Multi-Purpose End-User Training Techniques – From Dog Obedience to Coping with Teens!

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Companies of all sizes spend a significant amount of their IT budgets on software like Microsoft Dynamics CRM. New systems can enhance security, run more sophisticated applications, automate tasks and enhance productivity. However, you won’t see the bottom line benefits of these upgrades unless the end-users of the software can successfully make the transition.

There are many training methods and materials available to help you prepare and equip employees. With so many choices out there, it can be daunting to determine which methods to use and when to use them. Never take lightly the need for training (whether it is professional development, dog obedience training or how to get along with teens.) Many organizations assume that they can teach their staff in a single session or using a general approach. This can be risky— don’t expect everyone to become a tech-savvy user overnight or to respond to a single training method.

Good news is, if you have a dog or live with a teenager, you already have a slew of training methods under your belt! Let’s take a look at some tips and techniques that may be useful in making your software training effort a success (and may help you train your dog or cope with emotional teens):

Positive Reinforcement (Rewards or Fulfillment)

Positively reinforce your users when they reach the end goals correctly. This can easily be done by showing them how their data is displayed in a chart or report that they will find useful. Or, you can hand out candy. Let me give you an example. Have everything you train on lead up to a really great report or dashboard that will incorporate all the information the users entered throughout the training. It will show them how useful that data is and reinforce good and complete data entry. If that fails, you can always fall back on handing out candy.

For the dog owners, rewarding your dog when it completes the behavior as asked is the best way to reinforce the good behavior. Positive reinforcement for your dog can come in many ways, the most common include food treats, affection or clicks when clicker training. And, if your teenager ever does something the way you want them to, rejoice! You are the only parent with a teenager that pays attention and you should probably write a book about it and save the rest of us from guessing.

Corrective Action

Stopping a user before they go too far in a situation will assist you in correcting their behavior before they get too deep into the system and can’t find their way out. For example, when a user is going through the wrong steps and can’t find the right area, stopping them early will keep them from landing in an area that they should land in. If they do end up in the wrong area, those screens could stand out as the familiar ones instead of the correct screens.

Dog owners know this one all too well. Stopping a dog while in the midst of performing bad behavior will ensure the dog knows it’s doing something wrong and allow you to correct the behavior before it becomes a habit. Stopping a teenager before they get hooked on drugs or bad habits sets them in the right direction before it’s too late. The teenage years, although often rocky, are precious and we don’t get any do-overs.


Repeating a procedure within your system allows the user to memorize the “buttons clicked” and ensure they do the same thing each time with the same results. For example, when doing basic training, if your users create multiple records of each type then the process of creating, updating and deactivating will become second nature making them all much more confident users.

Dog training tip:  repeating skills that your dog is learning, even after they do it consistently, will ensure they don’t fall back into bad habits. Teen tip:  yelling the same thing over and over at your teenager ensures that when they become a parent, they too will yell the same thing over and over at their teenager.

Stay Calm

Stay calm and focused on the task at hand, getting upset at your user for doing the wrong thing or getting overly excited can stimulate them in the wrong way and cause a “knee-jerk” reaction. If you get stressed that your users aren’t doing what you want them to do, they will sense that stress and react to it – more bees with honey means that you need to keep going back to positive reinforcement and repetition. Keep calm so they don’t feel you are angry at them.

With your puppy, stay calm and focused at all times while training. Any excitement will be picked up by your dog and make it more difficult to focus. Staying calm and focused on the conversation / task with your teenager will enrage them. Be the bigger person and don’t let them get you riled up, it will make them even angrier. In all seriousness, staying calm means you’re leading by example.  A calm, level-headed approach to difficult situations works.

Use Real-Life Examples

Using real life examples for your users will help them apply the system better in their day to day. When training, use customers or vendors that the users are familiar with. Use sales opportunities or invoicing that they have previously completed. This familiarity will help them apply what they learn to their job.

Conversely, when training your dog to work well in specific situations, it’s best to create a mini-situation instead of using a theoretical one. This allows you to focus on the dog skills you want to teach in a realistic environment. When trying to make your teenager understand, remember that whatever happened to you could never happen to them and if it did, it would be a completely different situation because you are “so old” and everything is different now.

In conclusion, end-user training is one of the most important aspects of successfully rolling out a new technology in an organization, yet it is also often one of the most poorly executed tasks. Remember to select the best delivery, try different training methods and techniques – everyone retains differently, and don’t forget to have some fun with it! Your trainees will remember more if they enjoyed themselves in the process. Lastly, please note that I am not a certified dog trainer or psychologist. Please complete your own research or seek out a professional when trying to manage your dog or your teen.

Tara Sinclair,

Functional Consultant | BDO Solutions




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