Implementing an IT transformation? Don’t underestimate the training….

A crucial element of delivering a successful IT change programme  is a well-run training phase. All the hard work put into designing, building and testing the incoming solution will be negated if your delivery is hamstrung by poor user adoption. But what does good training look like? And, even more importantly, what does great training look like?

The value of great training is that it will accelerate learning. In the context of an IT change, executing a stellar training phase translates directly to lower cost for user adoption.

Here are five ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ to look out for in your training courses.

DO – Break the course into bite-sized chunks

Knowledge is best absorbed in bitesize pieces, so the first step in creating any successful training materials is making sure it is digestible. This mindset should be applied to any aspect of your training programme  – everything from your module structure to quick reference guides needs to be broken down into constituent parts.

DON’T – Drone on

Accepted learning theory tells us that different people absorb information in different ways. Experts might argue about exactly how this occurs, but for practical training it’s just important to bear this in mind and account for it in your learning design.

Many people will learn very well listening to an explanation, but many won’t! So, make sure different methods of communication are mixed into your courses, like demonstrations and practical exercises.

The simplest way to apply this is to understand that there are broadly three types of learning style – Audio, Visual, and Kinaesthetic:

  • Audio learners absorb information best when things are explained to them
  • Visual learners when things are shown to them
  • Kinaesthetic when they are able to have a go at doing something themselves

DO – Use the four steps of learning

This method can be applied both theoretically and practically. The theory tells us that there are broadly four steps to anyone’s journey to learning a new skill or concept. The way to progress through these steps is to practice the skill you are trying to learn.

The steps are:

  • Unconscious Incompetence – “I don’t know that I don’t know how to do this”
  • Conscious Incompetence – “I know that I don’t know how to do this”
  • Conscious Competence – “I need to focus to do this”
  • Unconscious Competence – “I can do this without focusing”

Practically, these can be applied to our training delivery in two ways. The first is to broadly plan for trainees to repeat the skills they need to learn, as many times as feasible during the session. The second way is to use this as a framework for breaking down your course ‘chunks’ even further.


Each chunk of learning should be broken down into four steps:

  • Big Picture – the trainer first introduces the concept to the trainees. Often delegates will not be aware of this concept beforehand, and so therefore explaining the ‘big picture’ of what is involved allows them to move beyond Unconscious Incompetence and towards Conscious Competence
  • Demo – at this stage, the trainer will now demonstrate to delegates how to perform the task. This and the big picture explanation will have already ensured that we have appealed to both Audio (Big Picture) and Visual (Demo) learners
  • Hands on – once you’ve demonstrated the task to your trainees, you’ll want to let them have a go by setting them an exercise to complete (thus appealing to the Kinaesthetic learners in the group)
  • Consolidation – the final step is to go over what was learned already by asking questions to the group. This gives trainees another opportunity to ‘practice’ what they’ve learned as they are prompted to think about the topic and play back their own understanding of it

DON’T – Touch the mouse!

This one may sound slightly odd, but how many times have you seen a trainer step in and do something for a struggling trainee?

One of the cardinal rules of being a great trainer is ‘Coach, not tell’. Following this mantra will help to embed high quality in training delivery. It may seem obvious, but people learn best when given the opportunity to try something themselves. The principle of giving users as many opportunities to practice as possible (outlined above in the four steps) will be disrupted if you step in and metaphorically or literally ‘touch the mouse.’

DO – Ask questions

Questions are one of the most important tools a trainer can use to get an audience thinking about a topic. Even if someone doesn’t answer, the likelihood is that they will be at least slightly more engaged when posed with a direct or group question. Iterative practice is essential to learning a concept, and each question is another small step along that journey to competency.