sights too high from a single training session – be realistic and ensure the fundamentals have embedded first. Break the training up with different exercises and try to make it fun, as this helps people learn.

Assess and check that the training has worked

Of course, training in this context is about learning something new. The training is designed to help people change in line with the new system, process or products that your change programme has delivered. It’s important to assess that people have both understood and can apply what they have been trained on – not just attended a course.

Make sure your training allows for hands-on exercises throughout the session as well as an overall assessment towards the end. If conducting face-to-face training, recap where it’s evident that your training hasn’t worked. With on-line training, take time to review any assessment work thoroughly and follow up where needed.

Plan for ‘super-users’ or support to be on hand when the system, process or product goes live. They will see first-hand if there are any issues and their feedback can be used to update the training and plan any refresher training that is needed, either on a one-to-one or group basis.

It’s also helpful to return after a few weeks – as part of the hyper-care plan – to check that the new system, process or product is still being used in the way you intended.

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