person sitting alone in a lecture hall
PHOTO: Philippe Bout

Increasing SharePoint usage remains a big challenge for most companies. One explanation for why adoption is low is the lack of effective and sustainable training programs. Effective use of SharePoint can help you attain your business objectives, but to get there, you need a training strategy that actually works in the long-term.

In addition to deploying change managers, running incentive programs, simplifying workflows and optimizing governance policies, you need a simpler way to show employees how to get work done using the platform.

My firm, VisualSP, has gone through many years of trial and error in helping companies improve SharePoint adoption and a winner training strategy — which is surprisingly practical — has emerged. 

Limitations of Traditional Training Approaches

Companies often settle for traditional approaches to SharePoint user training: They bring employees to a classroom, go through a number of tutorials, share links to additional online tutorials and call it a "job done." After running these events two or three times, they expect employees to start and to continue to use the platform. This approach doesn't yield sufficient levels of usage for three main reasons:

  • People forget most of what they learn within 24 hours after training. They find the learning curve too disruptive to their work.
  • The pursuit of better learning results through repetition of training events tends to bring the cost to unaffordable proportions, making the initiative impractical in the long-term.
  • Given the limited number of classes, it is almost impossible to cover all of the specific common tasks and workflows applicable for every team and every employee within an organization.

A much more effective way of training SharePoint users involves coordinating three distinct training programs.

A 3-Pronged Approach to SharePoint Training

The training programs serve three distinct functions: inspirational, continual and contextual.

But before you launch the programs, make sure to deploy and customize a training site, a portal to host all of the training content. In the long run, you may need to build your own site — this article outlines the key reasons.

In the meantime, to get started, deploy a Microsoft 365 Learning Pathways site. The out-of-the-box training site already hosts articles and videos that cover almost every SharePoint functionality. As a starting point, it is free, quick and easy.

With the knowledge center in place, learners know where to go when help is needed and super-users have a place where they can build mastery. Now, on to the training.

Inspirational Training Program

Using in-person classes or online webinars, run training sessions that do what they do best: showing employees how other people are using SharePoint to get things done. The goal is to inspire everyone to action.

Avoid wasting too much time with the step-by-step how-to tutorials — users will view them in their own time. Instead, focus on explaining the key concepts of the platform, demonstrating the applicable functionalities, going through case studies, and sharing success stories. Outline all the things employees can do to complete their daily tasks using SharePoint. The goal is to show your colleagues that if other people are doing it, so can they.

With the big picture in mind, technology-inclined employees will take the initiative to consume training content and jumpstart the adoption process on their own. The rest of your colleagues will be happy to know all the range of problems they can solve using SharePoint.

This might require more than one session. People will definitely have questions following a training session, so make sure you follow every live training session with a live Q&A session. The event gives everyone a chance to learn from their peers.

Related Article: Don't Overlook the Importance of Effective SharePoint User Training 

Continual Training Program

Having training content hosted on a site isn't enough. Employees seldom interrupt their daily work just to view a tutorial. Yet no digital workplace today can compete without ongoing education on essential digital tools. Continual training gives companies enough agility to stay ahead of the digital innovation curve.

Running live classes continually is neither practical nor necessary — you need to automate the training process. The most effective tool for this task remains ... email.

Bring the training content to everyone’s inbox, one tutorial at a time, daily. Broadcast links to tutorials hosted on the training site and instruct everyone to view them the same day they receive them.

Viewing most tutorials takes less than three minutes, time employees are happy to spend every morning before jumping into their daily work. After 120 days of running the campaign, everyone would have viewed 120 videos and articles, enough to improve fundamental knowledge about SharePoint.

What makes micro-training more effective is that people prefer to scan through a short 3-minutes-read article than to dive into a 20-pages document.

With a continual training program like broadcasting daily tips, information consumption rate and information retention rate are higher enough to allow users to understand what they can do with SharePoint.

Related Article: How SharePoint Task Lists Can Help Break the Sticky Note Habit

Contextual Training Program

Learning-by-doing is the best way of mastering a tool. If broadcasting daily tips improves knowledge, delivering guidance exactly at the moment of need improves mastery.

Imagine being able to use SharePoint without the need to know how! That is what contextual training programs do. A contextual help system allows you to embed a warning, a tutorial or a walk-through into the related feature. Users don't have to leave a workspace and navigate to where tutorials are hosted; they view guidance within the current window and continue with the task at hand.

An applicable governance warning, a tip-sheet, a video or a walk-through pops up at the time of completing a task. If not, it takes only one click to view the applicable guiding content.

Deploying a contextual training program is a way of automating user training and support; a way of removing barriers to using a digital tool. Make it part of your overall training strategy.

Related Article: Digital Proficiency: Literacy, Fluency and Mastery

Take the Training Approach That Works

Combining inspirational, continual and contextual training programs has proven to improve SharePoint adoption successfully and sustainably.

Run live classes to show your colleagues how others use SharePoint, send out daily tips by email to ensure everyone learns about every functionality, and embed a one-click or popup walkthrough into every feature so everyone can use the tool without needing to know or remember how.

If implemented meticulously, with time, usage will increase, helping your company move gradually closer to its intended business objectives.