Digital transformation in large organisations is in vogue and has a daily impact on the lives of their employees: they are inundated with new IT applications, to be used every day or almost. According to Josh Bersin, there are no less than 20 applications on the average workstation!
This excessive digitalisation has consequences for the way we work. On the one hand, digital technology breaks down silos and opens up new modes of collaboration: sharing and working simultaneously on office files, remote working and teleworking, and the move from one-way email to group messaging (Slack, Microsoft Teams).
On the other hand, processes are much more regulated and standardised. In the same way that for one’s personal life “there is an application for everything” (shopping, driving, etc.), for each process and task in the company, there is also a digital application for every action. Except that the rules inherent in each of these applications is determined by the company, not by its employees.
For this reason, it is becoming mandatory for every employee not only to master these new tools, but also to comply with them. Mastering PowerPoint and a CRM is the basis for a salesperson. Knowing how to navigate an ERP and spending hours on Excel is the daily routine for a financier. What’s new is that this is also true for the expense reports of his last trip, for making a purchase request, or for requesting the creation of a position, etc.
Contrary to popular belief, none of this is easy, even for young people. Firstly, because not all company applications are as ergonomic as those on your smartphone. Secondly, because it is not just a matter of using them, but of complying with a company process, which often includes many rules.
In this context, training in digital tools and these new processes is essential. It is clear that the digital transformation will only be successful if employees master these tools. However, should companies embark on vast training programmes, as in the 2000s, when IT training was a discipline in its own right?
Perhaps not, because these new digital tools require new approaches to training. Digital is a ‘must have’, not a skill or a competency that differentiates two employees from each other.
First, the pace of implementation, and therefore of adoption of these new tools is particularly fast. Where an ERP used to take several years to be implemented in a company, the cycles are now sometimes less than a year. The arrival of SaaS (Software As A Service) also means that applications evolve more frequently, as do processes. It is therefore necessary to train continuously, or at least much more regularly.
However, this poses problems. Whereas we used to train face-to-face for the deployment of a new version of Windows/Office every 2 or 3 years, it is becoming quite unimaginable to train for every improvement to Microsoft Office 365. It is simply unmanageable given the pace of new releases (dozens of new releases per month)!
Secondly, the needs of ‘learning’ employees have changed. As Bersin theorised, the Modern Learner has no time for training, and is concerned above all with being operational, not with becoming an expert in the 20 applications on his or her workstation. We are a long way from a training course that validates what has been learned. It’s all about practice and efficiency. A user’s first instinct is now to open his application and try to work it out for himself. If they get stuck, they will ask a colleague, call support, or try to consult an online help. Under no circumstances will they sign up for training because what is important is to complete the task assigned to them.
We are therefore moving from a rather proactive approach (training before using) to a rather reactive approach (using and then training on the spot). Computer training then becomes almost a form of on-demand support, at the moment when the person needs it, i.e. in front of his or her screen, in his or her application – in real time. Here we find an essential component of digital (and no doubt of our era): the acceleration of time and the need for immediacy.
Another factor brought about by digital technology is personalisation. This means taking into account the employee’s profile and level of digital maturity (is he or she a novice or an expert?) in order to adapt the training to the user. For example, there is no point in explaining to a “digital native” how to make a “post” on a social network. On the other hand, it is possible to explain to them what kind of information they should put in their post.
These strong trends are now materialising in the appearance of digital or virtual assistants, more and more numerous, in the form of chatbots or automated programmes, with more or less artificial intelligence. Their job? To make life easier by performing or providing assistance as quickly as possible, and in a personalised manner. In this context, training becomes obsolete or, more precisely, it becomes part of the operation of the assistant or application. This is already the case for corporate mobile applications, as having training for this type of application means admitting that it is not simple and usable.
IT/digital training must therefore blend in with these new digital tools. To take the example of mobile applications again, perhaps we should take inspiration from game applications which, at the very heart of their operation, include ways of getting the user started and maintaining his or her interest (embedded tutorials, points, and badges system). All this at the right time when they need it.
By Toan Nguyen, CEO of Shortways
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