Two heads are better than one

Guest blog from The Inform Team  with whom we’ve been working on transformational change programmes

Link the ‘why’ to the ‘how’ to make IT stick

Getting employees to embrace and use new technology requires more than giving them IT skills training. Yes, IT training equips employees with the essential ‘know-how’ to use their new tools, but it doesn’t mean that they’re going to like and adopt them. Why?

Employees need to know why the change is happening and understand what’s in it for them, to recognise how the disruption and inconvenience in the short term is going

to benefit them in the longer term. New technology provides the opportunity to explore a different way of working and people skills training can help employees to identify this. By combining the ‘how to’ (IT skills) with the ‘why?’ (people skills) training, employees are more likely to adopt the technology and the employer will reap the return on their investment.

The Inform Team has been working with Stellar Learning – a people skills training provider – to deliver combined people and IT skills training to several central government departments, so they gain the most from the new technology they’ve deployed. We worked out that our two heads together are better than one. By collaborating and addressing training needs from two different angles, being transparent with one another, having aligned values and focusing on the combination of the business and emotional outcomes, we can improve adoption for our clients.

So, how did we roll out combined people and IT skills training to our clients?

How do you replace this on skype?

Firstly, we pitched the importance of combining people and IT skills to the departmental programme sponsors. It was vital they identified with the behavioural change that would occur as well as the IT one. We explained that people skills training is about getting people engaged, motivated and comprehending what’s in it for them; whereas IT skills training is about how to use the technology. Using Skype for Business as an example helped to put this into context for senior stakeholders. For example, you may know how to use the technology but virtual people etiquette and engagement is very different to face-to-face. Your habitual behaviours must adapt to accommodate virtual introductions and rapport building. This got their buy in!

Next, we pinpointed the best audience to receive the combined training. This was the early adopters and champions’ networks who were advocates of the new technology and the first level of change. Together, we created a training programme, which: 1) introduced the concept of combined people and IT skills 2) explained what we expected the outcome to be at an organisational and individual level, and 3) helped the early adopters and champions prepare and understand how they can support their colleagues.

What we reiterated in training is that change happens when you shift from telling to coaching mode, and recognise that everyone is an individual and will be impacted differently by the transformation. Champions explored how to apply the COLAS method when speaking with colleagues, which is:

  • CONNECT and build rapport
  • OBSERVE current behaviours, challenges, motivation to use the technology
  • LISTEN to their needs and understand what they are
  • ASK questions to understand those needs and to coach people on how to use the technology
  • SWAY – use persuasion to help people realise the value and see how to use the technology confidently

This method helps colleagues to better connect, communicate and collaborate, which aids with the technology adoption process. In short, you need to understand what makes people tick, and then you need to give them the tools to make the change stick.

We recognised that by running the people and IT skills training as one you learn about the how and why at the same time, so you can address all issues at once. It also makes learning more varied and relevant to how our brains form habits in practice and not theory. For example, traditional IT training emphasises massed learning i.e. learn all of a and then all of b, but neuroscience has discovered that it’s better to use spaced learning; i.e. to learn a,b,a,b…letting the brain rest before  repeating  By mixing up IT training sessions with people skills training everyone stays interested, motivated and more able to put what they’ve learned into practice.

The most rewarding part of taking this approach isn’t just that we have happier clients as more employees adopt the technology. It’s that we’ve given early adopters and champions vital IT skills plus the confidence to deal with colleagues who are resistant to change; and this is often the biggest challenge of all!

With our central government clients, we’ve had some of the champions we’ve trained kindly recognise our value. Here’s what they had to say:

“I just wanted to thank you. It was a complete pleasure being taught by you. It has been quite some time that I have been to an event and come away feeling inspired.”

and, “It has been great to see it come together.”

We don’t just limit our combined people and IT skills training to the early adopters and champions’ network; it’s an approach we take with all users – be it in the classroom or when we’re floor-walking.  Once a user understands the ‘why’ they’ll go with the ‘how’.

Thanks to Alexia Hanson at The Inform Team for providing this guest blog.