Training Like a Teacher

06/13/2018 by Samantha Safin
Most of the same skills and practices used by classroom teachers are just as effective in a corporate training environment.

One of the most important parts of driving user adoption of Salesforce (or any software solution, for that matter) is ensuring that those users are well trained. An insecure user is an infrequent user. While that is a well-known fact, it doesn’t help explain how users should be exposed to new systems or new processes within those systems. Many Salesforce users are trained as part of their onboarding; they may never get another chance to learn and ask questions after that. It often falls to the Salesforce administrator to create some plan for training users because, as the expert, he or she is the one best suited to know exactly what should be done in the system and when. How can admins make the most of limited time and resources and still ensure that users are comfortable enough to use the system?

Backwards Planning

A lot of time teaching is spent planning to teach. Lesson plans aren’t just there to fill space, and a well-written lesson plan can make the difference between remembering that 2 + 2 = 4 and understanding the concept enough that, when faced with a more difficult problem, a student is able to solve it. A well-written lesson plan is written backwards.

Start with what the user should be able to do, then complete this sentence:

Users will be able to ___________________________.

Enter a Lead with complete information? Update an Opportunity to close? Whatever it is, each task should have its own distinct sentence.

Work backward from there. If the end product is a Lead record with key fields entered, categorize by what a user must know and what a user must do. Let’s use the Lead example.

End Result: Users will be able to enter a Lead with key fields completed.

Users must know:

  • What a Lead is
  • What a tab is
  • What a field is
  • What and where global search is
  • Names of the key fields
  • What types of data should be entered into key fields
  • Why the key fields are important to the process

Users must do:

  • Search for a Lead
  • Find the Leads tab
  • Create a new Lead by using the New button
  • Enter fields
  • Save a record

No matter how small the “do” or “know” might seem, it should be considered. Each “know” and “do” must be included in the lesson plan. How else will users know what to do?

Gradual Release of Control

With a finite and distinct list of things users must know and do, the next step is planning how to share the knowledge and train the users to do. There are different ways that people learn, and the best way to touch on all of those is through a gradual release of control, commonly referred to as “I do, we do, you do.”

The concept is simple. Show a task, have the group perform the task together, and finally have the individual attempt the task themselves. Visual and auditory learners can see and hear how the task is completed, and tactile learners have the chance to get hands-on, with both the group activity and the individual practice.

In an ideal lesson plan, only 10% of the time teaching is “I do.” As the expert, a Salesforce administrator can very likely complete a task much more quickly than the trainee, so it’s a reasonable time frame. Showing the creation of a Lead record may take 2 minutes, then the group walks through the process together, which may take longer, as people work through mistakes and help one another. Finally, each person has a chance to try on their own, while the instructor is there to support.

In a training environment, each distinct task that a user will need to complete should have a series of these patterns - a demonstration, group practice, and individual hands-on time. They do not have to be distinct sections, with each task going through the flow, but there should always be a hands-on portion to training.

Classroom Management

It is amazing to see the ways in which a corporate training room can mirror an 8th-grade math class. Salespeople will still have side conversations while a trainer is speaking. A manager will still try to look at his or her phone when they should be paying attention. While it may feel awkward at first, it’s important to start every training session by setting clear expectations. Below are some tips.

Often times people are not trying to be disrespectful or distracted. If the trainer is clear about the requirements at the beginning of the session, then the group will often self-monitor. A great way to ensure this is to work with the group to establish those standards - how do they define showing respect and staying on task? Agree to those definitions before starting.

One of the best ways to keep attention focused is to speak quietly, and if others are speaking when they should be attentive, stop talking entirely. The quiet will be a signal, and they will refocus. Silence often makes people uncomfortable, so count to ten in these situations to keep from trying to fill it.

Ask questions. Keeping people engaged means less time for them to become distracted. Training should be hands-on (as noted above), and it should be interactive throughout, even during the “I do” portion of a training. Frequently stop explaining to ask questions and keep people on their toes. Another tip for keeping people focused during the times that the instructor must talk or demo is to provide a guided notes sheet - attendees can preview the material they will be expected to learn, and tactile learners can take notes or doodle, as they participate. As a bonus, at the end of the training, they have notes in their own words that they can keep for future reference.

Reward good behavior. People are never too old to enjoy getting candy or other treats for a job well done. It sounds ridiculous, but it really works, and adding a layer of competition, especially with sales teams, can really increase participation.

Know Your Culture

Ultimately there are guidelines within every organization that will help dictate the level to which an administrator can use these tools. Time is often limited; an administrator may not have a chance for direct training with users; candy may not be the right motivator. As any teacher will say, work with what’s available and adjust where necessary. Even the best lesson plans sometimes fall flat. What matters is that users are trained, confident, and the organization can benefit from that.

What experiences have you had training users? Tell us about it on Twitter, the Salesforce Communityor chat with me @thesafinhold.