The Importance of Training: Part 3 – end-user training and evaluation for Dynamics CRM

By - December 19, 2014

Continuing on the topics introduced in my previous article titled “The Importance of a Training Plan: Your Implementation Depends On It,” I’ll wrap up this 3 part series by highlighting end-user training and evaluation activities associated with your training plan.

End-User Training:

In the last post, The Importance of Training: Part 2 – train the trainer, we detailed out a strategy for developing a train-the-trainer program. So now that we’ve identified who will be responsible for training activities, developed the material that will be used to train the organization, and conducted preliminary workshops to “train the trainers,” it’s time to roll out your program to the employees who will interact with the system. This phase is called end-user training – but before we dive into the actual training, there are things to consider when preparing for this stage:

  • Set your expectations: It’s critical to define your success criteria prior to end-user training kickoff. Since users are expected to fully understand the new solution and utilize the way it’s designed, this should be a team activity. I would suggest incorporating incentives that will motivate your users to commit to the training session(s) and emphasize mission-critical learning concepts.
  • Understand your audience: I know…we’ve been hearing this phrase since those public speaking classes back in school, but it’s still important! Many times, end-user training sessions glaze over generic, out-of-the-box content that has no legitimate relevance to the actual environment the users are expected to work in. This “one size fits all” approach fails to provide the insight needed to perform new business processes, and users eventually abandon the “new way of doing things” for old habits and unnecessary work-arounds. It’s also important to assess potential skill gaps within the user group being trained. If it’s a new CRM implementation, then everyone will be on the same level. However, if the project is extending/optimizing an existing environment, it might be ideal to split sessions into separate modules and assign users accordingly. I find that sending out a quick survey to audit skill levels provides great insight into how this should be handled.
  • Prepare your training environment: It sounds like basic advice, but don’t take it for granted. How many times have you sat through a required training session and were constantly distracted by your fellow participants? Setting up rules and guidelines, such as no email, phone calls or side-bar conversations until scheduled breaks, will go a long way with your participants. If necessary, consider reserving accommodations offsite to set the tone for what is expected of your users.
  • Use your own data: As I discussed previously, sample data coupled with generic scenarios provide no relevance to your users who are expected to own or interact with the new solution. Your training environment will always be more impactful if participants can follow a course outlined with processes and tasks that they’ll experience once they leave the classroom. Allowing them to train with their own computer equipment and interacting with a copy of their current database will have a positive spike on the learning curve.
  • Don’t lose sight of your plan: Your training plan will have all of the processes and workflows identified, but once the training sessions commence, it’s easy for users to air new ideas on the fly. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s important to realize when insightful conversation is being interrupted with off-topic diatribe that’s pushing your timeline off-course. I recommend keeping a whiteboard available for parking new ideas/questions that are not directly related to the training material. Users will feel satisfied that their topics are deemed important, and you have a clear list of items that can be discussed one-on-one during a scheduled break or at the end of day.
  • Management support is critical: This is a simple gesture that goes a long way. You can accomplish this by having a senior manager or visible stakeholder to the project make a few opening comments during the session kickoff. Doing so reinforces the importance of the material and discourages users who may see the session as a bully pulpit to publicly push back on changes that impact their working environment.
  • Always leave time for Q&A: Providing this time is the first step to making sure that everyone is on the same page with the key takeaways from the session. I recommend emailing a “cheat sheet” with quick tips and/or step-by-step instructions for important processes after training has ended. This is an effective way to make sure learning topics are accessible after training is completed.

One final thought to consider is that we all learn differently. Therefore, using a variety of formats and learning tools will help increase user adoption and overall knowledge retention. Examples of different formats would include things such as:

  • Pre-recorded video sessions that users can review on their own time.
  • Software simulation tools that allow users to click through a series of help steps outlined for important work processes before making edits/updates within the actual solution screen.
  • A training environment that is a copy of your production environment. This is a place where users can comfortably interact with the solution, obtain process-specific instruction and make mistakes without serious repercussions.

Evaluation:

Evaluation is the final phase of your Training plan. This is a critical component because it assures the success of the training curriculum by demonstrating things, such as: what has been learned, if additional training is needed for certain employees, and whether current documentation needs further refinement. An evaluation is typically measured through a survey that provides feedback specific to the success criteria identified prior to end-user training. It’s important to not only collect user opinions regarding the training curriculum, but to also evaluate their knowledge retention of the material presented. This can be as formal as a written test, or a simple hands-on demo session where the user demonstrates competency to their manager or training partner. Quizzes and tests can be effective in certain scenarios, but be careful not to send a negative message to users who might be struggling to understand the new solution.

General examples of what to solicit feedback on regarding the effectiveness of the training include scale-based questions, such as:

  • What worked well in the class and what did not?
  • What topics/information were most and least relevant?
  • What areas need more training or information?
  • Accuracy of the information and the training documentation?
  • Which presentation techniques were most and least effective?

We’re all aware that implementations present the business with challenging tasks and a myriad of moving parts that could ultimately lead to failure. With a significant portion of CapEx dedicated to these types of projects, there is a level of risk that has to be carefully evaluated throughout the implementation process. So when a successful implementation plan fails to train its user base on how to effectively use the new CRM/ERP solution, the realization of that investment (or at least a portion of it) is eventually lost in the long-term. If users do not have a clear understanding of how to use the solution, then the ROI for process efficiency discovered during the project’s planning and design phases will be lost. Therefore, treat your training plan as a top priority at the beginning of your project, instead of an after-thought during go-live. If you take the time to make sure the investment in your people is in line with the investment of your software, then great success is in your future.

If you’d like to discuss more about your training plan for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, or your implementation in general, please feel free to reach out to me directly at eric.blevins@mcgladrey.com. RSM LLP is a nationally recognized partner in the mid-market ERP and CRM market with offices across North America. We offer a full range of technology and management consulting services that include implementations, solution optimization, process improvement, development and support. For more information regarding our services, please contact our professionals at 855.437.7202 or email us.

By: Eric Blevins – Microsoft Dynamics CRM Partner Kansas City

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