Office 365 is by far the most comprehensive collaboration and productivity platform in the market. It provides a dazzling array of products, from simple applications such as “To Do” through to ever-growing offerings like “Teams”. Needless to say, employees won’t magically understand how to use these offerings, let alone use them productively or to their greatest capabilities.
Training is therefore an important element of any Office 365 rollout, and there are many ways this can be done:
- face-to-face training for individuals or groups
- “barn-raising” activities where a group gathers together to produce an outcome, learning along the way
- train-the-trainer approaches that empower “ninjas” or “wizards” (etc) to support their business units
- training videos, produced locally or by third parties (including Microsoft)
- training documentation, ideally hosted on the intranet
- online support communities, operating in Yammer or Teams
- ongoing “support line”, providing as-needed answers to questions
Some mix of these techniques will be required for most organisations, depending on the initial digital literacy of the workforce.
Across all of these approaches, however, the tendency is to dive straight into how-to training on the specific features of each product. For example, how to “@mention” other people when in Teams, or how to create a task in To Do so that it appears in the relevant Planner board. With a platform as powerful — and complex — as Office 365, a lot of this practical help will be needed.
The danger, however, is that this training skips an important step of helping employees understand the fundamental concepts that underpin new collaborative ways of working. With many of the tools providing fresh ways of working (which is their strength), employees may end up lost and baffled without a thorough grounding in the basics.
Explain the key concepts
In our work with clients, Step Two is helping teams plan change and adoption in terms of Office 365 waves. These can be either “people waves” that target the needs and practices of a selected group of employees, or “technology waves” that look more directly at the rollout of new tools.
In either case, we’ve found it both necessary and valuable to document the key concepts that employees need to know when using Office 365 tools. For example, this is a sample of the key concepts for “working in a team” (using Microsoft Teams):
Here, one of the key concepts is keeping in touch all the time, rather than just migrating all the previous meetings online. This is a big change for many teams, particularly those outside of IT and other more digitally aligned groups. Without a shared understanding of this key concept, usage levels will also vary greatly between individuals, which undermines the wholesale shift to new working practices.
For Yammer, we’ve found it useful to explain that “posts to Yammer are like your updates to Facebook: regular and bite-sized“. Without spelling this out, we’ve found some internal communicators have simply shifted from sending out their PDF newsletters weekly via email, to posting the same PDFs to Yammer, weekly. Like the example above, the paradigm shift relates to the key concepts of how collaboration and communication will happen.
When crafting these key concepts, take a step back and look at the tools with fresh eyes. It can also be very useful to engage a professional writer (sometimes known as a “techwriter”) to help craft the key concepts, as their stock-in-trade is communicating information in the simplest possible way.
Once documented, the key concepts can be shared via “adoption sites” that live on the intranet, which bring together everything employees need to know about each wave.
Start slowly to move quickly
Most organisations have been forced to dive straight into Office 365 because of the pandemic. Even before this, there has been an expectation that uptake of the platform should be rapid and wholesale.
Working closely with employees across many different organisations, it’s become apparent that the basic concepts must be understood first, before more sophisticated usage will happen. Identify the key concepts that people need to know and then communicate them clearly and simply. By starting with the fundamentals, organisations will then be well-positioned to move to new collaborative practices at speed, and at scale.