Like any new topic, enterprise 2.0 comes with lots of myths. One of them dies hard : no training should be needed, if things are not simple enough to avoid training, rather give up. In fact it’s not that simple and, before all, we should wonder what kind of training we’re talking about.
The first idea that comes is “tool training”. Many say that if an enterprise tool needs more than five minutes to be understood, people won’t use it. Really ?
A difference has to be made between “basic” and “advanced” use. The first has to come intuitively, the second needs much more than five minutes and may, at the end, not concern more than a few users.
Why this 5 minutes thing ? In a perfect world I can understand that any tool, whatever its purpose is, should be as easy to use that no training would be needed. In this case we’re talking about social networkin tools, anything 2.0 or social but it should be the case for any application…starting with the settings of any OS than runs employees’ computers. But we also have to pay attention to what I call the “Excel case”.
We all know at least one “Excel Master”, someone able to design a tangle of spreadsheets that can do nearly anything and look like small personal ERPs. No one can say that mastering Excel to this extent is a simple and even pleasant things, but most of these people learned it by themselves. We can’t say either that it’s the kind of tool that makes people feeling like discovering or using it. But facts are here : people use it, a lot, well and every day more. Even those who are not savvy users are doing things with Excel because no one can’t avoid it in the workplace. Anyway, it takes more than five minutes for anyone to have at least a basic use of it, and it doesn’t prevent people from using it. The reason is simple.
Excel is useful. Excel helps to make in a fast and efficient way things that would take much more time and would be subjects to many errors if done otherwise. It’s often said that before having what we like, we have to like what we have and Excel is the perfect example. It does not matter people like it or not, it’s as indispensable as a screwdriver is to a carpenter. Vital.
On the other hand, “social something tools” are useless. Don’t worry, I’m not changing my mind. I’m only saying that, facing a profusion of tools, what drives adoption (or not) will always be sense and alignment. When any user says “I don’t have 5 minutes to make my opinion” it often means that it’s already made and that in his context this tool makes no sense and does not meet any known and actual need.
So thinking the context of use before thinking about the tool is essential. The perfect solution is a tool that makes sense, meets a need and does not need more than five minutes to be mastered. Nothing being perfect in this world, and even more in the software industry, we need to pay even more attention to context. Remember that attention is a scarce resource which use has to be optimized and that context is a key factor to determine the value of attention.
But that’s not all. Tools are only a part of the enterprise 2.0 thing and there is an important need for training that is often overlooked.
Training professionals know that trainings are not only about “how-to”. The behavioral side is getting more and more importance, most of all for managers who are asked to change their practices and embody an unavoidable change. For reasons I let experts explain, there is an impressive focus on “how-to” what, in this case, is “knowing how to use a tool” while experience shows us that, with this kind of tools”, that’s not because people know how to use that they will use.
There are two reasons to that : the first is due to the lack of alignment and consistancy between the tool and its context of use and this has been tackled at the beginning of this post. The second is that using such tools is about bringing some behaviors online. When people are not comfortable with these behaviors in real life there are very few chances they won’t use the tool or will use it in a bad way. That’s why many complain about those who train them with tools while the problem is the design of the training session which should be more about coaching and accompanying.
The role of HR in these transformation programs is at the same time obvious and complex. Obvious because it’s easy to understand the part they have to play, complex because they have to deal with the E2E vs B2E syndrom. There are many ways to deal with this issue while there is not a “one-that-fits-all” one. But I recently had an interesting conversation with a student who was interviewing me for her dissertation and asked me “how a traditional training department could help with enterprise 2.0”. The conclusion we came to is that they have a lot of added value to bring provided they understand the needed behavioral change that are needed and offer relevant training programs within the E20 change program. These kind of trainings are often reserved for some populations or high level managers since they should be proposed to anyone in the company.