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Is the role of training and user guides for collaboration tools becoming extinct?

Will shifting our focus to 'coaching', rather than training become the most effective way to help our users grasp what is right for them...among a growing myriad of collaboration options?

When was the last time you attended a classroom in order to learn how to use a new telephone at work? Have you organised such sessions more recently for a company collaboration tool only to find out that you only less than half the people showed up? Are people watching your training videos or reading your user guides?

Driven by the need to become more efficient and agile and support increasingly diverse and mobile workforces, companies are making significant investments in collaboration tools. These investments though are only worthwhile if the organisation embraces using them.

With staff that are time poor, often sceptical about the latest technology tool, and already used to using smartphones and email, training and user guides geared towards helping the adoption and utilisation of collaboration tools are becoming extinct. The question then is how to drive effective utilisation of these tools to deliver the best results for your organisation.

Ultimately, why will taking time out to learn, often by rote, about a new application that has appeared on their desktop or mobile device benefit them? And what is 'effective utilisation' in the first place? From an organisational perspective, what does 'good' look like in regard to adoption? So what are we all actually aiming to achieve?

The difference between training and coaching

Shifting focus from rote learning to coaching might be a more constructive way to meet your goals for collaboration within your organisation. This needs to be much more than a simple change of terminology - so don't just rename your program to coaching, and stick to the training approach.

The difference is primarily that coaching is inherently more of a two way process and one with an outcome less focused on the tool itself but the business opportunities it can create.

Collaboration solutions are increasingly focused on delivering organisational outcomes such as increased flexibility, remote working and distributed teams. However, we also need to remember that people might not naturally associate collaboration tools with these outcomes. Collaboration solutions should provide the tools to collaborate. However they won't provide the end-user, or front-line management context for how they use those tools in their specific circumstances. And that is why a more two-way, coaching based approach to learning and adoption will be effective.

How do you introduce a coaching program?

Firstly you need to be sure of the overarching goals of your organisation align to the collaboration solution you are deploying.

Of equal importance is that the business is aware that the solution you have in mind can directly support initiatives around employee engagement, retention, diversity goals and the bottom line.

What is clear for many organisations is that the working behaviours and attitudes of front-line management, as well as staff themselves, is an even bigger change challenge than introducing collaboration tools.

Common corporate objectives at the moment are removing 'line of sight' management styles, while increasing mobility and flexible working. In this environment, coaching can then deliver a much higher value outcome for the organisation.

The relevance of collaboration technologies becomes clear once those being coached realise that these tools are relevant to many more of their emerging KPIs than they possibly thought.

What we are talking about here is that change and innovation are top of the agenda - that attracting and retaining talent is paramount, now more than ever. Getting the most out of your investment in staff is a bigger prize than your investment in collaboration tools.

So think about how shifting your focus to coaching, and stitching these things together will make a difference. And don't forget to measure and adjust as you go.

For more on collaboration go to Telstra Exchange.