Developing an Effective Training Program
Embarking on the implementation of a new core system is a complicated task with major financial implications for the sponsoring organization. Training is crucial to ensure that all involved understand their responsibilities and can perform their job duties from day one. If executed successfully, a comprehensive training program will help drive user acceptance of the new system and increase the likelihood that the system’s full potential will be realized.
For optimal results, a detailed and complete training strategy should be formulated well in advance of the replacement implementation launch. Client and vendor must collaborate closely to develop a strategy that encompasses all phases of the project, in addition to ongoing training needs. Because learning styles vary, it is important that training programs incorporate the three primary methods of adult learning: listening, reading, and doing. As part of this process, training strategies should utilize change management techniques to help users develop a clear understanding of the project’s overarching business purpose and goals.
The three essential training areas associated with core system implementations are:
- Project training
- Product training
- End-user/role-based training
Project training, or educational efforts designed around the implementation process itself, is an area often overlooked when core system training initiatives are being developed. Project training should instill an understanding of how project work differs from day-to-day work, and clarify the mechanisms associated with moving the implementation forward.
Typically, these elements can include project governance, as well as administrative processes and procedures. Because many team members on the project may not have experience with complex implementations, the project kickoff should provide rich detail on the following topics:
- Scope – the specific body of work that defines the project
- Roles and responsibilities for each person working on the project
- A high-level plan that reflects the different stages of the project and the expected timelines and deliverables for each phase
- A communication plan that includes both internal and external expectations
- Reporting structure and reporting responsibilities for project team members
- Processes to report and resolve issues and risk monitoring/remediation
- Meeting schedule, structure, and expectations (including reviews of what has been completed and what is expected in next meeting/phase)
After the project kickoff, project managers and sponsors should anticipate a wide range of questions from those assigned to the implementation. Many of these questions can be easily addressed by directing team members to a central data repository.
Once project training is complete, the focus should shift to the implementation of the product. This training does not typically cover customer-specific internal processes or how those processes will change once configuration and system integration is complete. Product training, which is usually delivered by the system vendor, may be part of the design and configuration process and can involve a classroom setting. Product training should include the following steps:
- Review training options – Review each training element and understand what is being taught, the documentation that will be used, expectations regarding the knowledge coming out of the course, prerequisites for taking each course, and team members assigned to each course.
- Schedule the courses – Make sure the appropriate prerequisites can be completed before classes are scheduled.
- Confirm documentation – Confirm that the vendor will supply the documentation necessary for all courses. It is recommended that this information be reviewed during system selection, since it will help illuminate the capabilities of the vendor.
- Perform evaluations – Ensure meaningful evaluations are developed for all courses and sessions.
The organizing principle that should guide all role-based training is relevancy. To maximize the return on your training investment, training must target each role using the new system within the organization. For example, an employee from Member Services should not receive the same training as someone from Provider Relations. Process training must be specific to how the user will perform their business processes in the new core system. Because this training is focused on the end-user’s knowledge requirements, it will likely vary by department and user.
As a result, an assessment should be performed prior to the initiation of training that identifies needs, skills, and gaps for each end-user role. Information that should be incorporated into this assessment includes:
- An overview of the system areas users will be accessing
- Business changes from legacy system to new system
- Detail of business desktop procedures
- Review of all new workflows
- Review of how information will be passed from one department to the next
- Complete set of documentation
To help strengthen retention of new product skills, training should be timed to anticipate the operational status of the product and go-live. Personnel should be ready to execute in support of User Acceptance Testing (UAT) or end-to-end testing. This testing should be focused on superusers, or the most experienced users from each functional area. Importantly, these individuals can subsequently provide support during the broader training phase for all remaining system users.
Training should coincide with the functional area that will next begin using the system. For example, Membership Resources may be the first to start using the system, while others who only need to know how to look for information may be the last. When scheduling end-user training, take into consideration operational ramifications and involve the managers of the departments affected. Each organization has different needs when it comes to training and training-program development. We, at Change Healthcare, have assisted organizations in a variety of capacities, from the development of training strategies to educational material creation and training delivery.
A good training strategy provides the foundation for user acceptance and helps ensure the system will be used as intended. It can also help prevent many of the pitfalls frequently associated with system implementations and thus allowing, organizations to maximize their return on a significant, long-term investment.