Digital transformation is more than just a buzzword—it is crucial to advancing nearly every organization. It has been slowly happening for years, but the pandemic expedited the need for many industries to modernize. With the Internet of Things and robotics for process automation and mobile apps for better inventory visibility and sales forecasting, for example, many people fear that adopting new technologies will lead to replacing jobs. However, that is not the case.
Technology is a tool for helping people do their jobs better, whether it's completing tasks more quickly, eliminating tedious steps, allowing more collaboration between teams, or making physical jobs less strenuous. Although the tools for how business is done are changing, most jobs still require people to do the actual work. Companies' most critical employees often are first-line staff equipped with technology to make their jobs easier, better, and safer. If companies introduce new technology the wrong way, however, it can get in the way of the benefits envisioned from digital transformation.
When designing digital transformation projects, employers often overlook the human element, failing to recognize that the technologies' end users can be anxious about learning how to operate the new tools and become frustrated when they don't know how to use them properly. Although companies have deployed more technology to frontline workers in recent years, they have not supported modernization to ensure the workforce is using the new tools effectively. That can have adverse implications for the business. Thus, to effectively manage the change management complexity inherent in digital transformation initiatives, L&D practitioners need to leverage technology to teach how to use it.
What it is
The approach requires making sure to design training lessons for the devices or platforms the employees have access to. After all, it would make little sense to develop a desktop application training program for a worker who doesn't have a desktop.
The key is to reduce the friction from the introduction of new technologies that are essential for employees. During training, using technology that workers have and often use enables them to get hands-on experience with how the technology will function in an authentic setting.
How it works
A technology-focused approach to training works for digital transformation for four key reasons: It uses the technology that users access and use every day; can simulate digital apps and experiences in the context of how the employees will use it in their workflow; takes a microlearning approach; and provides ongoing support for when people get stuck or need a different approach to learn.
First, technology-focused training must meet workers where they are—be it on the sales floor, on their delivery routes, or at the front desk. For example, delivery drivers often use handheld devices to log inventory, so designing training lessons for those specific devices is essential. By using the technology that workers have and use every day, they get hands-on experience with how it will function in an authentic setting.
It also is imperative to design training with workflow in mind. Consider how employees will use the technology in their workflow to mirror common processes in the field. Let's revisit the delivery driver example. If the company expects drivers to adopt a new handheld device to scan inventory when loading their trucks and then scan items out as they deliver throughout the day, the training should reflect this same workflow and process.
Further, taking a microlearning approach to digital transformation can help prevent cognitive overload. Break up training into small digestible segments so that workers can learn at their own pace, which will ensure better long-term knowledge retention.
Remember that learning is rarely a one-and-done process. That's why it's important to arrange, connect, or provide ongoing support to workers learning new technology. Although employees' long-term retention and technology adoption are the ultimate goals for return on investment, they will always need ongoing support. Whether onboarding new employees or making updates to the technology or procedures, ongoing training is crucial to staff effectively using the technology.
This approach has many operational, user, training, and support benefits. To begin, this type of on-demand training can reduce disruptions to operations. Also, incorporating learning onto employees' mobile devices enables learners to access content in the flow of work. That leads to faster deployment of the technology and faster time to ROI in digital transformation projects.
Shortened time to value for new hires to get up and running quickly enables businesses to remain competitive. According to a 451 Research study, 90 percent of would-be job seekers said it would be important for a new employer to offer devices, applications, and other productivity tools to help them get their work done.
Another user benefit to such training is that it can reduce anxiety, improve user experience, and increase their productivity, which will in turn reduce the number of errors made and the rework needed. Training and support benefits include the fact that businesses will have reduced expenses for trainers, content development and maintenance, and staffing needed for troubleshooting and support. Ultimately, when effectively using technology to teach technology, digital transformation can be the means for catapulting a business to the forefront of its industry.
Checklist: How to Leverage Technology for Training
✔ Design the solution with the user in mind.
✔ Understand your users' technographic profile—not all users have the same comfort level with technology.
✔ Know their learning profile—different users have different learning preferences.
✔ Provide ongoing support for technology deployments because learners may need in-the-moment resources to refresh their training.
451 Research. 2021. The Future of Both In-Office and Frontline Work Demands Contextual Training and Faster Time to Value for Employees. Plano, TX: S&P Global Market Intelligence.
Emergence. 2020. The State of Technology for the Deskless Workforce. emcap.com/technology-for-the-deskless-workforce-2020.
Wentworth, D. 2021. "Mobile Technology's Vital Role in the Learning Ecosystem." Brandon Hall Group, June 23. brandonhall.com/blogs/mobile-technologys-vital-role-in-the-learning-ecosystem.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Justin Lake is co-founder and CEO of Skyllful (formerly Venado Technologies), a provider of a mobile digital adoption platform (MDAP) that helps frontline workers use enterprise mobile apps more efficiently and effectively.
With more than 25 years of industry experience, Lake has deep expertise in mobile technology and field deployments as well as decades of experience working with frontline workers. A lifelong early adopter of new technology, Lake’s enthusiasm for innovation and how to use it in ways that empower people have driven forward his career as a problem solver who likes to build things.
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