It's about the people, not the system


Digital transformation training: it’s actually not about the technology and systems training.

It’s actually about your people and giving them the skills and support to change how they work. It’s about a change in behaviour and mindset.

Let’s say you’re introducing a new system at work. You may think your staff will ask questions like “what information is entered in which field?” or “what button do I click?” but I guarantee you they won’t ask anything of the sort. No, they’ll ask “what does that mean for my role?” and “how does it change what I do on a daily basis?”

Your staff don’t care about the system per se; they really only care about how the introduction of the new system will affect them.

A digital transformation of any kind requires the people in a business to embark on a “change” journey. They go from a comfortable current state where they know everything around them, to a place that is completely unknown and frankly, a little scary.   

The first step in getting a person to travel that journey with you is to meet them where they’re at.

Let me paint you a picture. You’re in your car on the way to your friend’s new house but you’ve never been there before. You open Google Maps and type in your friend’s address.  The route begins from the exact place you’re parked; an information trail showing you the roads, turns and roundabouts you’ll take to arrive at your friend’s place.

Can you imagine how frustrating it would be if Google Maps started every set of directions from the nearest major intersection rather than your location?

Worst case scenario: some people take the "throw them in the deep end" approach to instructions and training too literally. 

Worst case scenario: some people take the "throw them in the deep end" approach to instructions and training too literally. 

It’s the same with systems training. Don’t start where you think it’s important. Meet your people where they are. Create a training program that puts the data fields and buttons to be clicked in the context of their future state role. Present learning outcomes in terms of their new daily practices and the benefits they will derive from these.

For example: “The new system will do the calculations and automatically generate the reports for you. Just go to this screen and click this button. The time you used to spend creating the Excel reports can now be spent doing <insert any value-add task here>”. Time spent poring over confusing Excel data entry versus pressing a button then using the free time to collaborate with my colleagues on how to improve our team’s performance; I know which one I’d choose.  

The key is to start with what’s important to the people in the business, not the project.

The project’s focus is generally getting to the “go-live” date, which doesn’t help the people. On the other hand, the business’ focus is on asking the question “how do I assist my people in transitioning from the current way of working to the new way? And what happens beyond the transition period?”

Unfortunately, system training as part of a digital transformation project is often developed by the project team…with only the project in mind.

They can tell you all about the buttons that need clicking and the data that needs entering and anything else that makes the system function. But the training shouldn't be all about the project. So let’s flip the script and put the “end user” at the centre of the training, not the system that’s being introduced as part of the digital transformation.

You help the people to understand how the system transforms their work and the “what information is entered in which field?” or “what button do I click?” will organically become part of their learning journey, with the added bonus of the fact that they will actually care about the answer.

I know that may seem pretty radical but I challenge you to think about and reflect on any digital transformation training you have been involved in.  What worked?  What didn’t?  Do you know?  Were you even around beyond Go-Live to ascertain this?  Did you have success criteria that is based on anything other than attendance and completing the training activities?  Or did you evaluate the participants ability to perform their role in the weeks and months following the Go-Live date?  Cause that is, at the end of the day, what successful digital transformation training is all about.

Maxine Taylor