When a new software application is rolled out to a firm, training is needed. Everyone knows and agrees that some sort of training is required, but depending on who you ask, the next questions will have different answers:

  • When should training be included in the project?
  • How much training is needed?
  • What needs to be trained on?
  • Do all staff need training?
  • What types of training are best?
  • When should training take place?
  • Most importantly – How do I do my day job if I have to attend all this training!

Training is a key piece of the software implementation puzzle; you cannot expect staff to log into a new IT System on a go live date and know what to do with little or no training. In different terms, you wouldn’t walk into a restaurant, go into the kitchen and be able to make their signature dish without A LOT of support! Some people would find it easier than others, but most would not even know where to start. Would you turn the oven on first? Prepare the veg? Collect the ingredients? This is what happens when firms get new IT, especially a new Practice Management System. Some people, who are more “techy”, will have a good go at getting into the system and try to navigate it; but others would not try for fear of doing something wrong: How do I search? What button do I press? How can I access my cases? This is where effective training comes into it.

In the past I have attended supplier’s “training” on their products, I say “training” because in some cases they are more demonstrations that show features of the system and how certain aspects work. These sessions are great as fact finding tools to see the software and what it can do but attendees go away from these remembering what the bells and whistles are and not how they can use it.

Therefore, it is important to give staff as much exposure to the system before it is rolled out to them. When people attend training, they retain less than half of the information after an hour, hence, bitesize training is often more effective for most people. Cognitive science says that your brain must flag information as “important” to learn something straightaway; this is not helpful when learning a new system because most of the system will be important to the staff, which can be overwhelming.

To help staff with the process of learning the new system, it is better to create modules of training. These can also be role dependent, so staff are not expected to give their valuable time up for unnecessary training. Ideally, with a larger change, staff will have multiple training sessions, relevant to their role and good exposure to the system. Given that each attendee will have different learning preferences (for example, some learn better from face-to-face training, others from quietly reading training material at their own pace), another great approach is to supply training notes/guides to the attendees after each session; this can always be used as a refresher once they have the system in front of them.

When a firm is implementing a new system, in the olden days, before Covid, staff were placed in a meeting room with laptops and a trainer at the front. Nowadays, training can be accomplished in many ways including the typical classroom type and others such as video training, remote training, 1:1s and ongoing support. Often it is a blended approach of all these methodologies, ensuring that training is adapted to the requirements of the firm and individuals.

In my experience, training should be provided well in advance of the go-live date, meaning that everyone can have their system demo, attend their training sessions, “play” with the test system and be ready for D-Day! With adaptive and concentrated training beforehand, less support is needed at and after go-live. Firms should not see a great decrease in profitability and time recording if effective training has been delivered, as their staff will already have the knowledge on how to use the system in the “real world”.

However, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It is often the case that whilst training/test systems are made available they are not used as staff receiving the training do not have time, inclination or often confidence to “play” on a system which is not yet mandatory.  In these circumstances, it is essential that the message is delivered in the correct way, emphasising the importance of engaging early in the project so that the go-live period is a much smoother transition.  We work closely both with the staff and with leadership teams to ensure that these messages are delivered in the correct way.

One of the other challenges firms can face with replacing their current IT system is the “scared of change” attitude. This can create a negative aura around the whole project, with the result that the system already starts off on a bad foot. Effective communication, training and Q&A sessions help staff adapt to the change and to feel positive about the process. This is because with each session, they are being reassured and listened to.

Please bear in mind that, no matter how much training is given beforehand, there will still be some areas of the system that staff will have to learn on the job, as these cannot be replicated in the training itself. Ongoing support is always needed after go-live, as when the system changes and further developments are added, so will the need to update the staff’s knowledge.

In short, regardless of the amount or quality of training provided beforehand it is only when “doing the do” that we truly learn, and it is often this on-the-job training which people forget to plan for during the project phases. After all, we can all read a book on how to build a space rocket but how many could do it without support?

In conclusion, when a firm invests money in a new system, why would they not want the system to be used effectively? The system will only be as good as how the staff use it: if the staff do not use all the bells and whistles that are designed to streamline their legal work, why invest in a system that has these capabilities? Therefore, investing time and effort into staff training can be just as important as the financial investment in the product itself. Training should not be an afterthought; it should be at the forefront.  

If you have any questions from this article, please contact Beccy.