Four Training Tips

Four Critical Tips for Training

Over the past several weeks I have had the opportunity to sit in on database training performed by software vendors for a couple of my clients. These training sessions reminded me of how important it is to ensure that your database training, whether performed by in-house staff or an outside consultant, needs to be properly prepared.

Training can be expensive, and poorly trained users cost the organization in lost productivity and production errors. Following are four tips that will help you get the most out of your training dollars.You can use these as guidelines for training that you are preparing, or share them with your vendor in advance of their preparation.

  • Make Sure You Have Tested The Software – Nothing is more frustrating for attendees than to watch a trainer demonstrate the software, only to see an error message come up or have the system crash. For any process that you or your trainer is going to be demonstrating, the software should have already been tested for that process. E ven worse is to be told, “Well, it’s supposed to do this, but it’s not working yet.” Never demonstrate functionality that doesn’t yet exist; it only frustrates users and teaches them to mistrust the system.
  • Make Sure You Know Your Audience – If you are doing the training yourself, I would hope that this one goes without saying. You have to know who you’re talking to in order to give your attendees the most value for their time. If you’re going to have an outside party do your training, make sure you help them understand who is going to be in the room. And make sure they know and understand how your organization works. No attendee wants to hear questions like “How many members do you have again?” or “How many meetings do you hold each year?” or “Does your organization do fundraising?” Anyone who is doing the training should have the answers to basic questions like these BEFORE they enter the training room.
  • Have Practice Examples Ready – We all know that the most effective training occurs when users can put their hands on the computers and actually work through the processes that are being taught. To that end, it is absolutely critical that practice examples are developed that mirror scenarios that your users are likely to encounter. The most ineffective form of training has the trainer say “Now that I’ve shown you how to do this, think of a few examples and try them out yourself.” Put together examples that are meaningful to users and have them go through them one step at a time. And just like the software itself, you should test the examples, to make sure they’ll actually work in the software.
  • Use Your Organization’s Data and Database – Finally, be sure that whatever training you do, you do it with your organization’s data and database. If you are doing training in-house, this goes without saying. But if you are having an outside party perform training, insist that they use your data and database. Otherwise the training will be irrelevant to the attendees, and a waste of time. Unlike “generic” office productivity software (Word, Excel, etc.), even “off- the-shelf” database software is highly configured and each organization uses it differently. If you want to get the most out of your training budget, insist that the trainer address these four areas. No one remembers everything they are taught in any training environment, but you will increase the odds of your attendees retaining the information you present if you test the software, know the audience, have examples ready, and use your own data and database.
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