Selecting and implementing learning technology solutions can be a cumbersome and lengthy process. Even the best selections are a failure if end users resist the new technology.
Too often I hear from L&D professionals that they meticulously planned the “perfect” system to support their efforts, only to find out changes within the company structure or overlapping technologies would prove to be a distraction. Their efforts lost steam, and in some cases, failed completely.
In this article I identify five proven best practices to gain support from end users and stakeholders.
Why does adoption by end-users and stakeholders matter?
Employees who quickly utilize new technology solutions are not just happier—they are good for business! When implemented thoughtfully, technology solutions will increase productivity, accountability, and efficiency.
Instrumental to your success are intentional, measured, and carefully planned approaches that identify and involve stakeholders, follow a project plan, celebrate success, use change management techniques, and keep the user in mind from the beginning.
Understanding and involving your stakeholders is a must. You must plan ahead to identify who is impacted, how the solution impacts their area, and how it affects their job and strategic goals.
Communicate early and often with these stakeholders. If there is one area in particular that will benefit more from the new system, engage them as partners in the process of selection and implementation. Always remember that these stakeholders have influence on end-user perception.
So, who are your stakeholders?
An example: Are you frustrated that your learning management system (LMS) has poor reporting functionality? Your audit or risk department is probably equally frustrated. By partnering together, you reduce the possibility of implementing overlapping solutions to address the same problems, and you build relationships critical to your business.
Consider other potential partners, such as human resources. If they struggle with an outdated process for sourcing, recruiting, assessing, and managing employees, there’s a possibility the system you are considering addresses those needs.
If you can, hold a series of meetings with stakeholders and superusers to encourage collaboration and discussion. Paint a picture for other areas of the company, gather feedback, and prepare to answer concerns specific to their area.
A good vendor partner should be helpful in this process. They have led countless system rollouts, and should have resources and best practices to help. Tap into the collective knowledge of their implementation team and use it as a starting point for planning.
Stakeholders should understand the impact of not moving forward with a carefully planned approach to system implementation and end-user adoption.
For stakeholder meetings, use the power of executive presence to create an impact and sense of importance. When someone at a high level invites stakeholders, they see the meeting as important.
Utilize a project plan
If your company has a dedicated project-management department or someone with a similar skill set (and time) that can support your team throughout the project lifecycle, use their help. In many cases project managers have a grasp of other efforts happening in the company that could impact your implementation. They also can help guide the project and manage resources throughout the process.
The project manager can uncover other efforts that could cause competition for resources (time, money). Identifying risks to the project early on can avert disaster.
Quick wins are vital. Consider:
- Naming contests to brand the system
- Identifying superusers and rewarding them for sharing their success
- Fun contests to encourage knowledge sharing and friendly competition
- Showcasing superusers through existing company communications: intranet, email, newsletters, publications, etc.
- Communicating project milestones, showcasing quick wins, and tailoring communication to a variety of audiences increases visibility and interest in the system.
Larger companies may also consider specific communication plans that include a plan for communication dates and delivery. Consider:
- Communication vehicles (company intranet and LMS, newsletters, email, internal posters, meetings, etc.)
- Targeted messages for each audience
- A plan for when messages are delivered
- Ongoing communication and training
Embrace change management
Recognize that change is a psychological process. Change often creates fear, and your end users will have different reactions to the process of adopting a new system or process. Generational differences, past experience (positive and negative) with other systems, support from managers, and access to training and resources can influence the effectiveness of managing the change.
Steps that users may experience during the transition include:
- Building awareness
- Understanding the WIFM, or “what’s in it for me”
- Trying and experimenting with the system
- Continuing to experience, use, and possibly get frustrated along the way
- System adoption
Remember that different user groups will appreciate the system in different ways. Some groups of users may need to use the system daily.
A customer relationship management solution, for example, may be a part of every salesperson’s daily routine. But finance or accounting may not scrutinize the metrics they use from that system daily.
It’s different for every company and every system, and it’s important to understand the different groups involved.
Design with users in mind
In a class that I teach on LMS selection, we utilize a detailed systems requirements checklist to compare vendors fairly. Some of the system features and functionality from the list that have a direct impact on end users include:
- A single sign-on allows users to access system without logging in separately
- Mobile apps compatible with multiple devices
- Just-in-time support for end users, through dedicated support personnel, job aids, or FAQs
- Clean and easy navigation of the search database
- Calendar views and email class-date reminders
- Training roadmap or a dashboard configured for each user
- Can learner self-enroll for classes or request permission through the system?
Consider what matters to your end users, in addition to your stakeholders. Users are more likely to adopt a system if it is responsive, easy to use, accessible on demand, and intuitive. Our familiarity with websites we access for personal use can dictate what we expect from the systems we use at work.
Designing with the end user in mind, testing extensively, communicating often, and celebrating success increases your likelihood of adoption.