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Product Training: You’re Doing It Wrong

We’ve all been there. In a class where the instructor is instructing on how to click through an application. Or in an elearning module where the word “click” is uttered every three words. While this can be helpful in orienting learners with the application and the mechanics of using it, it is ineffective at preparing the learner to use the application day to day. So why does most product training miss the mark?

Focuses on objectives instead of workflows

By focusing on an objective which is typically a set of steps, enablement misses what the learner needs to know most: why are they doing this? The reason framing learning as a set of objectives is limiting comes down to context: the learner isn’t gaining knowledge on why they will do this or how it fits into their day to day activities.

The topics are covered elsewhere

When the content is centered on the steps to use the product, a day in training or 30 minutes in a module can feel like watching paint dry. These instructions are essential for the learner to be able to do what they need to do, but I bet you have user guides, application help, and training materials for a reason. What can training augment to this information in the learning journey, and/or help tie it together:

  • Why are they doing this task?

  • What options should they use? What are the best practices?

  • How do they integrate this into their business processes to adopt the application day to day.

When someone is investing time, and potentially money, in product training, they should be receiving an experience that otherwise would not be available and help to demonstrably get them ramped up faster.

The content delivery mechanism doesn’t suit the content

Over the course of the user’s lifecycle with a product, there are going to be different needs for learning. I hope to see more organizations embracing microlearning. As a day to day user or a suite of applications for work, there have been times where I’ve needed to do one specific thing, but have had to sort through piles of content, message boards, and long elearning modules or videos in order to find out how to do something simple. Modularlized on demand resources, cheat sheets and even well structured help sections can alleviate this (and the accompanying frustration).

Materials are out of date

If you work in SaaS, keeping learning materials up to date is a big struggle. The challenge is amplified if you have deployed elearning modules, which are incredibly helpful, but also (candidly) a huge pain in the ass when there is a product update. Setting SLAs, getting access to updates prior to release, and increasing module complexity (ex: visuals, voiceovers, interactions) with product maturity can help to alleviate the pain and ensure learner experience is top notch.

What do you think? How has your organization improved learning outcomes. I’d love to hear about how your supporting performance of your customers.

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