A Broad Spectrum of Users
In the digital age, it is virtually impossible to find a situation where employees are not required to have at least some basic level of computer knowledge and internet savvy to perform their jobs. Like all technology, business computing has evolved at lightning speed. What was “state of the art” last year, is outmoded this year. With each update and advance, users are required to learn new skills to effectively use the software offerings and be the most efficient and effective workers.
The current range of computer experience and knowledge among workers is at an all-time high. The millennial generation has never been without devices as an integral part of their lives. They learn coding skills in grade school. The oldest baby boomers may never have had formal computer classes in school, or at best, have had high school or college training with rudimentary and outdated computing programs and machines. (Note: This dinosaur started out in high school learning Fortran and worked on one of the first room-size mainframe computers at Yale University with the help of keypunch cards!) Somewhere in the middle are employees with education in both more advanced computer languages (such as HTML and CAD) and coding skills.
Learning Styles and Types
In addition to the challenge of a broad range of computer experience among workers, there is the added complication of learning styles in the workforce. Managers and trainers are most effective when they understand how employees learn best and can design system training that supports those learning styles. Visual, auditory, kinesthetic, or composite learners will each perform differently under different training circumstances. Companies that sell SaaS products offer training in multiple formats: online self-driven tutorials, video training modules, remote training with a moderator, live conference meetings, and one-on-one sessions with individuals. Being flexible enough to offer multiple learning modalities to train employees should create a better understanding of the software, resulting in fewer mistakes and a higher working speed.
Case Study: Keystone Digital Imaging
In this video testimonial, Crystal Manning talks about how SalesChain’s delivery workflow management tools cut KDI’s DSO in half.
What Makes Software “User-Friendly?”
The term “user-friendly” can mean different things to different employees and is linked to their experience and comfort levels with computing. A user-friendly system to a millennial may be streamlined and highly graphic, reflecting their familiarity with computers and their prior knowledge of navigation of internet resources and software products. A user-friendly system for a baby boomer requires more detailed protocols of the basic background functions for them to successfully work through the intricacies of the software.
To learn a software system from the ground up, documentation within the system is of primary importance. Components should be separated into tabs. These tabs need to be chunked in a logical manner, so that users can learn the system basics and then easily navigate beyond what they already know, using their basic knowledge as the foundation for adding new functionality skills.
However, basic skill requirements are different for different learners. Here is where the importance of addenda comes in. In other words, basic training information required by the least experienced workers could be referenced in addenda, that millennials can ignore, and baby boomers can use as needed. This addresses both the broad spectrum of basic background knowledge in general computing, as well as how quickly an individual learner can pick up on the specific details of the system they are learning. If they need a refresher, there are two ways to go back and find basic, “walk you through it” kind of instructions, without complicating the menu fields in the program. Perhaps these addenda could even be comprised of links to written or video tutorials outside of the system.
Example: How does SalesChain Address These Needs?
Training is the cornerstone of any good user adoption strategy. In addition to giving users the technical instruction they need to use the system well, training gives users an opportunity to address areas of the system that are challenging and hard for them to understand. It allows users to answer the question of “what’s in it for me” and find their own motivations for using the system well. For example, implementation of the SalesChain system comes with four different training classes targeted at different topics and specific individuals within your business. Additionally, we give our users a direct link to a library of training videos
Some of this goes back to the fundamental building blocks of the system. Is the user interface (UI) easy to use and understand for boomers? Is it slick enough to be familiar to millennials? Hitting the middle ground between these two points requires software developers to adopt a philosophy of user-friendliness.
Sometimes, this means redeveloping a UI progressively around the same core system. SalesChain is entering its 20th year of business and is employing its second-generation UI. Back in 2002, we adopted a look that fit the times, but as we grew and our users became multi-generational, we needed to adapt to something which cultivated a more modern look. In 2010 we built our current UI, and we expect that as we grow, this will happen again too. It’s our philosophy that by staying with what’s familiar and what represents a look that is with the times, we will help cultivate better user adoption and satisfaction.
Self-help resources are useful, but access to direct support is invaluable. There’s no dancing around the fact that some issues are just more easily solved on the phone with a company representative. At SalesChain, we provide phone support during business hours and extend our other support resources outside of those hours. This ensures that during business hours, when the most work is getting done, people have access to the most personal level of support.
Providing multiple system training modalities is a sound investment for companies. It should increase speed and efficiency among all employees, regardless of their range of computer and software experience. The most successful companies have a vision for the future in mind, as they develop their business plans. Constantly changing business technology is the driver for incorporating appropriate employee training into this plan. The plan will need constant evaluation and tweaking, as the next generation of technology savvy people move into the employment pool.