Tip #584: Just in Time Systems Training

Enlightenment must come little by little- otherwise it would overwhelm.” Idries Shah

Your organization probably has proprietary information systems that some of your employees need to use to perform their work. So, when new hires enter your organization, they need to learn about those systems. They need to learn first, that they exist. They need to learn what they would use each system to do. Then they need to learn: how to locate and log onto each system, how each system is organized, how to navigate through each system, and how to use each system properly. Finally, they need to practice using each system to build their proficiency.

If there is a large number of proprietary information systems that a new hire will be expected to use, when and how should the introduction to each system occur?

I am working with an organization that has seven different proprietary information systems. Their approach to new hire orientation is to teach all seven systems in one day, which is the fifth day of orientation. And, no, this is not a 24-hour training day.

I would like to convince the organization that there are several things wrong with this approach.

The first and obvious problem is that, after four 8-hour days of intensive orientation, the new hires cannot help but be exhausted both mentally and physically. They will not be prime candidates to learn the systems on that day.

The second problem is that, although the new hires are expected to learn all seven information systems in one day, they will not be using more than one or two of these systems in the orientation days that immediately follow. Brain research and professional observation have proven that unless new information is used immediately and consistently, it is highly unlikely to be retained. This means that the new hires will have to be retrained once they actually use the systems.

The third problem is that the exact same approach will be used to teach each system. Seven different times in a row, the new hires will be told: the purpose of the system, how to access and log onto the system, how the system is organized, and how to navigate through the system. They will then have an opportunity to practice using the system for approximately ten minutes.

You might say, and you would be correct, that this is the logical and really the only way to train new hires in how to use a new computer system.

However, there are two issues that still need to be addressed. Hopefully, it goes without saying (although I’m going to say it) that ten minutes of practice is definitely not sufficient for the new hires to get comfortable or proficient using a system.

The larger issue is that, when all of the systems are taught at the same time, one after the other, the new hires will have a terrible time remembering each individual system. The specifics of one system will be lost as each new system is learned. The information will flow together, ending up confusing rather than enlightening the new hires. They will be completely overwhelmed.

So, what is the solution to this multi-faceted training dilemma?

Take a four-pronged approach:

  1. Teach the new hires about one of their primary job responsibilities and what they need to do to perform it.
  2. Then show the new hires how to use the specific system tool that will help them perform that responsibility. In other words, give them just in time training on the system in the context in which they will typically use it.
  3. Next, give them sufficient time to practice using the system tools with several simulated examples. They will need the three examples to ensure that they are able to develop a real understanding of the system.
  4. Finally, make sure that the new hires are able to practice using the system every day, to reinforce their learning and build their competency.

That is what I’m planning to recommend. What do you think? Is there some better way to approach this?

May your learning be sweet.


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