How to improve the onboarding process for your new software

How to improve the onboarding process for your new software

September 10, 2016

When all's said and done, an effective onboarding process to get your whole team sufficiently acquainted, up to scratch, and happy with your new business software can often be the make or break of its success.

As a business owner and employer, you will have made the important decision to commission a new piece of software in order to improve your processes (see our previous post “5 ways bespoke software improves business operations”). It will have been a process that required months of planning, lots of discussions with your developer, and may very well have consumed a considerable amount of your energy, passions and time.

Now that it's finished, shipped, and operational, you will of course be excited about all the new possibilities that the program releases for your business. However, simply assuming that your team will be as immediately enthusiastic about the new software as you may very well result in disappointment. Instead, you need to take some more substantial steps to effectively and patiently guide them through the onboarding process.

Before your new software arrived, although your business processes were perhaps not optimised, your reliable team were nonetheless familiar and comfortable with their job roles. Now, however, you're asking them to do things differently. Our experience has taught us the best practices to familiarise your employees with a new software program, and how to get them onboard and up-to-speed quickly and efficiently. So let's take a look at what those best practices are.

Involve your team early in the software's conception and design

It may be too late for this if your software is already shipped and operational, but, assuming that it's not, the best time to start the onboarding process is before the final design is signed off and in the hands of the developers. Employee feedback will probably have contributed to your decision to commission the software's build in the first place. Legacy systems and off-the-shelf products can be hugely restrictive, and in fact it is not unusual that the workforce identifies productivity barriers before management does.

At the end of the day, it's your employees who know best what they need to do their jobs well – so include them in discussions about designing the solution. The benefits of this are three-fold. First, it will show your workforce that you are listening to them and are committed to solving their pain-points. Second, involvement in such an important company innovation will make your employees feel valued and respected for their opinions. And third, it's very likely that ideas will be brought to the table that you simply may not have ever thought of yourself. Two heads are better than one, as they say – and so three heads are better than two.

When you've got your whole team involved with your project, by the time the software arrives, your workforce will be as excited as you are – and that enthusiasm will grease the onboarding wheels most favourably.

Training and tutorials

01 Focus on value Successful onboarding doesn't just happen. You need to guide your team through the process, and that means setting aside time for training and tutorials. However, best practice here dictates that you should focus on the value of the new product – i.e. communicate how much your team's working lives will be improved with the new software – before you get into the nitty-gritty of how it all works.
The more specific you can be the better. If, for instance, your new software will give back hours and hours of time to your customer service department each week, then hammer this point home and make the department feel and appreciate this value first, and then move on to explaining exactly how this will be enabled.
02 The walkthrough With the value communicated, now it's time to start unlocking it. Even if your software has been painstakingly designed with user experience (UX) in mind, you still shouldn't rely on the product alone to explain itself.
There is always a learning curve, even with the most intuitive of programs. Comprehensive walkthroughs, therefore, are a must. Take the time to organise small-group sessions so that individual questions can be answered. The whole purpose of your tutorials will be to ensure that everyone knows that when they click on this, that happens, and when they click on that, this happens. Since everything is new, you need to be prepared for the fact that not everyone will get to grips with all features and functionality immediately – even as the employer you will of course have to embark on training yourself. So, don't rush the process – they're called walkthroughs, not rush-throughs.
03 Encourage free use The most important and valuable stage of learning how to drive a car efficiently and safely comes after you've finished your formal lessons, passed your test, and are finally allowed out onto the roads alone. And the same is true when it comes to putting a new software program into practice.
Your walkthroughs and tutorials will explain how to use the essential functions of the software, but it will only be when they start using it in their everyday job roles that they will truly learn how to get the most out of it. Your team, of course, is intelligent and capable, and the best learning is often that which is independent. So, allow for this. Encourage it, and then move onto the next step.
04 Solicit feedback at follow-up meetings Once your team has had a good day or two getting to grips with the new software, you need to organise follow-up meetings to address any issues that may have arisen. Further tutorials may need to be organised to iron out any lumps of confusion – and at the first meeting you will be able to discern exactly what still needs to be covered to complete the onboarding process.
Again, it's important that you listen to your team and actively aim to solve their pain-points. One or two bugs may have been discovered in the software, and it's important that these are identified as early as possible. With this information, you will be able to go back to the developer, who will then be able to fix any problems – this will be part of the ongoing support service that the developer offers.
05 Celebrate success with the team Onboarding is all about generating comfort with and enthusiasm for the new software. The project will have been commissioned to enable greater successes in the company, so when these start to manifest, it's important that you celebrate them with your team. After all, the software won't create the successes on its own – it needs its users to enable them. Celebrate your team's effort in getting onboard with the new program, and share the improved results with them. Do this, and you will have an encouraged and enthusiastic workforce, ready to work with you in launching your company to the next level.