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Induction advice

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Jooli Atkins offers some advice on how to conduct an IT induction. Do you have any induction tips – IT or not – to add? Post a comment below.








An induction of any type is often dry and intensive, but an IT system induction of usually the most badly-constructed of the lot. After all, most people are IT-literate nowadays (if not ‘digital native’ – an expression that I do not believe reflects reality in any way at the moment, by the way but that is another rant!) and all we really need to do is put them in front of a computer and let them work their way through our ‘user-friendly’ systems.

So how can an IT induction be enlivened to make it feel less intensive? Firstly, the duration of the event:
Try splitting the event, not into two separate classroom-based days but into one (or more, if required) day of classroom and then set action-learning type of explorative tasks that can be completed over time back at their desks. Support the users with learning facilitators and coaches in the workplace and ensure that progress is monitored and assessed regularly. Competence will come over time so the sooner they get into the habit of gaining and enhancing skills at their desks the better.

Make sure that the support back at the office is trained sufficiently to be able to help – not only should they have the relevant IT skills but, most importantly, they need to be trained learning facilitators or coaches – you cannot rely on ‘sitting with Nellie’.

Provide task-based ‘how to’ guides, preferably accessible online to make maintaining them and keeping them up-to-date easy, to help learners find the information they need when they get back. What about an online support forum to ensure that users working in different areas of the business can continue to discuss and share problems and solutions?

Where possible, combine the IT elements of the induction with the overall corporate induction rather than making it a separate event. That will break down the content and make it less intense. One way of delivering an induction is to set a ‘treasure-hunt’ type of activity where inductees find out information about the organisation by moving around and talking to people. Incorporate some IT elements, such as IT security guidelines and corporate email etiquette, into that type of activity to get the ball rolling.

Then what about the content?

Firstly, make sure that the content is not based on rules and regulations, IT policies and disciplines but on how the learners will work on a daily basis. IT policies underpin their work; they are not the basis of it. Too often, an IT induction begins with ‘what you can’t do’ and ‘what you must do’ and misses out on ‘how we want you to use the IT tools we are giving you to help you to work’. Work through the first day as a DILO (day in the life of …) workshop – what will they actually do at their desks each day? Make sure that they are exploring rather than being told what to do. Direct them to the IT policy to find out what the password guidelines are (assuming, of course, that this is clearly visible in the policy) and ask them to consider the implications of breaching the guidelines.

My experience of training systems in isolation is that people tend to work with the systems in silos and fail to see the importance of the data they are collecting or using, giving rise to expensive data quality issues. Help them to see the bigger picture by giving them examples of calls received and asking them to consider what information should be included in the CRM database. Then ask them to work through how they will record the relevant information and what will happen to it.

Elearning is, of course, an option but much can be done without having to deliver the content that way if your organisation does not want to do so.

Jooli Atkins is chair of the British Computer Society (BCS) information and technology training specialist group and author of 'The IT Trainer's Pocketbook'. She's also an IT training professional at Matrix FortyTwo. For more information, visit: www.matrix42.co.uk.

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