Using Training to Land & Embed Business Change for Long-Term ROI

This is last post in the 4-part series on 'Successful, Sustainable Business Change'

Once you have the appropriate capability and organisational structures in place, you’ve designed the new process or system and you’ve communicated the changes and the impact it will have on both the business and the individual, the change needs to be trained out.

It is no good just telling people to do it, they need to see the system and process connected, to understand what it replaces and to be given practice sessions to learn and grow confident with the change.

In this final post of a 4-part series on how to deliver successful sustainable change, I’m going to talk about the importance of training your teams in light of the process and systems changes that your programme has brought in.

Understanding the role of the trainer

Before we go any further, it’s important that you understand the role of the trainer(s) in your change programmes.

The trainer should never be sharing new news with the delegates, they should know from their leaders, from the comms and from their colleagues what is happening and the benefits to the business from the investment. They should come into the training clear about their place in the organisation, post-change(s), and open to learning the “how”.

Think about it: is training where you would want to learn that your job might be at risk? 

How much information do you think a delegate is taking in when they’ve just heard a new process outlined which clearly changes their role? And how well is the organisation able to manage the message when the trainer is put on the spot to explain organisational structure changes in a training session?

If the steps we’ve discussed to this point (in parts 1, part 2 and part 3) haven’t been addressed, then training is going to be at best extremely uncomfortable.

Train leaders/managers first

Depending on the change being landed it is often valuable to train the leaders first. This is usually a quicker and higher-level set of training if it’s to do with systems-based, but can be relatively in-depth if it’s behavioural.

A mid-level manager might be expected to lead a new process, so how the leader behaves in this setting, how they communicate, what action is driven, how comfortable they themselves are with the process are all worth spending time developing.

In this scenario, the manager is the key to ensuring the change happens and they themselves will be developing their team’s skills (after initial training) in the new process – so we need to be confident they have the rights skills and are supported through the launch.

Reinforce with reference and roleplay

On successful programmes in the foundational steps, we design “process-first” so by the time we get to training we are incredibly clear how the system will be used and when.

Materials and workbooks are created to guide the attendee through the systems – which button to press, what the calculations are, KPI definitions, new system acronyms and terminology, etc. – which give the user a reference guide to take away with them.

The type of training required depends on the complexity and newness of the processes being trained.

Most require some exercises to ensure true understanding, but the most complex benefit from roleplays and experiential sessions which are rooted in real scenarios for that business.  This allows delegates to practise in a safe environment and understand the real-life context – because rarely is the system the point of the change, most often it’s the enabler.

Successful programmes will have been inclusive so there will have been questions and challenges raised throughout, which means that the trainer can be armed with the answers to Frequently Asked Questions. To the delegate, it feels very reassuring that there are answers to most of their questions which again builds commitment and belief in the overall change programme.

Time training delivery for maximum effectiveness

Delegates themselves learn in different ways and ensuring that the course/s use different mediums will be important to maximise the learning.

It is often beneficial to support users after launching with access to trainers in drop-in sessions – as even with the very best training people forget things and need some help when it comes to operating in the real world.

Of course, this is a bigger risk when the time between the training and the implementation extends. Used immediately, 90% is retained, but all too often the gap between training and launch extends as the rollout plan is almost always too aggressive and various things delay the system launch.

Training shouldn’t be used to infill the missing pieces in a programme or project. Nor should it be used to retrofit processes around systems that were designed in silo.

With trainers who are subject-matter experts (SMEs) it can be done, but it’s more expensive and less efficient:

  • There are bound to be system tweaks required
  • Testing needs to be repeated
  • Trainers will be writing the training multiple times

It is often beneficial to support users after launching with access to trainers in drop-in sessions

Visibility matters

If you’ve developed the system in silo your engagement will naturally be low so training delivery will be an uphill battle as delegates spend quite a lot of time telling you what’s wrong with the system and why it won’t work. (Worst case: they may well be right!)

If their managers aren’t visible in the training – either delivering communication to prepare the way for training or as support in the training sessions itself – then delegates are unlikely to be confident that the change is (going to be) real.

For teams to trust in the change they will look to their leaders – if they don’t look and sound convinced, then their teams won’t be either, and the cynic in the room will become the loudest voice.

Systems training and increasing capability are obviously connected but you can’t expect to put a delegate through systems training and expect to get behavioural capability out the other end.

If you haven’t thought through the capability you’ll need ahead of the system launch and begun to put it in place, then you’ll end up doing it after the system training.

That’s the thing about change: your question isn’t if you do it, but when

Achieve sustainable change at the first time of asking

There’s a huge spectrum of change programmes – from small, incremental changes, through to massive organisational change – but change is a fact of business.

The most successful change programmes deliver not just a successful programme, but they increase capability and begin to breed a culture where incremental change is part of the day job.

Change management used to be seen as an add on, a nice to have, a box to tick. But organisations are increasingly realising its critical importance when it comes to longer-term business sustainability and success.

As the pace of change accelerates businesses do not have the luxury of “several attempts” at moving the business forward. They have to make sure the money and time invested count the first time.

And the only way to achieve this, is by investing in – and following – effective change management processes from the very beginning.

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Victoria Ward

About the author: Victoria Ward

A consultant with over 20 years’ experience, Victoria had a long career in merchandising for blue-chip retailers before joining First Friday where she now supports and guides businesses through transformation programmes, enabling them to deliver sustainable change in her role as a strategic transformation consultant.

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