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New Technology, New Skills: Smart Ways to Train Staff

We all have different learning styles. Figuring out the best ways to reach your staff on technology upgrades can make or break your business.
Chief Executive Officer, Varsity Tutors
July 14, 2015

Think back to your college graduation. When you walked across that stage and received your diploma, you may have believed your education was complete.

Of course, you may have soon realized that wasn’t true. Our society is defined by change, and staying current is crucial—especially in regards to technology. Your business depends on your staff remaining up to date in this field.

And here's why:

  • Old technology can hamper team members’ work and cost you countless hours of productivity.
  • Outdated software is an enormous security threat. Your system is only as strong as the weakest link in your chain.
  • Appearing uninformed about new devices or software may discourage potential clients and customers.

The difficulty lies in continually ensuring that your team is well trained on the technology products and software they're using. Here are five ways to help ensure your employees know how to use the essential technology you need for your business:

1. Recognize When to Train

Technology is a constant flow of shifting information and processes, and you'll want to  retrain staff members when new platforms or programs affect them.

For instance, say you choose to move to tablets and eliminate desktop computers. While Sarah may be familiar with the mobile device, Eric may not be. Don’t assume that all team members will grasp a new system immediately. If each individual doesn’t fully understand how to use the technology—even if it’s simply an upgrade to a platform you already rely on—you may run the risk of depleted productivity and morale.

2. Begin With Team Leaders

As you prepare to launch new software or a tool that affects your staff, consider training a select group of members first. Once they’ve been trained, they can coach their respective teams.

Training the leaders first is an efficient technique for passing on information, as well as a great way to encourage collaboration. Better yet, it prevents a solitary instructor from becoming overwhelmed with requests and questions.

3. Train Online

Numerous small businesses exist exclusively online, with team members in different continents, countries or states. For such a business, in-person training would be wildly expensive and time-consuming. Online coaching is a powerful alternative.

Aside from their easy accessibility, online training sites like Lynda.com offer something that in-person workshops can't: asynchronous timing. Freeing your staff from fixed timelines can allow team members in varied locations around the country or around the world to each learn at his or her own pace.

4. Choose Hands-On Instructional Methods

We’ve all attended boring lectures. Slide after slide passes by, and when the lights come up, we leave with little new knowledge about the product or program.

Why do these presentations fail to work? For one thing, they often present too much information in a short amount of time and lack any real interaction. When it comes time to train your team, don’t force them to sit through a two-hour PowerPoint marathon to learn a new platform. Instead, incorporate interactive elements and frequent breaks to ensure that the content sinks in. Encourage your staff to bring their laptops and follow along during the training.

5. Experiment With New Tools and Software

Most of us take new cars for test drives before we buy them. So why not let your team members experiment with new software before using it in a true business context? If you’re rolling out a new device or program, allot your staff a week to practice with the new tool and solidify their lessons. Ensure that a well-trained team member is handy to answer the questions that will naturally arise.

Don’t underestimate the value of meaningful training. A simple misstep with a client may cost you a sale.

You always have time for staff education. Just take the initiative to make it a priority.

Chuck Cohn is also the founder and CEO of Varsity Tutors, and a member of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC).

Read more articles on technology.

This article was originally published on July 22, 2014.

Photo: Getty Images
Chief Executive Officer, Varsity Tutors