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To Get Higher Software Adoption, Stop Training Your Team

To Get Higher Software Adoption, Stop Training Your Team

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It’s 4:57 p.m. on a Friday. You love your operations, enablement, or systems admin job, but you don’t love the slew of messages from people looking for help (for the 11th time, and at the 11th hour). 

You open the first. Happy Friday! Are you still online?? Hoping you can help me pull a sales tax audit report for Finland from Netsuite. 

Never mind that there’s detailed documentation on this exact topic…that’s only been viewed a handful of times. 👀

 The second: [No salutation to be seen] Can you help me update the marketing events budget in Workday? 

Never mind that you hosted a 30-minute training on this last week—and recorded a loom for future reference. 😤 

You take a deep breath and open the third. "Hi—me again. My VP is looking for a Salesforce report showing the average number of days spent in opportunity stage by quarter again. Remind me how to build it?" 

Never mind that you’ve shown Jake how to create this report for the last three quarters in a row. 💀

Should your title actually be “CRM Support Representative?” Possibly, at this point. Are these Monday problems? Almost definitely. But if you’re like the ops pros we know, it’s tough to resist getting sucked into the gravity of [repetitive] support requests. Weekend mode will have to wait.

“Ideally, we would spend 10% of our time on ad hoc support. In reality it’s 30-40%.”

-Akbar, Head of Customer Operations

The reality is, your frustration extends beyond the interruptions that keep you from ending your workday on time. Your boss hired you to build forecasting and planning models, analyze revenue program effectiveness, improve outdated attribution models, offer accurate insights into pipeline and revenue forecasts, and implement KPIs to force cross-functional alignment. Not to spend the majority of your week in the weeds, reacting to software user support and training requests. 

To make matters worse, you’re acutely aware of what will happen to your ability to show impact if you’re unable to persuade people to self-serve so you can tackle more strategic projects. 📉 🫠

Who’s at the root of your biggest headaches? Who’s not doing your software adoption goals any favors? Ambivalent adopters. Otherwise known as the bane of your existence. And the common denominator among every failed training you’ve rolled out.

Identifying—and understanding—your ambivalent adopters 

At the risk of stating the obvious: Not everyone shares the same degree of enthusiasm for change. 

Your ambivalent adopters are your skeptical users. (See below for a highly official dictionary definition.)

A screenshot of a dictionary definition for "ambivalent adopters."

What are some other adjectives to describe ambivalent adopters? Busy and apathetic, sure. Lazy and malicious? No. Ambivalent adopters aren’t bad people by any means—they just aren’t that interested in the new software process you’re trying to roll out. They don’t think that memorizing your top-down approach to training is the best way they can contribute. And here’s the thing—they aren’t wrong.

To help you tailor your approach more effectively (and dial up your empathy), here’s some more intel on ambivalent adopters:

1. They may operate a little differently than you—and have different end goals.

As an innately enthusiastic adopter, you're all about action and change. Ambivalent adopters are more likely to stay in their comfort zone, suffer silently if they don't know how to do something (the correct, best, or fastest way), and want their hand held if/when they do seek out help. 

You may also differ on a few other things:

Ambivalent Adopters Enthusiastic Adopters
Feelings about change Not a fan Curious
Happy place In their comfort zone Constantly improving
Secret agenda Avoid feeling stupid Minimize interruptions and repetitive questions
Typical behavior Multi-tasks or totally ignores your training Engages and asks questions
Preferred outcome Help from you, when they get stuck New efficiences (and hours saved every week)

2. They may be motivated by things that aren’t at the top of your task list. 

Ambivalent adopters want to save their time and energy for more strategic/meaningful priorities—just like you do. Here’s what they care about:

A side-by-side comparison of what operations teams' users do and don't care about.

3. They may have some irrational fears—that can’t be solved with solutions that seem rational to you. (As someone who loves experimenting with new technology and skilling up now to make yourself ultra productive later.)

Welcome to the source of the nearly universal friction between ambivalent adopters and the ops professionals charged with enabling them to do their best work. 

The trouble with traditional training (for everyone)

If you’re lucky, you have some tech savvy systems all-stars to offset all of your ambivalent adopters. But the reality is, even people who are all-in on new software and more efficient processes are likely struggling with your current approach to training.

Traditional training and knowledge transfer asks people to:

  • Read wordy documentation and watch long videos
  • Sit through boring training sessions with information they can’t use in the moment
  • Bounce between knowledge bases in an attempt to get unstuck, later on
  • Memorize dozens of procedures and keep up with constant process changes
A graphic highlighting the troubles with traditional training and knowledge transfer.

What’s the path of least resistance (especially for ambivalent adopters)? Ignoring your training and refusing to self-serve. Not because they’re lazy, but because your approach isn’t setting them up for success. 

Why you should stop training your team

Any patience people had to engage with tangentially related and potentially-useful-at-some-point training materials is gone.

Enter the alternative to traditional training: real-time enablement. ✨

If traditional training is hard to find, apply, and retain, real-time enablement is:

  • Embedded directly in the tools where work is happening
  • So easy to follow users will feel like they’re on autopilot 
  • Designed to save brain power for more important stuff*

*Not memorizing software procedures!

Two practical ways to transform the trainer + ambivalent adopter dynamic

1. Embed instructions in the tools where people work

If you’re going to retain one recommendation from this post, this should be the one.

Say you’re helping your sales team migrate from HubSpot to Salesforce. Arming account executives with step-by-step guides will be stickiest and most impactful if they learn while they’re updating contact and deal records…inside of Salesforce

By embedding the instructions to repetitive procedural questions *inside of* the software your users are already using—and within a task management tool or shared Slack channel—you can:

  • Take advantage of the willingness to learn in the heat of a real world task
  • Avoid the trap of good information presented at the wrong time
  • Take back time you would have spent creating training destined to go in one ear and out the other
  • Decrease the amount of searching and switching tabs required to get work done 
  • Create more capacity for you and your end users to do more meaningful work

A real-world example

Consider a real-world example from Travis Cormier, 10xTravel’s Chief Operating Officer.

Like most organizations, his team has a lot of critical processes. But no matter how well-engineered their documentation was, Travis’ team found they couldn’t:

  1. Eliminate the context-switching required for everyone to track down necessary information
  2. Convince ambivalent adopters to look for it in the first place
  3. Reduce the inevitable delays and interruptions when the latter needed outside assistance to get unstuck

So what’d they do? They leaned into the fact that people work differently. They thought about how to solve the problem, vs. the behavior. And they decided to make the knowledge more readily available by dropping how-to guides (👋🏿, Tango) directly into their project management hub (👋🏼, Notion).

Hear more from Travis below:

2. Make instructions easy enough to follow on autopilot

Clearly, pointing people to multiple repositories isn’t the best way to roll out new software or communicate a new standard operating procedure. But putting the information in the right place is only half the battle. 

What else do you need to embrace? The truth about training guides.

New research shows that most people:

  • Glaze over when faced with walls of text 
  • Believe uncropped screenshots without annotations are even more overwhelming
  • Don’t have patience for long videos
A graphic summarizing the three main reasons why people don't like training videos.

So dense documentation, busy software screenshots, and lengthy videos aren’t going to win over your ambivalent OR enthusiastic adopters. And to compound the issue, there’s a laundry list of knowledge sharing alternatives that aren’t much better…

Pulling people away from their work to go through module after module. Forcing them to spend time navigating questionably organized, outdated, and/or fragmented knowledge bases. Encouraging the context-switching required to track down information shared in fleeting meetings and buried in forgotten email/chat threads. And as Loom Onboarding Manager Brittany Soinski learned, recording a 7-minute video walking through (readily available) written documentation…in great detail. 😅

Instead of asking people to learn by reading, watching, and/or listening, make executing key processes in your team’s most essential tools brainless with Tango.

A screenshot of Guidance from Tango, an app to help you create stunning how-to guides in minutes, not hours.

Your most stubborn ambivalent adopter may never turn into a go-getter. But by highlighting what to do, step-by-step, within the software they’re already using, you can:

A win-win across the board

Imagine the impact you could have on your organization if you enabled everyone around you to take full advantage of your tech stack, institutional knowledge, and SOPs—without having to waste time memorizing or searching.

Imagine if you could help even your most ambivalent adopters avoid performing this song and dance for the very last time:

A flowchart depicting the series of unfortunate events when self-service isn't an option and someone tries to track down the knowledge they need to complete a critical task.

And imagine if you and the rest of your operations team could focus more on the things that really matter, and less on the things that don’t. Picture the kind of change you could drive if you had 70% fewer repetitive questions, and twice as much time/energy to drive long-term process adoption (not just product usage!), improve business outcomes, and make your execs look good. 

All you have to do is stop training your team (the traditional way).

You’ll be happier because you won’t have to do a million hour-long training sessions, and your co-workers will be happier because you won’t have to do a million hour-long training sessions. 

In other words: Everyone wins.

The bottom line


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