Nonprofit IT Staff Training: How-To and Why (Video, Podcast, Transcript)

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Nonprofit IT Staff Training: How-To and Why

A robust and frequent training program helps staff use your IT more effectively.

An Ask the Experts panel discussion with Community IT CEO Johan Hammerstrom and David Deal, co-founder of Build Consulting for a webinar on nonprofit IT staff training – how to do it, why to do it, and how to make time to prioritize it.

Training is a security, cost-saving, and productivity measure. Learn real-life examples of technology training that saved clients money – or helped them realize they were already paying for the software solution they were looking for. Learn tips for integrating continuous training and ideas on making it fun and productive for staff. Learn how to reward staff for learning and save your organization time and money in the long run.

In this webinar on nonprofit IT staff training, the Community IT and Build Consulting panelists took questions and shared tips on how to get the most out of your IT investments through IT training.

As with all our webinars, this presentation is appropriate for an audience of varied IT experience. Build and Community IT are scrupulously vendor-agnostic, so this conversation will feature a realistic look at the impact technology training can have on your efficiency and budget.


David Deal co-founded Build Consulting in 2015, building on over 20 years of deep experience in the nonprofit technology sector. His work for Build’s clients has a broad focus spanning many operational areas including fundraising, program and case management, human resources, accounting, and many others.

Johan Hammerstrom is CEO of Community IT Innovators. He has a BS in Chemistry from Stanford and an MA in Biophysics from Johns Hopkins. He left academic science to pursue a career in Information Technology, with the goal of improving our communities and our world. He started at Community IT in 1999 as a Network Administrator. Since that time, he has been a Network Engineer, a Team Lead, the Director of Services, Vice President of Services, Chief Operating Officer, President, and beginning 2020, CEO.


Johan Hammerstrom:  Welcome everyone. Thank you for joining us for today’s webinar on the How To’s and Why’s of Nonprofit IT staff training.

Today, we’re going to discuss the

  • business needs for IT training,
  • some examples of training done well,
  • various training methods and
  • resources you can use to develop a training program for your organization and
  • some tips and tricks that will help you get started with training at your nonprofit.

My name is Johan Hammerstrom, I’m the CEO of Community IT and the moderator for this webinar series. I’ll also be a co-presenter for today’s discussion on training. The slides and recording for today’s webinar will be available on our website and YouTube channel later this week. If you’re watching on YouTube right now, we encourage you to subscribe to our channel to receive automatic updates when we post new webinar recordings.

Now, before we begin, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about our company. Community IT is a 100% employee-owned company. Our team of 38 staff is dedicated to helping nonprofit organizations advance their missions through the effective use of technology. We’re technology experts, and we’ve been consistently named a top 501 managed services provider by Channel Futures. And it’s an honor that we received again in 2021.

And now it’s my pleasure to introduce today’s co-presenter David Deal. David Deal is the founder and original owner of Community IT before selling the company to the employees. He’s the current chair of the Community IT Board, and at least I don’t know if anybody else realizes this, but I consider him to be the lifetime CEO emeritus of Community IT. David Deal.

David Deal:  Oh, Johan I’ll just say that’s another word for CEO 1.0, and I highly recommend the 2.0 upgrade.

Johan Hammerstrom:  Oh, thank you, thank you I appreciate it.

David Deal is also a founding partner of Build Consulting, an information strategy firm that works with nonprofit organizations. So, welcome David. It’s hard to believe that in the 20 plus years that we’ve known each other, I think amazingly, this is the first time that we’ve actually co-presented a webinar together.

David Deal:  That’s kind of crazy. Somehow, you’ve avoided it or I’ve avoided it all of these years, but here we are, the stars have aligned, I suppose.

Johan Hammerstrom:  We couldn’t avoid it any longer. So Dave, could you tell us a little bit more about Build Consulting and your role at Build?

David Deal:  Sure thing, as one of the founding partners at Build, there were four of us who had careers in the nonprofit technology space and we really wanted to work with nonprofits on technology strategies specifically. So Build is heavily invested in the nonprofit space. We exclusively work with nonprofits, generally mid-sized and large nonprofits across the US and Canada. Our engagements are strategic. We help our clients make strategic technology decisions from comprehensive technology roadmaps to software selections of systems like CRM, ERP, digital engagement, program management, grant management, and more.

Our approach is really a collaborative approach. It’s not about us choosing technology for you. It’s about empowering you to make good technology decisions and to effectively do the things that support good adoption, strong adoption of the technology tools that you choose.

Johan Hammerstrom:  Great, thank you for that introduction. And I think that’s a good lead into today’s topic. You know, adopting technology tools is an essential part to implementing technology to IT itself and training plays an important role in technology adoption. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Four Main Topics

There are four main topics we’re going to be discussing.

  • The first is talking about training needs. What are some of the business needs that lead to organizations requiring training for their staff or thinking about training their staff.
  • What does it look like to do training well? I think training maybe is something that hopefully many of you are here today because you understand the need for training. But training can be somewhat elusive, IT training in particular. So we’re going to talk about that. Some examples of where we’ve seen training done well.
  • We’re going to spend some time talking about different methods. There’s no one size fits all or single approach to training. So we want to talk about some of the different methods that can be used for training and where different methods are appropriate,
  • and finally some training resources that we’ve found helpful and that we think you’ll find helpful as you think about a training program at your own organization.

So that’s the agenda today, looking forward to it. Let’s get started talking about training needs. Sometimes implementing new technology feels like jumping off a cliff into the unknown.

How have you seen the need for training? What are some situations where you’ve found that organizations start to think about needing training?

David Deal:  Well, I think sometimes it starts with implementation of a new piece of software, a business system that people need to learn how to use. I think other times, it’s staff feedback where staff say they don’t feel particularly well-trained on a piece of software or they provide feedback on the training program.

I’ll often hear organizations when they ask their staff, staff will identify training is one of the areas that could use more attention. It’s often short of what staff would like, but somewhat paradoxically, it seems like organizations can develop some trainings and then staff don’t always show up, don’t necessarily prioritize it. So sometimes it feels like a new year’s resolution to go to the gym. And maybe they’ll do it for a little bit, but it’s fairly rare in my experience to see a long-term sustainable training program that’s put in place that is successfully managed and executed. I’m curious when it may come up for some of the nonprofits that Community IT works with?

Johan Hammerstrom:  Yeah. It’s a similar situation. I think training is something that people in general realize that they need and in a vague way, sort of in a vague sense. Like, we should really have more training. There’s a general sense that staff could be more effective or productive in using the technology that they have. Oftentimes, I think it’s motivated by frustration. People want to do something or feel like they should be able to do something with the technology tools that they have, but just get frustrated that they can’t. And so, I think that the pain maybe, or the symptoms become readily apparent but then I think it is hard to connect that to a solution. You know, how do we go about addressing those issues? What are the things we can do specifically through training?

I think there’s a general sense that training is valuable, but a lot of people don’t know where to go from there. One of the things that we want to do is look at on a more specific level. What are some of the specific areas where training can be valuable?

And I was wondering, Dave, if you could talk a little bit about specific business systems where you’ve seen – I know a lot of these systems are systems that Build works with – what are some of the areas where you’ve seen more specific needs for training?

David Deal:  These are some of the systems that Build works with our clients to implement (CRM, Fundraising, ERP, case, grants and volunteer management), Usually, we’re involved in the assessment to figure out: do they need new software, then the software selection process, and then sometimes we’re involved in the implementation in a guidance and support role. And in being involved in these implementations, the need for training inevitably comes up.

We’ll talk a little bit later in the webinar about some specific instances, some specific types of training that are useful in different scenarios. But there’s certainly training that staff need when you’re implementing one of these systems new and then there’s also the ongoing training that new staff need when they come into an organization or training that people need as processes change as the way that you’re using these systems change.

Johan Hammerstrom:  Yeah. So specific training for specific business systems can sometimes be easy to recognize or prompted by specific events that affect one or more teams in the organization.

David Deal:  It is. And I think business system training upon implementation of a new system is the easiest training. Everyone gets it, including the organization leadership. They get that people are going to need training. So in some ways this is the easiest training to convince an organization that they need.

Some more difficult trainings are that ongoing training. What does it look like as we bring new staff on, as we continue to train existing staff? And it’s a little bit of a harder case to make for those trainings. And one of the examples of training programs that are like that is really cybersecurity.

Johan Hammerstrom:  And I did want to thank you for that segue.

I didn’t want to throw you a little bit of a curve ball because a thought just occurred to me. We didn’t discuss this ahead of time, but what about in cases where a business system was implemented, but there was no training done? Maybe it’s a year or two later, they got off on the wrong foot. They made a bad first impression with this system. Is it a lost cause? Can you go back and do the training after the fact?

David Deal:  You know, it’s staff morale and staff sentiment towards the system that is extremely important. You can have the best technology, but if people had a really poor experience of the implementation you’re fighting an uphill battle. I’m not going to say it never works to try to reimplement or retrain people on that system. I think the way I would approach it is, Hey, there’s some process improvement going on here. And as part of that process improvement, you look at how to use the system more effectively and then you launch it from that perspective. Hey, it’s process changes. That gives you a reason to also figure out how to use the software more effectively. It’s not just focused on retraining on the same thing that failed before.

Johan Hammerstrom:  Yeah, I like that approach. You’re presenting it as a positive rather than as We know we messed up, we know that there’s a lot of pain, we’re going to take the pain away. Instead, you’re framing it as, How can we get better? How can we get to a positive place with this system?

And that’s very much the approach that we like to take with cybersecurity, actually. We’ve found that fear-based and pain-based motivation around cybersecurity is rarely effective over a long period of time. And to do cybersecurity well really requires an ongoing long-term commitment by the organization. We also like to emphasize cybersecurity as a positive: Here’s how you can protect your organization, the mission that you’re working to accomplish.

Here’s some things that really safeguard your organization and the work that you’re doing. Cybersecurity is finally something that’s on most people’s minds. I know we read weekly of hacks and breaches. There were some very high profile server security incidents earlier this year, the Pipeline hacking, for example. So I think people are starting to become very aware of cybersecurity and in general most nonprofit leaders understand that cybersecurity is an issue that needs to be addressed.

We’re actually starting to see it more and more with cyber liability insurance, where that’s an area that has undergone a revolution over the last two or three years. My understanding is that in 2020, claims exceeded premiums for cyber liability insurance policies, companies had to pay out more than they were taking in.

It’s kind of a wake up call for the industry. And we’ve actually seen this year, many of the organizations that we work with now having to attest all kinds of cybersecurity protections, multi-factor authentication, logging. They have to verify that they have these things in place, and if they don’t, in some cases, their premiums are 10 times more expensive, in other cases they’re not getting coverage at all.

So we’re starting to see a lot of pressure from external parties like insurance companies, to really push for cybersecurity. The main protection against cybersecurity incidents is what we call the human firewall. Oftentimes, organizations will think, Well, I need to buy a lot of fancy expensive technology to protect myself. In reality, the best protection is training staff, developing and nurturing a security culture within the organization, and then training staff on good security processes.

I mentioned MFA, multi-factor authentication, is a protection that is starting to become a requirement for a lot of organizations. And generally speaking, it’s important to do training around multi-factor just to explain the concept, how it works. Then you can also do specific training around how to use it.

That’s an area where there’s a need and the need can be leveraged to deliver a training that can then be broadened in scope. The premise can be multi-factor authentication, but you can start to touch on other cybersecurity training issues and pivot into more of a general security training.

And then there’s also specific cybersecurity training with these fake phishing campaigns. We’ll come back to that, because we have a specific example we want to share on an organization that used that to great effect.

David Deal:  Well, I like how you framed cybersecurity training as a positive, not a fear-based approach. I’ll definitely have to add that to my toolkit. I liked that a lot. And I agree, whatever organizations have been doing for cybersecurity, it’s not enough. I think there’s an education effort underway that cybersecurity is not just something that the IT team looks after. It’s something that’s everyone’s responsibility.

Johan Hammerstrom:  Yes. And then you can and probably should do some training around basic productivity.

And I think this can be an interesting area because your staff may have a wide range of abilities. Some staff may or may not need training in many of these areas, but I think we found that many staff do.

Email, even though it’s a solution that people are familiar with, we’ve all been using email for now for 20, 25 years. Most organizations are either using Outlook with Office 365 as their email solution, or they’re using Gmail as part of Google Workspaces. Don’t underestimate the difficulties of going from one to the other. We’ve supported plenty of nonprofit staff who came from a Gmail background and it took them a while to figure out how to use Outlook and vice versa.

They both have different paradigms for how they manage Email. Just some basic training in that area could be really helpful.

We really saw over the course of the pandemic, all of us who recognize this, the rise in real time collaboration tools like Teams, Microsoft Teams, or Slack, as well as video communication tools like Teams as well, or Zoom.Everyone sort of figured out how to make it work, but that doesn’t mean that people are using it to its full potential.

There’s a lot you can do in Teams or in Slack for that matter that you and your staff may not be aware of, certainly your staff may not be aware of. Even though these solutions have been out there for a while, there may be a business need to provide additional training on them. And I think now would be a great time. You can pitch it as Look, we all had to jump feet first into the deep end, at the start of the pandemic to start using these tools. And now that we’ve survived, how can we take it to the next level? Now might be a great opportunity to look at doing some more specific training for staff.

David Deal:  Yeah, I think I’ll just add, Johan – I think as I look at these technologies, a lot of these lend themselves to off the shelf content that training providers have pre-recorded. The challenges in those situations isn’t generating the content, it’s running a training program to make sure the right people are getting the right training at the right time. 

The other thing that strikes me about this is some of this is — some of these technologies do require organization-specific training and nonprofits do need to take ownership for that part of it.

For example, how is an organization going to use Microsoft Teams or Slack in their environment? When did they use those as compared to Email? What types of conversations should people be having there? Those are things that are specific to an organization and that’s part of training as well. Not just learning the bells and whistles of this software.

Johan Hammerstrom:  I think that’s a fantastic point. Guidance and curation are really essential, maybe even more so than content creation.

And I know I’ve run into that problem myself. At one point we were looking at using Teams as our telephony solution. We’d make and receive all of our phone calls. And I just wanted to see how it worked, and so I went to YouTube. I figured there’s gotta be plenty of this content online.

I went to YouTube; it took me forever to find a video that actually had what I was looking for. There were a lot of vendor demos. It was a lot of hour-long, poor quality, how-to’s from random YouTubers. I thought of that as you were sharing just now, because if you tell your staff there’s plenty of content online, they’re going to spend an hour looking for content that is not going to necessarily meet the need.

I think for the organization to take ownership over what the training program should look like may actually be more approachable. Well, here are the things we need to train on. And here are the ways that we feel like that training can be effective. And then once you’ve got that outline, maybe all the content is already actually available to use.

Organizations That Have Done Training Well

Great. So that leads us into some examples that we wanted to share of organizations that have done training well, and I think these examples will highlight that point we were just making about the need to think of training, not as content, but actually as a process and a program.

So Dave, do you want to share a little bit about this organization you worked with that relied on LinkedIn Learning?

David Deal:  Yeah. Happy to, and a couple of organizations come to mind that utilize this. LinkedIn Learning used to be known as And the way that we used that at the organizations was to think about first of all, different levels of digital literacy of staff and then to develop lists of courses and content that was appropriate for those different levels. 

So we tried to think about levels of digital literacy, who used what software in which jobs, and then LinkedIn Learning was a great way to provide pre-recorded content that we simply had to curate to what was the right content for the right people. One of the organizations set an expectation that they wanted staff to complete one hour a month of training. And then HR would track it and the executive director would get reports on it.

And honestly, what made that work, number one, some staff had interest in doing this, not all staff. But number two, that reporting happened and the executive director showed an interest in it and it was discussed with people if they weren’t doing the training program.

Nothing says “this is important,” like leadership paying attention to it. So that program, we ran for about a year and the purpose was just to increase the general digital literacy of staff in different positions with different software. So I think that worked pretty well. And the nice thing about that is it provides the content and it provides the tools to monitor the use of that content as well. So you can easily see who’s progressing through that program.

Johan Hammerstrom:  That’s great. I think you can’t overemphasize the importance of executive and leadership support of IT initiatives and training. I think we are all familiar with examples of leaders who don’t participate in the training program and the silent signal that sends to the rest of the organization about how important or valuable it is. So it’s a great example.

I alluded to this earlier, but we’ve been able to use training on multi-factor authentication. When we enable and set up multi-factor and single sign on for our clients, we use the training as an opportunity to talk more broadly about cybersecurity in general. The organization and the staff who come to the training, they’re coming for a specific training on how to use multi-factor authentication and the steps they have to go through to enroll in multifactor. But then we’re framing that how-to in a larger context and that allows us to provide some additional training around security.

In some of the other webinars that we’ve done this year, one of the things we talk about in cybersecurity is knowing who your adversaries are and that really developing a strong security posture and security mindset depends on you knowing who your adversaries are.

We’ve been able to use these multifactor authentication trainings as an opportunity to get the staff at the organization to think about who’s targeting your organization? Are they opposed to your mission? And they’re trying to harvest information? Are they cyber criminals? And they’re trying to steal money and resources from you? Who do you think is coming after you? And the organizations that have allowed us to expand the scope of the training were able to kind of sneak in a broader cybersecurity training under the guise of a simple multi-factor authentication training. But it helps to raise security awareness, which is also one of the things that you’ve experienced at another client with your fake phishing campaigns.

David Deal:  Yes. One client, well, a few clients have implemented Wombat which was acquired by ProofpointProofpoint has a few tools that are helpful in staff training around cybersecurity. One of them is an assessment that can be assigned to staff to help you figure out where staff need the training, first of all. Secondly, they provide a built-in learning management system where you can assign different videos to people, either based on the results of that assessment, or just as part of a training program where it’s assigned to everyone or groups of staff. And then also they support things like, fake phishing attempts, where you can see who clicked on the link in the email, and it can immediately take them to a training video on why they shouldn’t do that.

I found tools like that to be very helpful to clients. And then at one client that had been doing that for a while, we felt like we needed to kinda shake it up a little bit, make sure we were keeping people’s interests. So we worked with Joshua Pesky of RoundTable Technologies. Shout out to Joshua if he’s listening today, and brought him in and he did a great in-person session with all of the staff. There was some gamification involved, and that was a helpful way to kind of keep it fresh and present things from a different angle as a way to keep staff engaged in this topic.

Johan Hammerstrom:  Yeah. I think keeping it fresh, presenting things from a different angle is definitely good. Getting staff excited for the training, coming into it with enthusiasm are all important, something that all of these examples have in common in making training successful.

David Deal:  And I think you all at Community IT, Johan, have used some cybersecurity training programs other than Proofpoint, and I think you mentioned one or two of those when we were speaking earlier. Any of those you would recommend?

Johan Hammerstrom:  Yeah, we’ve used one called KnowBe4 which provides a similar function as Wombat/Proofpoint in that you can set up ongoing campaigns and have them in increasing levels of difficulty.

So they can start off with very obvious emails that are just obviously fake phishing campaigns and then ratchet up the sophistication. So they start to appear more and more realistic. You can use that to measure the readiness of staff, and then they also pair that with training videos.

You can just set up a training program and have people go through the program and watch videos. So it’s kind of a pre-built LMS (Learning Management System) functionality, which we’ll talk about later. And then staff who click and fail the test can be required to watch a video just informing them as to why they would’ve gotten phished if they had clicked on the link. So KnowBe4 has been helpful. There’s a few others like PhishLine from Barracuda that provide similar functionality.

Training Partners

There are some great partners. As a nonprofit organization you have access to some nonprofit technology partner networks, too. We wanted to highlight NTEN, the nonprofit technology network. Many of you are probably familiar with their annual conference, but they also have a variety of training courses throughout the year. They have webinars that help provide training on technology topics. They have courses, they also have a certification course that they’ve added as well. So NTEN is a great resource

And then also TechSoup Many of you are probably familiar with TechSoup because of their donation program. Particularly Microsoft and Adobe products are available for nonprofit organizations at deep discounts on the TechSoup website.

They also have pretty robust training, basically online courses. They have multi-week courses that you can take. Some of those are geared towards technologists at the organization, and some of them are geared towards non-technology staff. So TechSoup is also a great resource.

They offer a multi-week cybersecurity in the cloud training course. They had a 100 level; they’ve recently added a 200 level. So it’s a good place to get more information about training.

Business System Training

So let’s switch gears here a little bit and talk about the approach to business system training. This again goes back to that point that you made about needing to focus on a process and program and being deliberate about training. So what are the steps that you would recommend organizations go through to do that for business systems?

David Deal:  First and foremost, this will go much better when organizations and teams have thought in advance about: How do we want this process to work? What is it that we want people to do? And the clearer an organization or a department lead or team lead is about that, the easier everything else is after that.

For example, if you’re implementing a CRM and you want to start to use it to track activities – how you’re interacting with your constituents. Well, one of the big questions that’s going to come up is: which of those activities are we going to track in the CRM? Absolutely everything? Only meaningful emails and calls and meetings? Clarifying things like that in advance of a training is really important before taking the time to try to show people here’s how you record activities. It ensures that you’re going to get quality consistent data into this system that you’re implementing.

So I really suggest: start first with the process clarifying it with SOPs, workflows, expectations for how it’s going to work. One of the other things I’ll say about this is, this is not just something for the IT team or the business systems team to do. It really is a shared responsibility in my opinion of the business systems team and the business units to ensure that new staff are trained on processes. I think IT and the business systems teams they’re really best situated to develop and deliver the more general training. Here’s your introduction to this software and the breadth of things we do with it and how to do certain generic activities in the software, but really the team members, the business unit team members are the experts in their processes and how the tool is being used to support their process.

You really have to go to those subject matter experts in the processes to develop and deliver process-specific training. So it’s really a shared responsibility of IT and business systems with the business units. And I think each organization has to get clear on who’s going to do what, and then I think HR is the team that should typically be responsible for making sure that that’s happening in the right way. Making sure that as people come on board, introducing them to the IT and business systems team for their general orientation is important. And then making sure that the subject matter experts know when to lead with what they’re doing.

I think just the last thing I’ll say about business systems training, really, if you think about the training probably what comes to mind for most people is, hey, we’re going through this implementation and we need to train people before it goes live. Yes. And, and that should happen really close to go live so that people can use what they’re learning right away. I think that’s an important point I’ll talk about a little more later.

But if you think about it, usually there’s a design stage and a configuration and a testing stage where you’re working with a smaller group of staff, and that’s really an opportunity because that smaller group of staff usually need to be trained on the system before they’re doing the user acceptance training as it’s called.

Before they do the testing on the system, usually there’s some training involved in that, and that’s really an opportunity to work on your training content, your training delivery in preparation for the larger staff training just prior to go live. So that’s how we approach it at Build and Johan, any additional thoughts here?

Johan Hammerstrom:  I just wanted to say, I love that suggestion, because you’re really incorporating training throughout the process of implementation. Too often really, when we think about training, we think about that thing at the end, that necessary evil that comes at the very end or close to the very end of the process. And I think your suggestion of Let’s put the training together for the people who are implementing, for the people who are involved in the migration process, for acceptance testing, let’s have training at every stage along the way. By kind of weaving it into the overall project at every level and at every phase it’s probably going to lead to a more effective and successful training program at the final stages of implementation.

David Deal:  And a better return on that big investment of new software.

Johan Hammerstrom:  Yes. So what it means is you have to have a training mindset from the very beginning I’m guessing.

David Deal:  Yeah, absolutely. I don’t know if you’re ready to transition to the next slide, but one of the tools that we find helpful at Build Consulting for doing this is a stakeholder impact grid. And at its simplest, what this is, is something that cross references the teams in your organization or the groups; I think of those as the rows of the spreadsheet. Cross reference with the processes that are changing. The processes are the columns.

You match up the groups, the rows and the columns, the groups in the processes, to identify who’s going to be impacted by changes in each of these processes when we implement new software. That’s fundamentally what it’s about. So you can plan that training, to your point Johann, you can know in advance, here are the different groups we have to meet, we have to provide training for, as each of these processes go live.

So the other thing that you can do is you can extend that. There’s a tool that we have on the website. It’s a Change Management Impact Template that builds on the stakeholder impact grid. And this really helps you to think through the resources and methods that are appropriate for each group. Was it high impact, medium impact, low impact on that group? Did they need in-person or asynchronous training? What job aids do they need? What communication should we be thinking about? What sort of leadership alignment considerations are there around this as well? So those are a couple of resources that are free for download: the Stakeholder Impact Grid and the Change Management Impact Template, that at Build, we find helpful for planning out trainings related to business systems change.

Johan Hammerstrom:  That’s great. Those are great resources, and I think that’s a great way to think about training and a great way to think about who needs training, and again, to approach it from that of a process. Training is not an event, it’s an ongoing process in the life of the organization.

Training Methods

So we’ve talked a lot about how training can be successful and ways of thinking about training. Let’s turn our attention to the types of training. What are some of the different methods?

We alluded to this earlier, but keep in mind that training is not just a method, there’s all the planning and the process design that has to go in first. But once you’ve done that, then you’re in a much better position to identify which training methods are going to work well for which stakeholders and for which business processes.

I’m sure you’ve experienced a fair amount of vendor training in your time. Is vendor training useful? Should vendors offer training? They often tout the training that they include with their software. How far should we go with what vendors are promising?

David Deal:  So I will definitely endorse it as useful. And I will also say that it is definitely not the full picture. And what we’re talking about here is when there’s pre-recorded content; sometimes it’s live webinars, sometimes it’s classroom training. Companies like Microsoft, Blackbaud, Salesforce, they do a great job providing a wealth of training materials and third party training providers as well. And these can work well for general digital literacy. There are lots of resources that are readily available and none of us should reinvent the wheel when it comes to these things.

How we’ll often use this at Build with our clients is, it’s used as an introduction to software. There are some types of software where this can get you 90% of the way there, if you want to learn about Word or Excel or Google Sheets or Google Docs or something like that, or Teams or Slack, then this training can get you 80, 90% of the way there. 

When it comes to implementations like CRMs that are maybe a little bit more unique to each organization, some of the vendors will offer training that helps you learn a CRM. But that training takes you much less of the way to where you need to be. The training really skews toward Here’s what our software can do. And even when it’s provided by someone who’s helping you to implement that software, often that’s still the case.

They’re looking at it through the lens of, This is a technology tool that can do A, B and C, and so I really think that’s useful AND you need to follow it up with trainings that are really customized to your organization and how your organization is using it.

Johan Hammerstrom:  So let’s talk about customized trainings and when that’s appropriate and when it’s worth putting the time in to develop that.

David Deal:  I think this is user generated training content, it’s what I would call it. And I would say this is needed for the more specific business systems training. “Here’s how we’re going to use the system to do X at our organization.” And this training is really delivered best by a staff member or a consultant who has worked with your organization on the business process. 

Build provides this type of training sometimes for CRM implementations, for example, but whether it’s a staff member or a consultant, someone who has been involved in, How do we use this tool to support this process?

And if you have someone on staff who is great at that – I’m working with a client right now where that’s the case – people who are trained in professional development and trainings and things like that. They have some great resources to rely on at a school that I’m working with. If you have a staff member who can do this sort of thing, or many staff members, since it’s going to be specific to different processes, then that’s fantastic.

And again, I’ll just highlight, it requires clarity from the organization, the department, on how the group of users are going to be using that system. That’s an important piece to clarify first. It’s not something that can just be handed off to the trainers. It’s something that leadership needs to think about in advance of the training.

Johan Hammerstrom:  That’s a great point. Yeah.

David Deal:  So it really is a collaborative effort on a number of levels, right? It’s not just something to be delegated without thought.

Johan Hammerstrom:  Yeah. And I think that’s maybe one of the key words, a word for the day of this presentation is “collaborate.” Earlier when you were talking about training not just being a responsibility of IT or business systems departments, but being also a collaborative responsibility with a specific program area or another business unit.

The thing that came to mind from you is breaking down the silos. Oftentimes, we hear about the silos that exist within an organization and for training to be effective, it really requires a collective effort. Everybody has to feel involved and invested in it. And if you do that work in advance then maybe it helps to alleviate. I’ve certainly given trainings where the mood in the room is “I’m being forced to come to this training that IT is doing.”

For most people, for better, for worse, IT is the department you just want to be behind the scenes, getting the job done. So creating goodwill and a sense of collaboration ahead of time also makes the training event more successful from a buy-in perspective.

David Deal:  Great points.

Johan Hammerstrom:  You can do a show and tell training, that’s kind of the classic. You go to a classroom, you’re watching something. Nowadays I guess you’re watching a video. Are there times where show and tell is useful? What are some of the limitations of show and tell training?

David Deal:  In looking at our time, I’ll kind of skim through this quickly, but I think it’s really just helpful as an introduction to something that’s new, as a precursor to hands-on training.

Show and tell is great for covering a lot of material quickly, especially for a group of people who may be at very different levels in their understanding of something, but it’s really hard to retain unless you apply what you’re learning.

What’s the rule of thumb? People take away about five minutes of content from a one hour training? So yeah, we hope you get five minutes of good content from today’s webinar, but really you remember it if you use it. So, the hands-on training is really key for anything after that initial introduction.

Johan Hammerstrom:  I will say we’ve now started to release these webinars as podcasts. So if you want to listen to them while you’re developing the training program, that might be effective.

I think it’s important to note as you said, there are times in which show and tell is effective and can be used effectively, but it sounds like it needs to be used in concert with a hands on training approach.

David Deal:  Indeed, use it or lose it, basically.

I had PowerBI training six months ago, and I wish I had opportunities to be hands-on with it since then and I haven’t. So I wouldn’t be starting from where I was before; I’d be a little bit advanced to that, but I haven’t used it enough since then to really fully benefit from that training. So use it or lose it.

It’s easier today with more staff having laptops to just have a group show up in a room and then lead the training there. You don’t have to worry so much about the logistics; how do we do a hands -on training? And that allows you to really tailor it to groups at different levels. Not everyone needs the same training. And so you can really think about how to break teams down into groups that are going to move at a similar pace. The challenge with hands-on training is how to keep people moving at the same pace when they’re all trying to do this stuff that we’re showing them how to do.

Johan Hammerstrom:  Yes. And it’s more time consuming, more expensive, it requires more investment of time. It requires a work environment to do the hands-on work in. So there’s definitely more involved.

Training Resources

Well, let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about specific resources that organizations can use to put into place this training program.

If you’re

  • incorporating training thinking into your implementation process,
  • if you’ve put together your Stakeholder Impact Grid and your Change Management Impact Template,
  • you understand who’s being affected,
  • you’ve designed a effective training program and process
  • with an appropriate mix of vendor training and customized training
  • of show and tell training and hands on training.

You’ve got all of this in place. What are some of the tools that you can use to actually deliver this training that you’ve done such a great job designing?

David Deal:  So here’s just a few ideas.

Number one: videos are becoming more and more common. Especially short videos can be really helpful. We’ll use 30 seconds to one minute how-to snippets. The other time that we’re using video is just recording a Zoom or a Team’s training session that’s an hour that someone can’t attend. The advantages: it’s more descriptive, it’s richer content. The cons: it’s not as easily searchable, it’s not easily editable. So if something changes about what you recorded, you could edit a part of the video, but more likely you’re going to end up re-recording that video.

How-to documents certainly have their place; they’re easier to produce than videos. I would say they’re searchable, they’re editable. The cons: it’s not quite as easy to read something on a page and follow it in the same way you would if you were watching it on a video.

And then finally, there’s software that is available within the software that you’re using. Salesforce is one that I’m familiar with. There’s a software called WalkMe that can be used with Salesforce to provide just in time training, if you will, in digestible bits as you’re using the system.

We had one client, for example, who used it to support onboarding of a large number of light users, volunteers, chapter staff into using a Salesforce application. This was 10,000 users. And not all of those could be reached with training at a scheduled training session.

So WalkMe became an aid for those volunteer users, for chapter based staff, to really help them learn how to do things like volunteer onboarding into the system, scheduling, mentoring, guiding event managers on how to manage group events.

And then there was a set of knowledge based articles, in this case, it was in Zendesk, and these KB articles, and WalkMe really referred to each other to make that a rich training content for people who would learn in different ways. So that was really helpful.

Another thing that I found helpful is Screencast-O-Matic and there are plenty of tools out here. I’m not saying this one is any better than the others, but it’s one that I appreciate because I record short videos, it hosts them for me, and then I can take the links from that and embed those links in other places to get to those videos. So that’s some of the stuff that I’ve found useful. Johan, any thoughts or things to add to that?

Johan Hammerstrom:  No, I think those sound like great resources. I think the lifespan of a training resource is something you definitely want to think about as you’re putting it together. We have a pretty massive online documentation repository that we use for managing our clients’ IT systems, and it’s all text based. They’re basically just extensive how-to documents, and that works a lot better for us than a video would because it’s changing. All of these networks are sort of living entities or at least dynamic and you need to be able to change those how-to’s on a pretty regular basis. So thinking about the long term, the lifespan of the resource of the content is really important.

David Deal:  And I think you’re about to share about one of the best resources of all.

Johan Hammerstrom:  Yes, your peers.

David Deal:  Yes.

Johan Hammerstrom:  Peers are an incredible resource and we really try to encourage it. We’re obviously happy to answer questions around IT, but it’s far more effective to have someone in the organization who knows how to use various IT solutions as a first line of defense.

For a couple reasons: one they’re going to be a lot more available than an external party is. Two: they understand the culture of the organization. So in general staff are going to feel more comfortable coming to somebody they know to get answers to questions. And three: they’re familiar with the work that the organization is doing. So they just have a better context for the tasks, the activities that someone is trying to do. Having subject matter experts, someone who’s seen as an expert on a particular system or in a particular area is really vital.

I think we’ve seen over and over again that organizations who have a subject matter expert for their technology solution, universally, the whole organization uses that solution more effectively. If it’s a database, they’re not necessarily the person who’s responsible for keeping it clean or paying the bills or working out licensing, but there’s someone who really understands how to use the system effectively. And they’re acknowledged and seen as an expert in the use of the system. So those are really effective.

Also, having a formal mentor program can be helpful, especially for newer staff who are coming into the organization. A lot of this discussion that we’ve had about training applies to new systems that are being rolled out to existing staff, but you also want to think about taking all of these resources and this approach and think about how you’re going to make it available to new staff.

You’re not just training the five staff that you have right now. You’re developing a training system for that new staff person who’s going to join the organization a year from now. Just formally saying, “This is your mentor,” even for a short period of time, can be very effective.

Organizing Resources

David Deal:  Yeah, if you’re an organization that really doesn’t have a training program, and you’re just starting to gather things, the first level of maturity around a training program might just be getting together a list of links to videos, to helpful resources and descriptions of those and putting them in one place. 

It’s easier for staff to find, and we’ve used things like an intranet or a Wiki before for things like this. Especially if a lot of the content is written content, then a Wiki can be really useful because it’s easily searchable. Or if you just have a list of links and descriptions of what videos those links are pointing to, that can be really helpful as well. Sometimes these lists can be managed in the software in Salesforce, for example. Just having a page of links built into Salesforce that links to some of the videos has been a low-cost way to go about something like that.

And the advantages to this, it’s easy to create. It’s easy to update. It’s easy to access.

You can get more sophisticated as you go to greater levels of maturity around your program. There are LMSs, here we call them pre-built. And what we mean by that is LMSs where the content is provided, like LinkedIn Learning. You’re just picking and choosing different classes, courses per group, per person.

And then there’s a customized LMS where really, you’re getting a learning management system platform and it enables you to produce your own content to embed into that platform. And some common tools for this: Cornerstone has been one of the market leaders. I’m working with a client right now that’s using myTrailhead, not to be confused with Trailhead, which is what Salesforce provides as a training resource for Trailhead. But myTrailhead is a platform that organizations can use for their custom training content.

Software like Moodle, which is open source. And then also I would point out, if you have an HR information system, a lot of HRIS systems come with an LMS, and I would encourage you to look at that. You may already have an LMS in-house that you didn’t know about. 

The advantages to an LMS, Learning Management System, you can give assignments, you can track completion of those assignments. Oftentimes, they’ll have content creation tools. The downside is at that point, you’re looking at a greater investment in the cost of these tools. So really whether it’s right for you depends on the maturity of your training program and your commitment to it. Are you going to follow through on helping to make sure that the right people are taking the right training?

Johan Hammerstrom:  One other method of organizing resources, which I hadn’t thought of, one of the attendees just chatted in. It’s a great suggestion for peer-based training in larger organizations: maintaining employee profiles that showcase employee proficiencies and expertise. That can also be really helpful, having those employee profiles can give new employees an idea of where to look for peer based training.

David Deal:  And I’ll just add that HRIS software can be helpful with that in terms of providing a structure to plug some of that proficiencies and expertise into and provide a ready made system to do that. It certainly doesn’t require a system like that, but can benefit from it.

Johan Hammerstrom:  Yeah, great. We had a slide for Q&A, but you have to keep in mind, this is our first webinar after over 20 years of working together. So it’s amazing we actually finished it within the hour.

David Deal:  I don’t know how we held it all in this long, Johan. Yeah. Great to be able to share.

Johan Hammerstrom:  Yeah, this was great. Thank you so much, David, for joining us today. I did want to mention that anyone who’s interested can continue the conversation with Build Consulting. You can go to their website and I’ll just chat this out. You can Tweet at them is that the proper term?

David Deal:  It sounds right to me.

Johan Hammerstrom:  Tweet them and you can reach out to them with this contact info. Also, find them on LinkedIn.

Just wanted to highlight next month, October cybersecurity month, we have a lot of fun things planned. We have a quiz, a self-assessment quiz that you can take to check your cyber awareness. So keep an eye out. We’re going to be posting that on our website.

We’re also going to have a cybersecurity focused webinar for our webinar in October. Our webinars are free, open to the nonprofit community. It’s going to be Wednesday, October 20th at 03:00. It’s a little bit of a surprise. It’s going to be related to cybersecurity month. So we encourage you to register and join us next month.

And with that, thank you all for joining us today. Thank you for your attention and your time. And thank you again, David, for sharing your expertise with us.

David Deal:  Thanks for having me; great to be on with you, Johan.


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