Training Users

I’ve on several occasions had to do some end-user training on various subjects. ShoreTel phone and Communicator usage has been the big thing, but also how to use Outlook and stuff like that. I’ve found one very important thing about doing these trainings:

The user has to want to learn what you’re teaching.

This should be obvious and old news to most teachers. I can’t imagine standing in front of a bunch of school kids day after day trying to teach them Shakespeare or basic algebra and have all but maybe one kid per day just completely ignore you because they don’t want it. If a person was one of those kids who put in minimum effort, always looked for the easy way out and passed their classes because their least effort was enough or the teacher didn’t want to deal with them again, what makes you think they ever grew out of that? Pro-tip: They probably haven’t.

I know in some ways I haven’t grown out of that myself. I always look for IT fixes that are simple and easy, and not following nine page dissertations on how to solve a problem. If I can reboot it or delete a registry key, that’s the fix I want, not the day long endeavors some IT blogs talk about. If I’m like that I have to assume a significant number of people are like that too. Nine step processes aren’t good, two-step processes are acceptable, not having to actually do anything is great. Sometimes this is good, but not always.

This has forced me to re-evaluate how I present information to people. I think the normal IT reaction to people not listening to them is to simply take something away or shame them into doing better if they won’t change. There’s a time and place for both of those things, but what really needs to happen is to make things less intimidating for people to begin with. The major problem of course is people typically don’t like to change their thinking or habits. This is because that isn’t the easy fix.

One complaint I get is what they call ‘information overload’. Too much information is being presented and they feel overwhelmed. A lot of times the people with these complaints are overwhelmed before they walk in the door and that’s a hard thing to get past. They’ve already decided they’ll either fail, it’s too much or they are just scared of messing up. I don’t know how to get past that except with maybe short, repetitive information snippets instead of hour and a half lectures and labs.

Another obstacle are the people who are convinced that ‘the old way was better’. I’m not talking about the people obstinate about changing a process, but those that actively hate computers and technology. On the surface they long for the days when everything was on paper, that ‘simpler’ time fifty years ago. Amusingly most of these people are like, you know, sixty years old or younger. Computers have been in the workplace for well over twenty years now. My grandfather was using one in the 80’s, my dad had a portable computer in 1984 (which I still have, it’s a heavily upgraded Panasonic Sr. Partner, I keep it in case of apocalypse. I’m pretty sure it’s nuke proof.). ┬áSo for a lot of these people computers have been ‘normal’ for at least half their life. Their great grandparents were likely similarly freaked out by electricity, so you can’t really blame them.

So I’m working on a different way to present training materials. Not totally sure where to start but I think I’ll be interviewing some school teachers to start with. It’ll probably change how I think about blogging.


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