Large organizations and small businesses alike invest in technology to streamline business processes, and they expect to get returns—increased productivity, better efficiency and so on—on their investments. But many companies fail to take their employees’ learning needs into account, and the result can be lower-than-expected ROI.
According to Seth Leibler, CEO of the Center for Effective Performance (CEP), many organizations fail to consider how their technology investments will affect employees’ day-to-day tasks and processes. Employees who do get training on the new technology often learn about system features, but not how the system will affect their daily work and how to use the system to perform their job tasks.
Ann Parkman, CEP’s president and founding partner, said that employees tend to try to adapt the new technology to their old way of doing their jobs. “They don’t get the benefit of the new technology,” she said. “They ask co-workers how to do things, so they’re taking their own time and their co-workers time. They probably never learn all of the features and never take advantage of all of the benefits that made the business case for buying that technology, so the corporation never gets the full benefit.”
The IT department or chief information officer usually makes an ROI case for purchasing new technology, but estimates show that employees end up using about 40 percent of the new systems’ capabilities, Parkman added. Only the top performers ever learn how to change their daily work to accommodate the new system, while the remaining employees generally never use the system as it was intended to be used. “They never learn the most efficient ways to do all the things that the technology could do for them,” Parkman said.
She added that this leads workers to be inefficient or inaccurate with customers, leading to additional problems for the business. “This can have all kinds of customer impacts, depending on what their industry is,” Parkman said. “In any customer-touching industry, it leads to customer complaints, undercharges, overcharges, lost business, increased supervision—those sorts of costs.”
The Center for Effective Performance recommends allocating 10 percent to 13 percent of the total project budget to training. Parkman added that learning executives should get involved as early as possible. “As soon as the decision to buy has been made, there is always some customization, and that’s where learning executives can play a big role,” she said. “Have people start looking at the different jobs and whose job the new technology is going to affect, how it’s going to affect their jobs, what changes it will make in people’s work, and then obviously, what the implications are for training. If there’s major customization, can we impact it from a human performance perspective? Can we influence it to make it easier for the people to use within our organization?”
The first step to take is to determine the different user groups within the organization and figure out exactly how their jobs are going to change due to the new technology, Parkman said. “Most companies train on how to use the technology—they don’t train on how to do the job using this tool,” she said. “Of course, we don’t want people to come to work and use the technology—we want them to come to work and do their jobs. We think that they can make those transfers; if we teach them about the tool, they can then know what it means for their job. It does not work that way.”
By taking the human point of view before the implementation is complete, learning executives can do the necessary analysis to determine how the technology will affect specific jobs. Then, training can be designed to fit each job role, Parkman said. “Your training is going to look different for different user groups,” she explained. “Certain pieces will be common, and other pieces will be unique to various groups. Then I don’t have to sit through training that is not relevant to my job. What I am doing is learning things that are job-relevant, and I get the chance to practice some things that are like the tasks that I work on every day.”
By getting involved early, learning executives can also discover if the new technology is going to cause major upheavals in workers’ daily tasks, and they can request customization of the technology accordingly. “At that time, it’s not too late to say, ‘We’re going to have to change the job 80 percent, whereas if you can make these four tweaks, it will be easier for learners and be more intuitive,” Parkman said.
To learn more about the benefits of customizing learning on new technologies to specific job roles, and other ways to improve workforce performance and help employees adapt to change, visit CEP’s Web site at http://www.cepworkforceperformance.com.
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