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For HR software implementation, ponder training document options

With an HR software rollout in mind, review the pros and cons of an organization using its own training documentation, a vendor's material or a combination of both approaches.

As your HR software implementation begins to stabilize ahead of go-live, the important topic of training documentation offers many options. Many HR applications come with a multitude of prebuilt options. These typically include a basic help system but may extend to online videos, interactive options that include Show Me and Try type functionality, to templates for all documentation, presentations and communications.

There are three main options to consider when determining what you will provide employees in terms of software training documentation, with each option having its own advantages and disadvantages:

  • Use only the HR software vendor's material.
  • Develop your own material.
  • Use a combination of both when applicable.

Let's look at these three choices in more detail.

Use only the HR software vendor's material

There are key advantages to selecting vendor documents when looking for options to educate your employees.

To start, the training material's authors are likely professionals in the field of adult education, which should make the material easier to understand and follow for your end users. In addition, the vendor material often includes many screenshots and a nice user interface, making it appealing for people to use.

As part of an HR software implementation project, a vendor may offer prebuilt training videos that cover many of the applications features in detail, which could include features that you would like employees to use and additional topics that may be optional, but useful for employees to know about. Further, some HR software vendors offer interactive training material, which shows end users how to use a feature and then allows employees to try it on their own using guided steps. Also, the software training documentation may come with a multitude of templates to use for emails, posters, customized documentation and presentation slides.

The disadvantages of the HR vendor-supplied software training documentation focus on the following few areas:

  • The training material provided by the vendor likely includes features that are not implemented in your specific organization.
  • The examples are not tailored to your company's HR software implementation. For example, the picklist items use generic choices set up by the vendor rather than explain the specific items your organization uses.
  • Third-party software might be required to run the videos or interactive learning tools; such software could be restricted by your IT department.

Develop your own training material

Developing your own software training documentation has its own set of pros and cons. On the plus side, your instructions only explain the features that your organization implemented, which ensures your end users focus their personal training in the right areas.

Also, screenshots and examples use real picklist items and wording specific to your organization. For example, if your organization doesn't have offices in multiple countries, your training material can eliminate all information related to different currencies, states and provinces and potentially translation between languages.

Using a combination of vendor-supplied and custom materials is ideal for many companies.

You can tailor your training to the specific needs of your end users. For example, if a group of employees only needs to use a subset of the application, you can provide instructions just for them, and another set of instructions for employees who use multiple features. Additionally, training material can be branded with your own company logo and follow your branding guidelines.

However, there are challenges and expenses that come with developing all of your own training material:

  • Cost of developing the same level of software training documentation as vendors becomes an expensive endeavor. In some companies, you may be able to enlist your own learning team, however, you may also have to rely on temporary workers, external consultants or the vendor's professional services team to develop all the material in time.
  • With many cloud-based HR products having three-to-four-month implementation cycles, there is little time to develop software training documentation in-house once the configuration is solidified.
  • Over time, a vendor may introduce new or changed features that will affect your training material. If the development of the material was outsourced, you may incur similar expenses to have it updated.

Use a combination of vendor and custom training material

A third approach is to find a balance between developing all your own material and using the vendor's training documentation.

The main advantage to using both is that you can limit the amount of time and cost associated with developing training material by focusing on key areas to customize on your own and then blend in the vendor's material for general topics.

As with the other options, there are also disadvantages to this approach, including the following:

  • Your employees may be confused that the material doesn't have a consistent look and feel to it.
  • Even with customized material for key processes, employees will likely be able to go online and find the generic documentation and training material, which could create a training dilemma.

Despite some of the drawbacks, using a combination of vendor-supplied and custom materials is ideal for many companies as an HR software implementation prepares to go live. The cost of developing all of the material in a short timeframe is likely prohibitive for many companies, and by not documenting key internal processes, you risk having employees make mistakes using the generic material provided by the vendor.

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