Blog · 20 Nov 2020

The three principles of effective user adoption today

As businesses move to cloud-based collaboration apps, users need to get proactive in their learning and stop relying on centralised training.

Head of digital workplace user adoption

You’re running late for a video call.

You log onto your collaboration app and a notification pops up about a new feature. You don’t have time to check it out so you ignore it, thinking you might go back to it later. But later never comes. And if it was that important, you figure your organisation would have told you about it. Sound familiar?

It’s happening in businesses around the world: countless opportunities for learning are being missed because user adoption practices haven’t caught up with the way we work now.

One-off user adoption programmes work well when a tool is new or when they’re supporting a big upgrade every six months or so. But this year, with the mass shift to homeworking, we’ve seen a huge increase in businesses moving from enterprise to cloud-based apps for collaboration and communication. Research we recently conducted with Cisco showed four out of five executives are now spending more of their time using collaboration tools and apps - and this has changed the game. The choice of tools in the workplace has increased as businesses introduce particular tools for particular uses. Our research showed the average person uses 3.5 collaboration tools - and 85% of executives want a better way of integrating different collaboration tools. So my team’s been really busy developing training and guidance for customers on what tool to use when.

What we’re finding, though, is that this multitude of options is overwhelming users and, in many cases, is paralysing them into inaction. This confusion includes uncertainty about what to do when they get in-app notifications of updates. They don’t know how long it will take to get to grips with the updates. And they’re not sure what features they’re allowed to use, so err on the safe side and stick with the ones they know. Over time, the user’s experience worsens as they get left behind and they start to feel their tools aren’t supporting them.

It’s a tricky situation for businesses, because the days when they could control all updates have gone; the control has shifted to app vendors who update frequently and let users know directly. Yet, as a business, you can’t create training on every minor upgrade, so what do you do?

The three principles of effective user adoption

Building a culture of continuous learning into your user adoption training helps your people get the most out of the tools you provide. I’d argue that organisations have made their employees too dependent on being told exactly what to do. We need to turn that around now, and train users how to learn independently. Let’s change the narrative to ‘it’s your job to continually learn’.

You can do this by including three key components into your user adoption programme:

1.  Start with full training
In other words, carry on doing what you’ve always done: support users with training about a new service when you migrate to it and launch it, and tailor this support to your environment and business goals. Give them a thorough grounding in how to use it with a step-by-step process. Help them troubleshoot difficulties and share answers to frequent queries.

2.  Clarify what tool to use when
Make sure your people understand how your new service fits into the suite of tools they already have. How does Zoom fit with Teams, for example. Is one for internal, regular meetings and one for high-profile external meetings? What do you use for large participant calls? In my experience, you won’t get the excitement you need for a new service to take off in your organisation if people don’t understand how it’s different to the other tools they have. Creating an intranet site explaining how your tools all fit together is a simple but effective way to get people up to speed.

3.  Get people used to self-learning for new features and enhancements
Your employees need to know that once they start using the app, training must be continuous and they must look out for updates regularly to stop them using a service that’s out of date. I find that if you make it clear you can’t break the system in any way by experimenting with new features, and that if you weren’t supposed to use a feature, IT would have disabled it, people are much happier about giving things a try. It’s easy to miss the notifications, so get users in the habit of checking regularly in the help section for ‘what’s new’.

Build user adoption that works

We know users are eager to learn new skills with their collaboration and communication tools. Recent research by PwC found that employees are willing to spend up to two days a month on training to upgrade their digital skills. You just need to tap into this desire by creating a culture of continual self-learning, regardless of an individual’s digital skill level or learning style. This could mean informing users each month about the most relevant updates, or offering training in how to use public content on the app. Either way, it’s important people have time to learn and this priority has to be embedded into the overall culture of your organisation.

As your partner, we’ve got the experience to help you unlock the full benefits of your collaboration technology. We can build self-learning training into the launch phase of your user adoption programme and create ongoing education programmes that make sure your people are always up to date. Whatever stage you’re at, if you want to know more about transforming user behaviours, or have any questions, please get in touch.

LINK: Beyond the office research paper from BT and Cisco