A part of every SharePoint implementation is a proper training plan for employees. Without proper training, your SharePoint rollout is quite likely to fail (though, naturally, the reverse is not guaranteed either; that is, if you hold a training it will be a success, as many factors play a part in this).
Being now in my second big implementation in the Asia Pacific region, each time for a big MNC, here are some of my findings and experiences (none of which I claim to be complete or 100% accurate, please see the first point). Going into more detail for each item would result in a huge growth of this entry’s size, resulting more likely in a whitepaper-worthy length. The purpose, of course, is to be more thought-provoking than detailed.
Things that need to be considered regarding training of staff are
- No training plan fits all companies!
There is no standard training plan template that can be applied to all companies and all SharePoint implementations. As with all IT projects, a SharePoint implementation is highly complex. And so are the requirements for the training.
Therefore, some of the points I mention below will not be applicable for your specific situation. If you are a small office with 20 users, holding sessions with as few as possible users will usually be more beneficial than holding one big training session for everyone. If you are a large MNC, you usually can’t provide training in one language only, but rather need to translate it into multiple languages. For that reason, everything else that will be mentioned here CAN be taken into consideration for your training plan, but you should always consider your own needs and the relevance to your situation.
- Different kinds of end users
For example, you might have users that use your SharePoint mostly for data consumption, and users that contribute a lot. Naturally, the second groups needs a training with a stronger focus on how to add, edit, and maintain data stored on SharePoint. Another possibility is that you have "regular" users as well as "power" users, the latter which is allowed to and responsible for creating new lists & libraries. Training everyone on how to set these up is clearly overkill, but providing such a training for key users definitely beneficial.
Another option would be to hold trainings for different departments (or any other kind of user groups that you can identify). The Finance department members might be more interested in learning about Excel Services and dashboards, whereas the Sales people want to know how they can quickly find all the relevant product information that they need.
- Different locations
While there are situations where you have all employees that need to be trained, more likely you will have dispersed teams, sometimes spread across countries or even continents. So you will need to hold multiple sessions for all those teams. One option would be to visit all those teams and hold the training directly, though this is obviously a very expensive one.
Another alternative would be to train some key users ("train the trainer"), which afterwards train colleagues at their own location. This also gives you the benefit of having trainings in different languages (see below).
Yet another option is to hold training sessions by sharing your desktop with other people through a web-based tool. That way, you can train people located in Paris while you’re sitting in your office in Seattle.
- Different training times
If you need to conduct multiple trainings at a location, plan for different timings as well. The reason? People have different schedules with some regular and some irregular items. If you plan to hold 2 hour trainings on 3 different days, try to spread them across the day. That way, it will be easier for people to join a training session, as it is less likely that it will conflict with their calendar.
- Trainings in different languages
As mentioned before, you might need to train people in different countries in different languages. By holding trainings in one language only, you risk that not all participants understand the contents clearly, and you risk that even though they attended a training, they do not understand how to use all the functionalities covered.
It is thus recommended to hold trainings in multiple languages where it makes sense. If there are only 3 people that speak a different language, translating your whole training materials would be overkill. But if you have let’s say 100 people, you could consider it a must.
How should those trainings be held? One option would be to hold them bilingual, e.g. in Chinese and English (assuming that English is the commonly used language in your company). You present in English, and someone else (e.g. a knowledgeable colleague, or better a translator) conducts the training in Chinese, both of you switching to one another regularly (~ once per slide). The drawback here is that you will have to include a lot more time for this kind of training, but more severe is the fact that most people will probably stop listening to you and concentrate on the native speaker only. Thus, a "train the trainer" beforehand and the local native speaker conducting the local training by himself makes more sense.
- Different kinds of trainings
A training should not be a one-time thing only. It is simply impossible to include everything that you want to train people on in a single training session, so you need to plan for a few different trainings.
The first kind of training would usually be an introduction on SharePoint that covers the reasons for the implementation, the benefits that can be achieved for the company and the users, and the most basic functionalities.
Afterwards, it is possible to hold small "refresher trainings" to allow those employees that could not participate the initial training before (e.g. due to time constraints, or as they joined the company only afterwards) get the relevant knowledge. Furthermore, some people might take up the opportunity to go through a training again and get a better understanding.
- Different formats
There are many ways how a SharePoint training can be conducted. Michael Sampson goes into more detail in his book "User Adoption Strategies" about classroom training and web-based training. Another option is to hold a one to one training.
Each of them has its benefits and drawbacks. Holding a one to one training is definitely the most effective, but also the slowest (imagine having to train everyone this way!) and most expensive. Web-based training, conducted for example through a tool like WebEx, has the benefit of allowing participants in different locations to join. However, it will be difficult for them to do some exercises during this training session, more likely this kind of training would follow a presentation style.
The most standard kind of training, the classroom training, allows participants to work on exercises, and get support and feedback easily and immediately. The fewer participants here, the more effective the training usually is (yet, the total number of people to be trained and the timeframe of the trainings play a big factor here as well).
- Executive support
As with most things, having executive support shows that the company in total is committed. There may be a lower resistance level to participate in a training if employees are asked by their superior to go. So if you set up a training, why not let the CEO send an email to staff to inform them about it? Or alternatively, ask the department ma
nagers to notify their staff about the trainings, asking them to participate.
- Provide registration possibilities
If possible, give people a choice on their training schedule. As mentioned before, different people have different working schedules, and they know best when a training for them would fit in. So why not set up a training registration page on SharePoint, where they can then select the training they would like to participate in?