Training is the Forgotten Word

a key resting against some old books

It is no secret that implementing process change can be hard. Communicating, engaging and working with a wide range of stakeholders takes time and careful thought. When implementing new or improved processes, training is key. It is crucial that those on the front line know exactly how the new process works, what it has set out to achieve and why it exists. It's important that they have a sufficient understanding of any key business rules that the process enforces so they can answer questions from internal and external customers, and also that they know the triggers and outcomes that the process has been built to cater for.

This training is often multi-layered and multifaceted, with a mixture of formal and informal training taking place over a period of time. Yet a danger awaits the unprepared. Whilst it is logical and sensible to think about the training necessary to implement a new or improved process, how often do we think about what training and support is necessary to sustain it? Perhaps not as often as we should!

Building Upon Shifting Sands

In reality, organizations and teams invariably change over time. The people involved in a process implementation effort will move on, and in a few years the teams working on the process might look very different indeed. In some high-attrition environments, teams might change very quickly indeed (this in itself may be symptomatic of a process or leadership problem, but that is a subject for another blog post!). A key way of ensuring ongoing consistency is to ask ourselves questions including:

  • "How do we get this process implemented?" 
  • "How do we ensure this process continues to work efficiently and effectively?"

Both are big questions, spanning a wide range of topics, training being just one. In particular, it is worth considering:

1. Ongoing training and support: What type of help and support will people receive once the process has 'bedded in'? If team members have a query or a question, where will they go? How will we ensure that multiple interpretations of the process do not emerge? One very useful consideration here is documentation and modeling. It can be very valuable to put together relevant procedure guides, and even more valuable to have a set of process models in a shared notation such as BPMN. Front-line workers may need to see only a particular part or 'view' of the overall model, and may need the option to show or hide areas of complexity. Having a common model in a shared repository will help ensure everyone is on the same page.

2. Skills and competencies: What skills and competencies will team members need to operate the new or changed process? Might additional training be needed to gain these? For example, if a worker is now being asked to deal with customer complaints (and they've never done this in the past), they may need training on the 'softer' interpersonal skills that are needed to deal with potentially very angry customers!

3. New team member induction: It is also important to consider how new team members will be supported, and how they will be trained on the relevant processes. In the absence of any supporting material, it is likely that team members will train new starters on their interpretation of the process. Over time the process may become diluted and unofficial workarounds may become the norm. Co-creating a useful set of reference materials, in a format that works best for the team, avoids the sense that the material is imposed from ‘outside’.

4. Innovation and change: The business environment isn't static, and processes shouldn't be carved into tablets of stone. When considering ongoing training needs, it is also worth considering how we can encourage stakeholders throughout (and outside) the organization to highlight potential improvement opportunities. By innovating we keep the process fresh, effective and efficient.

Keeping both initial and ongoing training firmly in mind—along with the wider topic of communication and engagement—can help us build successful processes. Building this into our thinking early helps us plan, discuss and helps us to avoid unfortunate pitfalls.