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Computer Systems Training – Best Practice


I work for a company who are wholesalers of electrical products; we employ 750+ staff at various locations throughout the UK. We rely heavily on our mainframe computer system to access product information, process sales, communicate, and generate reports, etc. etc. The system is not industry standard (Windows based for instance) but unique to us with all the programs written in-house.

I am preparing a report for senior management on how best to approach the training of our staff (new starters in particular) as I believe we are currently poor at doing so. As part of my report I would like to include some form of benchmark against best practice in similar organisations.

If you utilise a bespoke computer system (not necessarily in a sales environment) and would be happy to share with me an overview of how you approach training your users (or even your thoughts on the matter) I would be delighted to hear from you.

Thanks in anticipation.

Phil Knott

Phil Knott

3 Responses

  1. Computer Systems Training – One Approach
    Phil, there are a number of possible approaches but let me offer one:

    First determine what you need from your computer system and its users – this might include effective use of the system, understanding backup and repair processes, ability to improve or customise software, reduced call on technical support, better response to customer queries – whatever you really want your business to benefit from the use of the computer systems.

    Finally (at this stage), determine who can help to provide what it is you want to achieve. This may include, technical support team, computer users, managers, personnel department (for recruiting future staff)or others – including outsiders such as suppliers or customers for, say, online ordering.

    Next, determine each individual’s current skills and the needs they have so that they can reach the level of expertise necessary to achieve your business aim. Use a questionnaire approach with a number of tick box questions but leave space for open answers as well.

    Now on to the training.

    The first important point to make is that training which is not used within days is wasted as the trainees forget 60% of what they have learned within 48 hours.

    Plan your training in stages with individual implementation projects complimenting each stage so that the individual learns – either through a training course, sitting with an experienced user or accessing online training – and then reinforces that learning in a work-based project environment.

    Ensure that learners have a reason to learn. This is not necessarily financial but could also include social incentives, award schemes or simply positive feedback. There are a number of Level 2/3 NVQ modules which might tie in with your training so bear these in mind as part of the reward system. Your personnel department needs to be able to record and manage the process.

    The rate at which you provide training will depend on the resources you have in-house or can buy in from outside. You may wish to phase in the training to make best use of these resources; e.g. by training new users first or by training techical support staff first.

    Finally you have the issue of split or multi-site training. We had to train the Bradford and Bingley Building Society cashiers on their new computer systems a number of years ago. The requirement was to train all cashiers in the country after work on one evening for implementation of the new system the following morning – without any down-time! Obviously this requires considerable network planning and co-ordination.

    Now the advert. we are a training and consultancy company specialising in providing just the sort of solution you are looking for. Please call us if you need us.

    Senior Partner
    The People Partnership

  2. Computer Systems Training – My thoughts
    Phil, having trained many sales people on a bespoke application, I believe one of the most important factors to ensure in the design of any course is that it is relevant to the delegates. Often this means splitting people into role specific groups rather than being able to tackle an entire location at once but ultimately you will acheive more. It’s more work for you as you have to understand the ins and outs of their jobs – not an easy thing to do in a large, diverse company. The more you know however, the more you can tailor your examples making it easier for the delegates to learn.

    Also, short is sweet. I have always found that short bursts of training with follow up or refresher courses a month or two down the line has helped with absorption of info. the follow up could be done by an experienced user in each location although getting the group back together again on a regular basis does help with bonding!!

    Third and finally, make use of as many real life scenarios as you can and try and make it enjoyable (believe me it is possible). Non-windows based systems can look dry, boring and difficult to learn. Injecting a little humour can make it so much less painful!

    Shona Hewat
    IT Trainer
    The Blomfield Group

  3. Its all fun and games

    I have been giving inductions to sales staff and service staff at Ideal Hardware for the past Year and a Half and we are still trying to get it right.

    I am just about to embark on a revamp of our whole process.

    We do have an inhouse system called Chameleon which everyone has to have training on.

    I have developed games for this such as Jigsaw puzzles and senarios…….I strongly believe that taking a person away from there PC and making them think for themselves rather than telling them to press F9 or press F5 is alot more effective.

    We always have exercises for them to do using the software and they get review sessions where they play the games and I give them a test.

    I also want to record telephone conversations and then have the new recruit create the order whilst listening to the conversation.

    I have got a lot of feedback from new starters and would like to implement a buddy system where by they spend so much time with me then they spend some time on the sales floor with an experienced member of staff then they come back down stairs again to spend more time with me.

    Another thing that is important in an induction is a team building exercise as this gets people talking and gives them something in common.

    Included in the revamp will be the induction of sales and service staff out in Europe so I am hoping to make the core stuff accessable over the web.

    Induction time is an exciting time as people are always open to new ideas and are willing to join in.


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