Training and communication: how to get teams ready for a new IT system

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Convincing employees to use new technology is anything but an easy task. All too often, the new platform sits idly while staff happily maintain their old ways of working.

If you’re planning to roll out a new IT system in your hospitality business and haven’t worked out your end-user training or communication strategy, stop right there.

If staff in your venues aren’t ready or motivated to use the new systems, they won’t deliver the benefits you expect. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure you have a training strategy in place long before you start making changes to hardware or software.

Here are six top tips on how to go about it:

1) Set your training goals

Your training strategy is likely to have two goals:

  1. Get your employees up to speed so there’s a minimum loss of productivity when the new system goes live
  2. Improve employees’ productivity by taking full advantage of the new system

The first point is purely transitional. The second is the reason for switching platforms in the first place, which is to improve or replace old ways of working. That means continuing your training once the roll-out has been completed to ensure that the new system is used to its full potential.

2) No one size fits all

It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to apply a one-size-fits-all model to your entire organisation. You’ll have people in different roles, using different areas of the system, and with differing levels of IT knowledge and ability. Humans learn in different ways, so your employees will respond to different types of training. Try asking them what method they prefer from the off – ensuring they are bought in to the training and committed from the very beginning. That means you’ll need to provide different forms of training according to job role, levels of expertise and learning preference.

It goes without saying that it’s a bad idea to try and train novices and experts simultaneously: novices could be intimidated and experts bored. Similarly, novices may value classroom training while more tech-savvy users may prefer to experiment by themselves.

On the subject of what format training should take, there are several options including:

  • Online or printed self-study materials
  • Individual hands-on instruction
  • Classroom-style training
  • Seminars / live demonstrations
  • Interactive training applications

Many organisations will offer blended learning, employing several different training methods to meet differing needs and employee preferences. In very large organisations it’s also common to train senior staff first and then have them train their own teams.

No matter which particular mix of training options you decide to use, it’s important to schedule training alongside your roll-out plans to ensure that the right people get the right input at the right time.

3) Assemble your team

You may be the main driver of the project, but change isn’t solely your responsibility. The more people involved in selling the benefits of the new system, the more successful your roll-out is likely to be. Most organisations can identify influencers: the members of staff that other employees look to. Recruiting and training those influencers to be expert and enthusiastic users of the new system can pay dividends in terms of reducing resistance to change and framing the change as a positive step forward.

However, while influencers can significantly reduce the amount of work the core change team has to do, that shouldn’t mean dumping the evangelist role on them without giving them the time and resources to do it. The last thing you want is an unhappy advocate.

4) Sell the sizzle

In addition to training programmes, you’ll also need to communicate the benefits of the new system to everybody who’s going to be affected by it. And the key question to answer is WIIFM – what’s in it for me?

To take the old marketing saw, you need to sell the sizzle, not the steak. Most people are primarily interested in how the changes are going to affect them, so a message about how it’ll make customers friendlier, reduce paperwork and generally make everybody’s working life better is going to get more attention than management buzzword bingo or technical details that aren’t relevant to their day-to-day jobs.

To address this, it’s a very good idea to ensure that the “why” argument is used in all of your communications, and it may be helpful to create a short list of frequently asked questions with replies for your employees to refer to.

5) Listen

In addition to communicating the reasons for change, detailing the expected benefits and timescales, it’s important to listen to your employees as well. Formal or informal feedback mechanisms should be put in place to actively encourage feedback – positive and negative – and employees should feel their feedback is valued.

6) Look for “wins”

You’re bringing in new systems to make things better, so make sure you communicate improvements when they occur. If changes mean that X venue improved occupancy, or that bookings for venue Y went through the roof, for example, shout it from the rooftops. If employees see that the new system is genuinely making things better, they’ll be more enthusiastic about it – and that means you’ll be boosting morale as well as productivity.

Points to remember

  • Communication and training should begin long before any new systems are rolled out.
  • The more people extolling the benefits of the new system, the more successful your roll-out is likely to be.
  • Employees must feel their feedback is valued and they can make a contribution.
  • The key question to answer is WIIFM: what’s in it for me?
  • Deliver training according to job role and levels of expertise. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work.

We want you to make the most of our systems and realise the full operational benefits. Zonal offers comprehensive training customised to the needs of your business.

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