Back to school: why home workers may need training in digital tools

The COVID-19 lockdown has created a mass of new home workers that is having to get to grips with unfamiliar collaboration tools. In China alone, 200 million people experienced working from home for the first time as the country went into rapid lockdown. With so many working from home, user adoption training has never been more important. We outline some of the key steps you need to take across deployment, usage, adoption and proficiency.

The COVID-19 emergency has certainly changed the nature of the term “workplace.” Just over a year ago, research conducted by PwC found that 90% of C-level executives thought their company was paying adequate attention to workers’ needs when introducing new digital tools; only around half (53%) of their employees agreed that they were. In the current strained circumstances with entire company complements working from home, how can you ensure your collaboration tools keep your business running as normally as possible and support your customers? Digital tools are really only useful to your business if your workers know how to use them and then do actually use them.

The adoption imperative

Digital adoption is about how you make sure your workers use the tools you give them, both for their own benefit and to the overall advantage of your company. It isn’t merely a case of deploying collaboration tools and incorporating them into your workflow. To support your customers and ensure workers can be productive at a time like this, tools need to be used to their full potential. You haven’t truly “adopted” digital collaboration tools if workers aren’t using them and you’re not seeing results from them.

The end product of a progressive digital adoption program should be that your employees’ workflow is improved, your workers are collaborating with one another and are more productive, and while they are working remotely during the COVID-19 crisis, you have helped and supported your customers. Digital adoption is industry-agnostic, and the same principles apply whether you are in financial services, retail or the public sector.

Shadow IT plays a role in impeding adoption, too. Workers can prefer their own apps of choice to make their jobs easier and more productive, meaning they are sometimes resistant to using the UC&C tools their employer has rolled out to them. It can be as simple as a fear of the unknown on the employee’s part, an unfamiliarity breeding contempt for the apps the company is trying to impose on them. They’re simply more used to using their own social media apps for sharing and communicating with their friends: this is likely to be a factor during the COVID-19 lockdown, since so many more users will now be working from home and needing to learn how to use new tools and apps. Shadow IT remains a big issue for companies: according to the Symantec 2018 Shadow Data Report, the average enterprise still uses 1,516 cloud apps for example, a massive 40 times what they typically think.

A step-by-step approach

“Taking a defined, four-step approach to adoption can make sure your workers want to use your new digital tools, and furthermore that they know how to use them and fully grasp the benefits of them,” says Stephane Minana, Head of Enriched Interaction and Collaboration at Orange Business Services. “You want to make user adoption a positive experience, and that means giving people something they need, making sure it works properly, communicating the value of it to them, and getting them engaged in the process via training and support.”

“You want to make user adoption a positive experience, and that means giving people something they need, making sure it works properly, communicating the value of it to them, and getting them engaged in the process via training and support.”

The step-by-step approach:

1. Deployment: having specified the tools your workers need and that they are the right ones, you deploy them. This means implementing the digital tools and infrastructure and make the solution available to all your employees who you want to use it.

2. Usage: having deployed digital tools and gotten early adopters using them, you then need to ensure users understand the new tools and buy in to wanting to use them to help them do their jobs better.

3. Adoption: here is where you want your workers to be using new digital tools regularly and seeing tangible value from them. If that is the case, employees will begin to use the tools by habit and, ultimately, subconsciously. Around 40% of human activities and actions are driven by habit rather than intentional decision-making, and by encouraging adoption – and making it easy – your workers will start to use new digital tools as second nature.

4. Proficiency: having gotten your workers to change their behavior and become comfortable using your new collaboration tools, the next step is to increase their proficiency in using them – literally getting as much as possible out of them. This will require training employees on the tools to make sure they have the skills and capabilities to maximize their use.

This step-by-step process can help you drive adoption and usage quickly. And you shouldn’t delay: according to research by MIT Sloan, 63% of workers believe the pace of technological change in their workplace is too slow. Delay, and you risk employees becoming apathetic and resistant to change. Plus, of course, the COVID-19 working-from-home default adds extra urgency.

The importance of training

As mentioned, proper training also aids adoption and usage: as much as workers might be familiar with UC&C tools and user interfaces (UI) from their own social media apps, it’s still worth investing some time in training. PwC has found that employees are willing to spend up to two days a month on training to upgrade their digital skills.

“Training shouldn’t be a one-off thing, it should be continuous,” says Stephane Minana. “Companies should make it continuous, something that you do repeatedly until your employees reach a certain proficiency of use.”

It’s also worth considering appointing a customer success manager (CSM) for this job, a dedicated role in your company. CSMs oversee training on your new tools and are responsible for ensuring workers reach required skill levels. “Customer success managers have a big role to play,” says Minana. “They can identify if a particular tool is not being used correctly or sufficiently and amend that via training sessions, and they have a view on new digital tool adoption that is different from that of the IT department.”

Usage drives ROI and business benefits

The right adoption strategy can make all the difference when it comes to bottom line results for your company and serving your customers while your employees are forced to work from home during the COVID-19 crisis. Workers who are given tools that help them do their jobs better tend to be happier and more productive, a net gain for your organization.

“One thing many companies get wrong is treating new digital deployments as a generic thing and treating every employee the same,” says Stephane Minana. “That doesn’t usually deliver the desired results and can limit rollouts and stifle usage. Encourage adoption, explain benefits clearly and train users on a personal level, and you will reap the results in the short and long term.”

Read more: Is the world’s workforce ready for telecommuting full time? And Agile thinking: empowering teams to make decisions