Three Risks of Skimping on Training

training room photo
Photo by wohlford

From a Fool With a Tool is Still a Fool:

How many companies pony up the money for effective training? Very few, which explains why so many companies waste money on newfangled tools that never deliver their promised results.

I’ve seen this first hand, over, and over. Here are a couple of risks you take when you skimp on training.

1. No Training

Does this sound familiar?

Well, the software is supposed to be intuitive, so we don’t need training, we’ll figure it out.”

The problem is, if you put someone in front of a new tool, they’ll figure out how to do the same thing they were always doing, and nothing more. People love their habits. They like to go back to doing familiar things. I’m betting you didn’t invest all that money on new technology so that you could continue doing the same thing you were doing before, right? The new tool is supposed to change the way you are doing things, making your staff more efficient and productive, if not out right giving them the capability to do some great new work. How are they going to do that without someone leading them and challenging them to not only learn the tool, but learn a different workflow?

Imagine it everyone tried to use Twitter as a replacement for email and Instant Messaging? Boy, they’d be missing a lot.

Again, a significant amount of money is being invested in new technology, and you’re trusting your return on that investment to your users figuring out ways to use it. Some might, but how much would a solid training plan go towards helping them do that?

2. Bad Training

Way back when, in my very first IT job, I was responsible for the membership database of our organization. Before I had arrived, the organization had invested what I can only assume was a significant amount of money purchasing what was, at the time, one of the market-leading membership database systems.

I quickly realized that everyone I talked to about this software, hated it. Naturally, I began asking around, and came to discover that the organization had allowed a third party to setup the training and the person they brought in didn’t really understand how they worked, and didn’t make a good impression on the students. In short, the training experience was unpleasant.

This carried right over into the rollout. Training had left the users with a bad taste in their mouth, and so while the organization had invested in a tool to allow for the tracking of all sorts of member interactions, etc. the people who worked there didn’t use it. So, for example, if you wanted to get a list of members who had attended an event, you had to go talk to the person who planned the event, the information was not being tracked in the database. What a waste!

Of course, the lack of any information actually being entered into the database, made the output pretty useless as well. (Garbage in, garbage out, right?) This, of course, was blamed on the tool, and so this cycle went on for years.

3. Train the Trainer

Let me be clear, this can work. I’m not denying that. I’m also not denying that having one person who can absorb the tool, all of the materials, and think about various ways for your various teams to make use of the technology, and turn around and conduct ongoing training for those teams, can be a huge savings for your organization.

If you have a person capable of this, you should probably take some of that savings and give it to them to make sure they never leave, too. 😉

Lacking this person, however, this approach creates another risk of not getting your return on investment. Sure, you may have a technical person on staff or a project manger who can learn what the tool does. But do they understand what your other teams are trying to accomplish? Are they a good teacher? Do they communicate well with less technically skilled people? Are they going to stick around to help people learn as they start using the tool themselves?

If they aren’t capable of doing this well, you might find yourself back at risk number two, bad training. You might also find yourself with a group of users who do everything they can to avoid using the tool. That’s not what you’re making this investment for.

Look, I work for a training company, and, obviously, I’m biased. I’ll point you to a conversation I had with my wife recently about someone who seemed to think they didn’t need a marketing department, because they could use Twitter and WordPress and they could “figure out this marketing thing”. Her reply?

“Yeah, because any chimp with a desk can come up with a marketing strategy and write good copy”

Marketing may seem easy, but good marketing takes skill. Good training does as well. Don’t shortchange your people by giving them great tools without developing their skills to use those tools as well. They’ll be happier for it.

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