1. Start with the why and explain the benefits
It takes time to learn a new tool. It can be overwhelming to grasp the features. And it’s a hassle to add something new to your workflow.
Ease the learning by clearly communicating the why behind the new tool. A clear purpose makes the challenge less of a psychological roadblock.
Understanding the potential benefits of a new tool will also smooth the transition. Help everyone see why taking the time to learn and incorporate the new tool will make work better.
- Explain the purpose of the new tool. What will it help your team to accomplish?
- If you’re replacing a tool, explain why you’re switching. We get loyal to our tools and it helps to know why it won’t be used anymore.
- Explain why you chose this tool. What makes it the best choice? How does it solve problems or issues or workflow hang-ups?
- Share the benefits of the tool. Try using an “If/Then” formula, like this:
- “If we use this tool, then we could save 2 hours a week on processing payroll.”
- “If we use this tool, then we will have clear customer records that are easy to search.”
- “If we use this system instead of the old one, then we will have automatic updates and we won’t have to manually copy and paste the information.”
- “If we switch to this tool, then we will save $1000 annually, which we can apply to our marketing budget.”
- Connect the benefits with the larger purpose of your team or organization. Bring it to a bigger picture that’s long-term and inspiring.
2. Focus on essential functions to learn a new tool
Remember how you explained the purpose of the tool to your team? That’s important, since there are many multipurpose tools, services, and software available. Define which purpose is the important one for your team.
There are also plenty of tools with features that can add benefits and functions, but which aren’t essential for your purpose.
To get your team started well, once you define the tool’s purpose, focus on the functions needed to use the tool for that purpose. Let all those other, optional features and functions wait until later.
What’s essential for your team to accomplish the tool’s purpose? Introduce those features. Demonstrate how to use them. And let people get accustomed to—and adept in—that functionality before you add more options.
- You’ll always have an array of skills and comfort level in a team. Some people—the early-adopter type—will jump on, explore, play, and learn all about the tool. It’s fun for them. Others may feel overwhelmed and stick to the basics (and may need help with those). Allow room for all these responses.
- For the easily overwhelmed: take it slow. Don’t try to explain or introduce every part of the tool at once. Stick the essential functions. Explain the how in an easy, step-by-step way.
- Focus on “how to do our work with this tool” rather than “how to use every part of this tool.”
- For the eager learners: release them to explore. Get clear on your expectations and any guidelines (security, privacy, procedures) you have. Ask them to play around, try things out, and give you feedback.
- Consider getting your eager learners to help and coach your easily overwhelmed team members.
3. Use different methods to teach
Different people learn in different ways. Use different ways to introduce and explain the tool, so everyone has a chance to receive the information in their preferred way of learning.
Some concepts may take pages of text to explain, but can be quickly understood with a few visuals. Use different methods—from text, to visuals, to videos—to go over the key features and use scenarios.
At Teamup, a new feature or update often involves all of the following:
- an internal discussion in which we discuss dependencies, define terms, and talk about potential user questions or points of confusion
- a text-based article for our help documentation, with screenshots or gifs to illustrate specific steps
- blog content showing how the feature update might be implemented, why/when/how it’s useful, and to demonstrate it in scenarios using different terms
- illustrated tips and other visuals to make it easy for users to understand “at a glance” and start using right away
- a short video explaining the feature update and demonstrating how to use it
- a Solutions page or case study to show the feature in action and demonstrate flexibility of how the feature might be used in different contexts.
Those are the steps we take to ensure that users already familiar with Teamup calendar will be able to quickly grasp and make use of an added or updated feature.
A team brand new to the tool or system you’re introducing will need time and multiple learning tools. It takes time to grasp a new concept, and even more time to make it automatic. Have patience and provide instruction in various formats.
- Take advantage of the documentation and help resources available for your tool. Can’t find what you need? Do an online search and check out customer forums.
- Videos showing the step-by-step process are great for helping people quickly understand how to use a tool. Show the video, then make it available so team members can review as they start using the tool.
- You can always make your own video, showing exactly how you use the tool. Try recording your screen, then show it and talk through each step. (We’re always on the lookout for user-submitted videos for Teamup; do you have one? We would love to see it!)
- Let your team know where to find more resources, such as documentation, blog posts, videos, visual aids, forums, etc.
4. Short and sweet, then repeat
Question: Too much information at one time is a) boring or b) overwhelming or c) both?
Answer: Often, it’s c) both boring and overwhelming! Don’t make that mistake. Keep this mantra in mind: short and sweet, then repeat.
Keep your own introduction of the tool short and sweet, focused and functional. Then repeat your instructions in other ways: with an email, a video, follow-up meeting, demonstration, or individual conversations.
Be clear and consistent. Keep it as simple as possible. If you’re frustrated, so is your team. Don’t be afraid to take breaks, or schedule a follow-up session if it’s taking too long to go over everything. Urgency does not help learning, so take it out of the picture.
- Here’s another mantra you can use: go explore, come back for more. Give your team the basic instructions, ask them to use and explore the tool, then “come back for more” with a follow-up session.
- Following up does help! If your team is small, follow up with each person individually. If time doesn’t allow for that approach, use a group follow-up (group email, meeting) and allow time for questions and feedback.
- Expect a learning curve and let everyone know it’s okay. As much as possible, ease in without pressure.
- New things can be scary. Resistance is often a default response. Try not to take it personally.
When you’ve taken the time to research and choose the best software, tool, or system for your team, it’s worth taking the time to introduce and teach it well.