It is no longer a surprise that the average attention span of humans (8 seconds) has come down to less than that of a Goldfish, which is 9 seconds. All credit to this digitally enhanced age; humans are so distracted by their electronic gadgets they struggle to concentrate and miss out on things which might be important.
While this is the case, the length of corporate training sessions has hardly changed over the years – be it a classroom session or an online learning course. Employees are made to undergo training sessions of 30-60 minutes each. Training sessions on software such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems might take even more as the complexity of the software demands detailed demonstrations. But with the declining ability of people to stay focused and the ever so prolonged training sessions, how can you ensure the end-users of your ERP system remember all the important stuff provided during numerous training sessions? How do you make learning stick for a longer period of time? How can you save them from being patients of short-term memory loss?
Simple. Reinforce learning on a periodic basis and you will see it sticks longer. This fact is demonstrated by BF Skinner’s Positive Reinforcement experiment. In this famous experiment, Skinner placed a hungry rat in a box with a lever. Whenever the rat, in its attempt to escape, bumped into the lever, it was offered food. Ultimately, the rat learned to press the lever when hungry. This was possible due to positive reinforcement (being offered food in this instance).
If a task/action is performed repeatedly, it becomes second habit and is retained longer.
Okay, we understand the importance of reinforcing ERP training; but the question is, how do you do it practically? Do you make end-users go through the sessions yet again? Not really. So read on to know what can be done.
There are four ways to reinforce ERP classroom training. They are short explainer videos, software application simulations, on-demand webinars, and interactive user manuals. Let’s know about each in detail.
Short Explainer Videos
As we all know, videos are quite effective in demonstrating complex information which is not possible through the written word. They are especially suitable to demonstrate how a particular task is to be executed, or technical functions and processes. Working on a new ERP system means end-users will have too many complex processes to perform. A trainer might explain these in a classroom session, but would that be enough to remember for a long period of time? No. So, you need to deliver short videos which would demonstrate these complex processes easily and with less time and efforts.
Also, as part of change management, you can deliver short videos of different case-studies periodically, reminding how end-user adoption of the ERP system is an important aspect in an organization’s growth or fall, post ERP implementation.
Software Application Simulations
Training on software such as ERP often requires hands-on practice to reinforce the learning provided. Unfortunately, the software is often unavailable for the end-users during the training sessions as is it still in the customization and testing stage. By the time they get access to it, they are expected to perform like a pro and avoid mistakes as the software has gone live. Any mistake at this stage would require a great deal of time, efforts, and money to rectify it. So how do you provide hands-on practice and reinforce the training?
Simple. Through software application simulations. These are the screencasts of functions performed on the actual software. The functions are captured using a rapid authoring tool and developed as Watch-Try-Do software application simulations. In the Watch stage, end-users are shown how a function is performed with written/verbal instructions. In the Try stage, they are asked to try the function under guidance. In the Do stage, they are expected to execute the function by themselves; but provided clues if they go wrong more than twice.
Such a learning experience would provide a hands-on experience of working on the ERP system and also reinforce the training provided in the classroom.
A webinar is a presentation or meeting conducted online. Participants from any geographical location can attend these webinars from their computers or laptops. Now webinars are not confined to presentations or meetings, even trainings happen through webinars. It is usually for employees dispersed in different locations and cannot attend the classroom sessions. The presenter uses an online meeting tool such as GoToMeeting or WebEx to schedule these webinars and sends an invitation using the same tool to the attendees.
The good thing about these online webinars is that they are usually recorded for future reference. So, you can create a library of these webinars and let all end-users know about the library, especially remote vendors. Whenever any end-user finds it necessary to go through a particular training or webinar, he can access it. This is a great way to reinforce learning on-demand.
Interactive User Manuals
ERP vendors usually provide user manuals along with the software. But after the installation, organizations approach ERP implementation partners to customize the software according to their needs. So these user manuals go obsolete. But these user manuals can also be updated according to the customization. They can be converted into interactive user manuals and provided to end-users. They not only reinforce learning provided in the classroom but also act as excellent on-the-job support.
These manuals start with a list of role-based functions. A click by the end-user on the function he wants to check out leads him to that particular section of the manual. He can then check out the steps which are visually described using screenshots of the software. Such an experience is more effective than just providing a PDF overloaded with text.
These are a few ways you can reinforce ERP end-user training for better retention of the subject. But don’t provide end-users’ these resources and ask them to go through till they remember it completely. There is a science behind reinforcing learning. Spaced repetition with microlearning makes sense here. You must schedule the reinforcement with sufficient gap for end-users to go through micro modules relevant to their roles and focus on one issue before moving on to the next. As is rightly said, “Repetition is good, but spaced repetition is better”.
How do you reinforce end-user training? Do you use microlearning? Do share your experiences.