This post was written by Shirley Berry, Director Strategic Solutions at Me Learning.

We all tend to think our own area of expertise is, well… the most important! And I’m no exception when it comes to software training, especially when it’s software that’s used in a high-pressured, stressful environment such as a control room.

As someone who ‘grew up’ in the software and services industry, working for an SME and then a large corporate, I’ve worn many hats. I’ve trained, consulted, written software specifications, worked on the help desk. I’ve covered the entire supplier-customer journey from concept to business as usual, except coding. More recently, I’ve learned more about the science of learning and knowledge retention. Given all that, I understand what good looks like, how we can achieve it and, conversely, the challenges and pitfalls of software rollouts.

The most common of all is that collectively (customers, software providers, system integrators, consultants) don’t pay enough attention to how we prepare frontline and supporting colleagues to fully utilise the system. If we did, and earlier in the process, implementations would run more smoothly and software and new ways of working would be embedded more quickly.

Of course, no-one sets out to ignore training or not properly support their colleagues.

But what I see too often is the type and extent of training determined too late, so there’s insufficient budget to do things properly. Rather, we need to ask from the outset, how do we ensure our colleagues are in the best possible position to use the system, so they’re comfortable and confident and it feels second nature to them? How, as an organisation, can we ensure we fully utilise the system, so we realise the benefits as soon as possible to achieve the return on investment we’re seeking?

So, what would I like to see?

I’d like project, business and procurement leads to ask suppliers to explain how they’ll provide effective and efficient training to meet the stated outcomes; how their learning solution will help them adopt and embed software and new ways of working and how and why it’s sustainable. I’d like train-the-trainer training not to be mandated because of perceived cost benefit, or because it’s “what we’ve always done”, especially as there are now so many more effective training methods available.

If you’re unsure what good looks like or the art of the possible, seek out a few expert training companies, and ask them. Make sure you include those who specialise in digital learning and learning to support software rollouts – there’s a big difference between specialist digital learning content creators and those who can knock-up a bit of e-learning and they’re usually more cost-effective when you look at the complete picture.

For the record, I’m not advocating more training or more expensive training. I’d just like to see training provision scoped according to need and required outcomes; greater use of technology-led training so, as far as is possible, individuals receive a learning experience which suits them, their role, style and pace of learning and importantly, meets their specific learning needs.

I know this works in practice because I’ve worked with many police and fire and rescue services (actually, many customers in all sorts of sectors) who’ve told me how much this benefits their people. The fact they can learn at a time, place and pace that suits them with the option to refresh knowledge whenever they need and with no pressure to ask or answer questions in front of peers or seniors, has a hugely positive impact. That can’t be underestimated for people working in an intensely pressured environment, whose emotional cups are already full.

It’s in everyone’s interest to get the learning piece right.

When your new software and ways of working are adopted and embedded, your employees will be more comfortable and confident, which means they’re also more productive. And you’ll achieve benefits and return on investment.

Suppliers will welcome the reduction in calls to their help desk and the positive perception and reputation their product and service earns.

Employees will feel valued and valuable – and that’s priceless, especially in areas which experience high absenteeism and staff turnover.

None of this is exclusive to control room solutions, it applies to any complex system that’s going to be used by a large number of employees. But in this fast paced and high-pressured environment, it’s particularly important for those at the sharp end to feel really comfortable with the system so they’re not hesitant at the point of needing to make life-changing or critical decisions… because that can have catastrophic consequences.

They need to be able to give their full attention to callers so they can ‘read’ the subtle nuances of the communication they’re receiving and make sound judgements based on those. These are sometimes traumatic and dangerous incidents, so they don’t need to be worrying about which button to press or field to complete.

As employers are being encouraged to ‘up’ their support for mental health and wellbeing, beyond the obligatory ‘duty of care’, there’s never been a better time to look at how we can do things differently, to better support colleagues and make the best use of ever-decreasing public funds.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further then please do not hesitate to contact Shirley Berry, Director of Strategic Solutions at Me Learning –

You can also contact us at / 01273 091 301.

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