by Joanne Humber, head of legal IT training at Phoenix Business Solutions

The best possible way to achieve this is by training people to really effectively use the systems and software that the firm has invested in and to understand their business benefits. Of course this has always been a challenge. Classroom sessions are increasingly unpopular and can prove costly when fee earning staff are tied up in training. Training effectiveness can be much improved if sessions are kept short, are role-specific and are backed up by some of the new technologies now available.

Generally IT training is geared to the roll out of new or changed systems. Unfortunately much of this – whether it is delivered in the classroom or on-line – is forgotten if the skills learned are not used immediately or on a day to day basis. Today’s users benefit most if they can get support at the point of need ie when they have a problem, when something goes wrong or when they have forgotten something. That’s when training is most effective or else the Help Desk calls start to build.

A recent white paper Ensuring Project Success: Building a Business Case for Performance Support Solutions prepared by learning & development 'guru' Bob Mosher says “we need to enable our employees to successfully adopt and apply [these] new processes, skills, tasks, systems, and policies. However, when we examine the effectiveness of our current training and support systems, we generally agree our current programs aren’t very effective in achieving either an immediate or sustainable impact on employee adoption of our mission critical business processes and applications. In summary, our current learning programs focus too much on training and too little on how to effectively support users after we’ve trained them. We need to develop new workplace solutions that focus on the long term application of knowledge (performance) rather than the short-term retention of information (training).”

There are some really effective new solutions designed to address these issues:

• Providing users with help precisely when they need it and making sure that it makes sense to them. Context-sensitive help tools have come a long way since Microsoft's annoying little paper clip. Now the IT help desk team and/or trainers can pinpoint the most common problem areas in any application on the desktop and easily add a link to a quick tip, an e-learning module or any other inhouse resource.


• Making any training that is delivered really relevant is vital, particularly for high earning fee earners. There are now ways to neatly pinpoint exactly what skills an individual needs to perform his or her role effectively within the firm and can even identify how they prefer to work. Then a customized training plan can be instantly prepared,  directing them to a scheduled workshop, a web-based training session, a quick reference guide, a nugget of e-learning or simply an FAQ that will help them.

• Changing working practices is far more easily achieved when staff are kept informed during the project’s development phase, understand why changes are happening, are involved in some of the key decisions and given an opportunity to feedback to IT when they have comments or concerns. This can be done using the on-line forums incorporated into many learning management systems, via the firm’s intranet or just via a simple email link. It is important not to underestimate the value of explaining the reasons why changes are occurring, what the benefits are and ensuring that everyone, at every level, takes ownership of the project.

• Induction training has been transformed in many firms by making it role-specific, task-based and designed to reflect a typical 'day in the life' of the new starter. It allows the trainer to tailor inductions to suit individuals rather than potentially subject them to hours of training which may not be relevant to the work they will be doing. Trainers spending time within departments and understanding the way they work can have enormous benefits.

• Web-based training has become increasingly popular as it appears to be far more cost effective than sending trainers around the country or across the globe. However training delivered this way needs to be carefully designed and monitored to ensure that its recipients are actually gaining the knowledge they need. Again the provision of additional on-going support at the point of need is vital.

For more information about any of the above – the new context-sensitive help and diagnostic tools, learning management systems and Phoenix’s training consultancy service contact Joanne Humber on 0207 680 4450.