Community managers, have you trained your end users?

James Ungerer is a Technical Course Instructor at Jive Software. He is an has been a trainer for the last 2 years with Jive and has 4 years of technical training experience. James specializes in community management, end user training, training other trainers and system administration. In this piece, James explains how to train your end users effectively.

While Jive’s user experience is intuitive, it is still necessary to train your end users. When training your end users, there are a number factors that need to be taken into consideration, such as: learning process, location, training format, etc. The task can be intimidating but here we’re going to discuss some things to think about when setting out to create your training.

Learning Process
There are three key components to consider when creating training for end users. It’s not just about what they need to learn – but the context of what they are learning. For example, teaching a user how to join a group will naturally lead to the question “what is a group?” Thus, giving context to what groups are will help the user better understand what they are doing. To create an effective training, you must do all of the following:

  • Why – Provide the context of what the end users are learning. Give the users the big picture to help them understand why they are doing what you’re training them to do.
  • How – This is what our main focus has been. Demonstrate the step-by-step process for your end users.
  • Do – This is the final step. Have your users “do” to commit the lesson to memory. Some users can accomplish this with the “How” portion but this is where the majority of users will retain the training.

Centralize the Training
One of the biggest advantages of Jive is the ability to centralize your organization’s knowledge. When creating training for your organization you’ll want to create one place (or group) in Jive to host all the content. This gives your users one place to find everything. Once this group is created it’s very important to point your users to it. This can be done by placing a link on the community’s homepage or an additional button on the community’s navigation.

Identify the Needs
One of the biggest pitfalls of training end users is teaching them too much material. Yes, too much can be a bad thing. Your goal is to get users in and to adopt the platform. Hence, you need to identify the things they absolutely need to learn to accomplish this. These things are directly dictated by what your community is used for but in general there are some standard things that will get your users going in the community:

  • User Profiles – This is the first thing that users need to create upon joining a community. This establishes their presence and connect them to the community.
  • Connecting to Other Users – For internal communities, this is an especially important step, as it helps a new user get connected to his/her teammates and manager. For an external community this step might be harder to accomplish but it is still vital to teach end users how to connect, so when they find someone to network with they have the skills to do it.
  • Joining Groups – In order for a user to really get immersed, they need to be able to find and join a group to collaborate.
  • Ask a Question or Start a Discussion – The last step for the basics is asking questions. The ability to start asking questions is critical and it is the most social content type in the platform. As a community manager, you want to promote users coming in asking questions and finding their answers.

After covering these four basic needs, there is plenty more to learn including but not limited to other content types, the activity engine, and creating social groups. Remember that in this step we’re trying to identify what a new user needs to get started. After these lessons, you’ll want to sprinkle in breadcrumbs to show them to other training materials. This will allow users to dig deeper and increase their knowledge of the platform if they choose, without overloading them initially and allowing them to retain what they learned. Here is an example of a blog post that will direct users to learn the four basic steps –  Jive Education Tip: Setting up learning for new users.

Training Formats
Now that you have identified your end users’ needs, it is time to find ways to communicate. This can be challenging given that your users are bound to have different learning styles and the potential for cultural differences if your organization is global. The seven learning styles are visual, aural, physical, logical, verbal, social and solitary (ref:  Overview of learning styles). By using Jive to host the training materials you can account for visual (videos), aural (audio on videos, webcasts), verbal (how-to guides), social (lunch and learns, round tables) and solitary (combination of all the formats except social).

  • Videos – This format can be a very difficult one to handle. Professional videos can be very expensive. However, remember our goal is to bring visual learning to users, so you don’t necessarily need to create professional videos. Most organizations have an online conferencing tool (ex: Webex, Live Meeting) so at a considerably lower cost you can create “videos” based off webcasts or online training sessions you conduct. One thing to remember here is that user attention is limited so avoid creating training “how-to” videos that are longer then 5 minutes in length. Keep in mind that the purpose of training videos is to show a specific process (e.g., creating a document).
  • Web Training Sessions – These are very powerful tools to reach a large audience. If your organization is global, then you have to combat time zone differences. Looking back at the videos information we know that we can record webcasts so you can hold them anytime you want and then share them with others who could not attend. The real beauty of web training sessions is they can be considerably longer then a how-to videos. The purpose of web training sessions is to be more broad than videos, in that you can cover multiple topics.
  • How-To Guides – These are documented step-by-step processes and serve as great reference material. These should reflect the exact process your end users need to take to accomplish the task covered in the live training. It is worth noting that you can and should include some “Why” for context. For example, when making a how-to guide for creating documents it is helpful to set the scene and inform the user when a document should be used over other content types.
  • Round Tables/Lunch and Learns – When possible it is beneficial for the instructor to lead a training session directly. This can be remote through conference sessions or in person in a training/conference room. This allows the users to ask questions and get their answers immediately from the expert. While in person training might not be feasible for your global organization, the use of remote tools can help bring that instructor to the students and help people learn faster.

When creating training materials, be sure to use as many training formats as possible.

The Importance of Hands-On
So far we’ve examined how to communicate training to the users but we have not really talked about the hands-on portion of training. With any learning style, the end result is that users need to do it to commit it to memory. Reading or watching will only get users so far. Providing practice opportunities is essential. For example, if you’re teaching users how to create a document, give them a link to place in the community and have them create a document. Repetition is key.

The End Result
The end result you are seeking is to have informed users who know how, why, and when to use the community. The most important part of the training process is not done by the user, but by you. When the users ask questions or seek help, respond to them. Most importantly, teach them how to find the answers for themselves. By supporting and empowering your users in this manner, the end result will be a well trained community.

This blog was originally posted in the Jive Community.

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