Written By: Rich Mesch
May 11, 2023 – 5 min read
What’s the goal of Systems Training? To get people trained on the system, right? Not really. Systems are tools. Knowing how to use a system isn’t a business goal. If a bank installs a new Bank Account Management System, is their goal to teach everybody how to use the system? Not likely.
Perhaps their goal is to save money by streamlining the system and completing tasks more quickly. Or perhaps it’s to increase customer satisfaction, with easier and more reliable transactions. If a Sales organization puts a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system in place, goals are likely to be improved customer communication, better opportunity identification, and higher sales. If a Pharmaceutical company puts a regulatory tracking system in place, their goals are likely to be better tracking of the use of the products and higher compliance to regulations.
Sure, Systems Training needs to help employees learn how to use the system. But that’s just one step in the process. People also need to know why to use the system. What business challenges does the system address? So what is Systems Training really about?
When a business implements a system, they want their people to do something differently. Usually, the goal is to get something done more efficiently, more effectively, at a lower cost, or at a higher level of customer satisfaction. But all systems require employees to change their behavior (some customer-facing systems require customers to change their behavior, too).
A new CRM system is likely to change the way salespeople interact with customers—or at the very least, change the way they track those interactions. A new Customer Service system may make it easier to answer customer concerns, but might also increase the responsibility of first-line customer service reps. A Compliance system may streamline the process of communicating to regulators, but may also require employees to more vigilant in tracking data. Effective Systems Training needs to address both the system change and the behavior change. If employees aren’t prepared to act differently, the system will only have limited effectiveness.
New systems don’t just change the way individuals behave; they change the way the entire organization behaves. Information that was once difficult to get may be readily available; processes that were once done by hand may now be automated; the way departments and functions share information may be greatly changed.
In fact, new systems may require the very structure of the organization to change. One of the predictable challenges of implementing a new system is the loss of “tribal knowledge.” When an organization has used a system for a long time, pockets of expertise develop in the company, either by design or by coincidence. Everybody knows who to turn to for support on the system, and system experts become valuable resources. But new systems often obliterate tribal knowledge; expertise in the old system becomes irrelevant, experts become common folk again, and wells of internal knowledge dry up. It is critical to re-establish support networks with the new system, so users have a reliable place to turn for support. Behavior change usually requires a lot of reinforcement in order to take hold.
In an ideal world, systems aren’t changed out every year. The decision to implement a new system (or change an existing system) usually takes a great deal of time, people, and money. As a result, the organization expects that investment to create value for a long time. Similarly, the investment in Systems Training is an investment in sustainability. Not only will current employees need to be prepared to leverage the system, but so will all new hires, transfers, and promotions. Even those who know the system well will need performance support via reminding, quick reference, and helplines. Everybody needs to stay current on updates and revisions to the system. And less-frequently used systems features present a special challenge, as users often go a long time before using these, often forgetting how they work. So Systems Training is not the work of a moment; you can’t train ‘em and walk away. Systems Training is a long-term commitment to guarantee the business gets the maximum benefit from its investment.
What systems does your local supermarket use to link its price scanners? What systems does your bank use to track your money? What systems does your favorite online retailer use to assure the safety of your credit card information and guarantee that your purchases arrive at your door promptly? If your answer is “I have no idea,” you’ve already learned something valuable about Systems Implementation.
For the most part, your customers don’t care how your systems work; they only care that they do work. So Systems Training needs to focus on the impact on the customer. A customer doesn’t have to be a “buyer;” it’s anyone who gets value from the outputs of the system. It goes past what the system can do and focuses on why the system needs to do that.
Technology changes rapidly, and new systems are introduced all the time. Most organizations have some type of Systems Implementation going on all the time. Systems Training is a challenge, but it’s not all about technology; it’s about efficiency, about people, and about the organization’s ability to serve the customer.