Training staff members on a software system can be challenging. To encourage engagement and learning, trainers must effectively communicate the goals and processes associated with a system.
In our experiences as product support specialists, my team and I have gained a lot of insight into how to effectively train staff members on clinical research software, such as a clinical trial management system (CTMS). While the tips I will share focus on training staff on a CTMS, many of these tips could also apply to other training situations as well. In this article, I will share tips for preparation and delivery of training.
Before the training
When training, proper preparation is key. Here are some tips to consider before conducting the training:
Book a training room early: This tends to be the hardest part of organizing training, so secure a space as early as possible to ensure it offers a comfortable environment with the necessary tools. It’s recommended to conduct the training while each team member is on a computer using the software. Demonstrations are helpful, but many individuals learn best by doing. It’s also recommended to arrange the room in a way that facilitates discussion. This includes ensuring that staff members aren’t seated too far in the back of the room.
Create an agenda: Will the training session include a slide presentation? Will it include a system overview? If the training session will be longer than an hour, plan frequent break times for people to stay connected with work emails and refresh their minds and bodies. These breaks should be 1 hour apart. Also plan for entertainment breaks (jokes or funny videos) to break up the segment and refresh everyone’s energy.
Understand the Audience: When creating an agenda and preparing the content for a training session, it’s helpful to keep in mind that the session should teach people what they need to know. If they need to know about a particular type of functionality but will not be working with it regularly, then give a demonstration instead and train only the functionality that they will be actively involved with. Also, if a session includes slides, a good general rule is to include no more than 7 points per slide. It can become difficult for the audience to comprehend more information than that per slide.
Prepare Documentation: Have the internal processes documented, as well as the software workflow. Be prepared to answer questions about both areas. Also, have a support plan in place so staff know who to call if they have questions about processes or the software.
Conduct a trial run: This can be done with colleagues. It’s important to gain honest feedback and refine the training. It is also an opportunity to identify and practice key parts that you find difficult to explain out loud.
Test equipment prior to training: Make sure the equipment works and can reach the software that is being trained.
During the training
The following are tips that can help ensure a smooth and valuable training session.
Set expectations at the beginning: At the beginning of the session, ask people to stay focused and not wander away or use their electronics to read emails. Detail the expectations and outcomes of the training sessions. For example: “You will have the ability to _____ after this training session.”
Start with an overview: Start with a demonstration overview of the software so they have context for the rest of the training. If your institution is implementing a new system, it may also be helpful to show an overview of the plan for the software rollout. This will show what functionality is being rolled out initially (and to which groups), as well as future timelines.
Show the carrots in the new system: To encourage engagement throughout the training (and the entire project), it’s important to show staff members the benefits of learning the system. These could include reduced duplicate data entry, more consistent workflows, greater workload efficiency, ability to quickly generate reports, and more.
Encourage questions: It’s not only important to ask if there are questions, but also to phrase it in a way that makes them feel comfortable do so. For example, phrasing it as “What questions do you have?” can be a great way to encourage participation. Be sure to allow enough time for responses.
Interact with your audience: It’s important to make sure everyone is keeping pace and is focused on the current training topic you are discussing. Make sure everyone understands each segment along the way and no one is behind or lost. Walk around the room to see how people are doing during each training segment.
Additional communication tips
These are some additional tips to keep in mind during training. They might seem simple, but they can make a big difference.
- Be energetic and enthusiastic: The audience will use that energy to stay focused.
- Speak loudly so everyone can hear: Check to make sure you are talking at the appropriate volume.
- Speak slowly: This will give them time to digest the information.
It’s also important to encourage learning after the session has ended. Check back soon for a follow-up article in which I will discuss some tips for how to do that. In the meantime, if there are any tips you would like to share, please add them in the comment box below.
In the end, good training is a successful combination of preparation, organization and personality. Staff members may not always get excited about the idea of learning a new software system, but with some work and the right people involved, you can make the training successful.