Q: My company put a work-management initiative in place a while ago, but it’s not going very well. People don’t quite understand it, and it’s even worse for new people who join the company. I’ve been asked to think about training and support to get it turned around. Where should I start? — Tina, 44, director, employee engagement

A: Clarify the real issues first, then you can generate solutions and get results.

You know whom to ask for information about the issues, right? Not management! Too often attempts to fix problems rely only on talking with managers.

Instead, go to the users. Have conversations with staff who are using the work-management system. Find out what works, what falls short and what actually needs to be improved.

Notice that I’m not assuming that the solution is solely training and support, and neither should you. Keep an open mind.

That said, you need to know your leadership’s perspectives. Be sure to be clear about their goals for the initiative so that solutions you propose are addressing the correct problems.

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Now, there are some principles to keep in mind.

First, one and done doesn’t cut it. We’ve all attended sessions where we received information and then somewhat later are expected to be able to use it. Without practice and reinforcement, this just isn’t realistic.

Your approach needs to include both initial training and ongoing refreshers and support. Cover both process and technical training, including hands-on training for new software, and then set up ongoing user sessions to answer questions.

Second, your method needs to fit your organization. If your whole company is in one place, training is easier because face-to-face support is an affordable option.

If your company has staff across the country or is internationally based, consider multiple options based on the risk to your company and the benefits of each approach.

For example, you could set up online learning systems. There are costs, but they provide flexibility for current and new employees.

Train the trainer approaches can also work. In this case, you could bring local leads to your headquarters for in-depth training. They then would be able to provide training and support locally.

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Or you could send a training team to other central locations. The best approach will depend on risk if your initiative fails.

Third, your approach needs to be adaptable. As new training approaches are rolled out, you will get great information on ways to refine it. Taking users’ suggestions for improvement builds great buy-in.

Finally, your company will need to budget for content development, staffing for trainers, and time for trainees to attend and practice. This can’t succeed if it’s piled onto already full plates.

With focus and resources, you will be able to help turn this initiative around.

Liz Reyer is a columnist at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. (Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)
Liz Reyer is a columnist at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. (Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)