How do you prepare staff for a new system or software upgrade?
“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed” – Peter Senge
I have been an IT trainer for 25 years now, and during that time I have worked with many organisations who are upgrading their software or changing to a new system. In all projects of this type, I have found that the idea of change does unsettle many people. I can only assume that this is human nature, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with it and it’s so ingrained, it is something that should be anticipated. The question I want to help answer is – how can we reduce the amount of fear, resistance and doubt that results from news of a different way of working?
I am writing specifically about the introduction of new IT systems and how organisations can help prepare their staff to embrace and even to become excited and positive about the change, but it could apply to other areas of business too. Sometimes, new software also brings about the introduction of new business processes too. So, not only are users being given a tool that they’ve never used before but they are also having to re-think and learn new processes in order to be seen as successful in their role.
Training for Change
Occasionally, by the time I am introduced to users, it is on the day of a training course. If it is to be effective, training should be an enjoyable and positive experience, but if delegates arrive feeling the pressure of having to re-learn the job that they’ve been doing for years, it can result in a negative attitude towards the training before it’s even started. This, of course, has a negative impact on how users feel when they have to get on with their job using the new software. I want to help organisations to avoid these pitfalls, in order to reduce resistance, reduce lost working time, reduce stress and to increase happiness and engagement for all involved.
I have been thinking about things that I have heard at the start of training on a new or upgraded system. I have listed these below along with some simple ways that may have helped people to have felt more on-side and positive before we got to this stage:
“There’s nothing wrong with the old system, why change?”
What a valid question! If the users don’t understand why there’s a need to change, then how can they be expected to embrace the change? New software and systems are a big investment for a company both financially and logistically. So, those who have made the decision to invest in a new tool must know what is “wrong” with the old system and how a new system will improve the way that individuals and the organisations work. Someone needs to SELL the new system to the users!
Using clear, non-techy language, explain what’s wrong with the old system and what’s better about the new system. Explain the BENEFITS, not just the features. Allow users to ask questions and make suggestions. Involving users is essential to ensure that their needs are accounted for. It might be too late once the system is up and running!
“I can’t do my job properly with this new software”
This could raise some serious questions about the new software’s ability to allow users to do their job, however, let’s assume that the decision makers have done their research and have ensured that users will still be able to do their job as well, if not better with the new software. If this is the case, this needs to be clearly communicated.
Why should users take someone’s word for it? Loyal, valuable staff will question decisions – that’s one of the things that makes them valuable – they care.
“I won’t have time get my work done because I don’t know where anything is on this new tool”
Concerns about being able to work as efficiently and comfortably as before are very common and perfectly natural. Perhaps users should know that they will be allowed some slack to get used to the new software. Maybe some contingency for less efficient working needs to be put in place while users are still learning.
I know this can be difficult for organisations as “business as usual” is usually still expected. How about putting in place incentives for users to do a bit of overtime or put in some extra learning time?
“Why weren’t we consulted about this?”
Consulting ALL users is essential. I don’t mean speak to each employee one by one, but give people opportunities to have a voice should they wish to. Surveys, meetings, road shows, posters, demos, examples of organisations who successfully use the software are just some of the ways users will feel like their opinion is valued and that they have been given the opportunity to have their say.
You can’t please everyone, but communication about HOW decisions were made involving users will certainly help to please the majority.
“It’s OK for the young ones, but I’m too old to learn new things”
Another very natural reaction to change, and something that people have said to me a lot. Generational differences do have an impact. New school leavers will usually find using new technology much easier than users who grew up in a very different technological age. It might be that the older, longer serving employees have more experience in business – approach them for their input on how the change in software might affect the business. Take their concerns onboard and use them to maximum effect. Ensure that they know their input is valued and is being used.
Preparation is key
I know that training a whole organisation is a huge undertaking but it is totally necessary if the investment in the software is going to be worthwhile. Moving as seamlessly as possible from one system to another is key, so try to group users sensibly so that they attend the training with users of a similar level of IT literacy. Consider job roles in these groupings and also which features will be used by different groups of people. I have been involved with helping to organise these groupings many a time. It’s not necessarily a quick job, but it is well worthwhile as it will ensure the training is as focussed to the individuals as possible so that they can get on with their job as quickly as possible.
How I can help
I have worked with company IT experts to learn their in-house software and design training for their users. I have helped business experts to design training and prepare for training delivery. I have shown people what’s new in software upgrades or how to get the most from a change from Microsoft Office to Google Workspace to give them a more positive and effective way to work with software.
For any more advice or to discuss a software change you are planning, please get in touch with me. firstname.lastname@example.org 01273 956200
This article was originally published in October 2015