Whitepaper

Engaging and Training the Modern Worker

 By Nick Cavalancia, Microsoft MVP

Introduction 

Organizations moving at the speed of technology don’t just impact IT; users are equally impacted when the environment in which they work changes. Even a seemingly simple update to an application can be the source of confusion, helpdesk calls, and an overall lack of user productivity. This is one of the reasons major migration and upgrade projects should always include communications and training plans. 

Because organizations going through the digital transformation are moving at a relatively rapid pace, technologies are evolving, on-premises applications are being replaced with cloud-based service offerings, and how the work of running your operations gets accomplished is changing. And yet, your c-suite is expecting users to continue working at the same levels of productivity – sort of a “changing the tire while the car’s moving” scenario. 

So, it’s necessary to educate and train users – in many cases, in an on-going fashion – to ensure the business remains productive and competitive. Keep in mind, the user is already busy doing their assigned job, so any kind of education may be initially seen as a nuisance or distraction, and not necessarily something that will help them be better at their job. Add to this the fact that we’re talking about adult learners – each with a diverse level of technical prowess – and it becomes evident that should your organization choose to invest in some form of online learning (better known as eLearning), how you choose to educate your users is going to be the difference between a technically savvy and productive workforce, and one that is behind the times, lowering the productivity of users and IT alike. 

I happen to personally have quite a bit of experience educating adults – particularly in the technology field. As a former Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) and Master Novel Certified Instructor (MCNI), I spent ten years in a classroom helping adult learners get into the business of IT through obtaining Microsoft and Novell engineer certifications. I can tell you whole-heartedly, every aspect of the education – including the material, the delivery, how the student is drawn in, the quizzing, and the testing – all make a tremendous difference in the success rate of the student. 

In today’s market place, the traditional classroom has, for the most part, been replaced with eLearning to reduce costs, improve flexible access to education, speed up the learning process, and facilitate a feedback loop to management. Even so, the fundamental principles of training an adult remain the same – make it engaging, relevant, practical, and enjoyable. 

In this whitepaper, I’m going to cover some considerations around eLearning that will help to determine just how successful your user education strategy will be. But, before I do, let’s level-set why you even need ongoing education. 

Your Organization’s Need for User Education 

Very few businesses can thrive and grow without needing to provide some sort of continuing education. In fact, most employees desire to learn new skills to make themselves more valuable to their employer. There are a number of common scenarios when user education is not just needed, but often mandatory, include: 

  • Moving to new platforms and applications – Take a move from on-premises email and collaboration solutions to Office 365. As much effort as Microsoft has put into the service to make it easy to use, users still need to be educated on how to access and leverage every part of the platform. Users will have questions over time on how they can accomplish specific tasks, how to access tools and features, and how to apply the functionality to their job. This same need exists for any scenario involving upgrades to new application versions, and moves to new platforms, like Office 365.
  • Security Awareness Training – The threat of cyber-attack is a given in today’s world; organizations of every size and industry are at risk of ransomware, crypto-jacking, and data breach attacks. Email-based phishing and social engineering scams are the primary means by which cybercriminals gain entry. Users need to be taught to be security-minded when interacting with the web and email, scrutinizing attachments, links, requests to install applications and browser extensions, as well as anything that looks generally suspicious.
  • HR Training – Human Resources has requirements of their own to ensure employees are properly trained on company policies, harassment in the workplace, compliance-related policy, and anything else they feel will benefit the company for users to be taught.
  • Employee Continuing Education – your users want to learn new skills, and company-provided education can go a long way to keeping them happy.

There are going to be additional reasons for users requiring additional education, but the three above cover most of the scenarios. 

So, what kinds of eLearning delivery exist, and which is best? 

Focusing on the right eLearning Method 

In general, I see eLearning as falling into two distinct categories:

  • Traditional eLearning – This is the old “watch a bunch of 30-minute courses and take a quiz” method of online education. It’s a default mode for many organizations that lack any formal eLearning or delivery platform, because they can do something as simple as record someone walking through a PowerPoint.
  • Just-In-Time (JIT) eLearning – This method provides on-demand education on much more “How-to” focused topics, creating a more tailored learning experience for the user.

If you’re not familiar with one or both of the eLearning methods, use the following example to demonstrate each: 

Your organization wants to educate users on how to begin using Office 365. With Traditional eLearning, the initial course would likely be an overview of all the services offered to the user that takes 30-60 minutes followed by the detailed functionality within each Office 365 application (Teams, SharePoint, Skype for Business, etc.) Those detailed learning tracks would likely be 90-120 minutes each, so you can easily see that completing the entire curriculum will take days. 

In contrast, the Just-In-Time (JIT) eLearning would offer a plethora of shorter lessons on specific tasks within each of the products, allowing the user to choose, say, “How to upload a file in SharePoint”, as that is their current question on performing a task in Office 365 right now. 

Now that you have an idea of what the methods are, I’m going to spend the remainder of the paper comparing the two using 6 factors I’ve split up into 3 results-driven considerations: engagement, efficiency, and effectiveness. 

Engagement 

Engagement equals adoption. If you’re in IT and have ever rolled out a new platform, operating system, application, etc., you know how absolutely critical adoption is to the success of the project. Engagement is the adoption of the training world; if you can get users to want to (well, be truly willing to, anyways) take the training, you’ve won half the battle. 

There are a number of factors that can make or break user engagement: 

1) Accessibility 

Users today move at a fast pace, being able to search for and retrieve answers on the web in a matter of seconds. They equally require their training to be similarly accessible, from both the searching, finding and taking the right training modules. 

2) Relevance 

If users perceive the training isn’t relevant to them or their job, you’ve lost them. Training needs to be immediately obvious that it will bring value to the user and their role. 

3) Up-to-Date Content 

The training that users receive needs to be as up-to-date as is possible. But with so many applications and platforms moving to the cloud, using rapid development methods, so much can change in a matter of months – potentially making training modules out-of-date. 

Efficiency 

User productivity is about efficiency. For users to remain productive, they need their eLearning to not be a distraction, taking them away from work. Instead, eLearning needs to be incorporated into the business workflow. By doing so, eLearning becomes a part of the job – and not something that takes them away from their job.

A few efficiency factors come to mind. 

1) Work Integration 

This factor somewhat ties back into the accessibility factor, previously mentioned. To be efficient, users need eLearning to be integrated into their daily routine. 

2) Topic and Length of Material 

Your organization isn’t in the business of paying users to take eLearning; it’s in the business of getting utility from an employee’s time that moves the business forward. So, the eLearning needs to both be efficient itself, while keeping the user efficient at getting back to their job. 

Effectiveness 

This last consideration is the most important. eLearning isn’t about just imparting new knowledge on a user; it’s about empowering them to be a more productive employee that can perform at the highest levels possible. 

To achieve this, eLearning must focus on a few factors: 

1) Practical Application 

Rather than eLearning being thought of as something that updates users on the latest applications, policies, etc., it should be looked at as something that is going to immediately enhance the performance of each user. Users need specific product details, a refresh on how to accomplish a task, or an answer to a pressing question. eLearning that addresses these kinds of issues enhances the performance of an employee. 

2) Retention 

It’s great that your users took some online training. But if they don’t retain what they learn, they are less productive, your environment is potentially less secure, and users are less compliant with HR and regulatory requirements

The Modern Worker needs JIT eLearning 

It’s evident from my commentary that I’m a big fan of JIT eLearning. Users today no longer have the time, nor inclination, to sit for long durations watching some bloated, unengaging, and uninteresting training modules, only to take a quiz at the end that they can’t remember the answer to from 60 minutes ago. 

Users need relevant, practical, and immediately usable information that empowers them to do their job more quickly and easily. Traditional eLearning is just that – traditional; it’s an old model with a predictable lack of needed modern outcomes. JIT eLearning creates a productive learning experience for users where material learned is immediately usable and applied to the user’s workflow. 

Today CoreView is the only training solution for Office 365 that provides this type of JIT eLearning model. Here are some highlights about the CoreView training solution and some useful download links that provide more details: 

  • Includes over 2,200 training videos for Office 365, Windows, and Office ProPlus.
  • These are task-based, or “How To”, videos ranging from 60 seconds to 2 minutes.
  • The on-line video library is fully-indexed for fast searches to find the training you need, right when you need it.
  • The video library uses your Office 365 login credentials to provide single sign-on for users.
  • Customers can also integrate the training videos inside of Microsoft Teams and SharePoint.

About Nick Cavalancia 

Nick Cavalancia has over 20 years of enterprise IT experience, 10 years as a tech marketing executive and is an accomplished technology writer, consultant, trainer, speaker, and columnist. 

Nick has attained industry certifications including MCNE, MCNI, MCSE and MCT and was once accused at TechEd of “not having enough digits” in his MCP number (which only has 5). He has authored, co-authored and contributed to over a dozen books on Windows, Active Directory, Exchange and other Microsoft technologies and has spoken at many technical conferences on a wide variety of topics. 

Previously, Nick has held executive marketing positions at ScriptLogic (acquired by Quest, now DELL Software), SpectorSoft and Netwrix where he was responsible for the global messaging, branding, lead generation and demand generation strategies to market technology solutions to an IT-centric customer base. 

Prior to that, Nick owned two IT consulting firms – Comsphere and Exchange Consultants. Both, of which, focused on the architecture, implementation and training of Microsoft technologies to enterprise customers such as Fox News, The Chicago Tribune, Carnival Cruise Lines, and Hummer. 

About CoreView 

CoreView is the global leader in Office 365 management solutions. It provides a fully integrated toolset that incorporates Monitoring, Reporting, Management, Customizable Administration and Training/Adoption to help customers stay in control of their Office 365 deployment. 

CoreView also supports Hybrid environments for those organizations that still maintain some on-premises support functions. Complex admin tasks can be performed automatically through the customizable workflow processes provided by CoreView. 

These menu-driven functions enable administrators to finish their day-to-day tasks in minutes instead of hours and greatly reduce the possibility of human errors due to repetitive tasks. 

The comprehensive features and the advanced functionality built into CoreView allow organizations to improve security, streamline administration, optimize licensing, and empower usage adoption.