person taking an online training course, writing notes in a notebook
PHOTO: Julia M Cameron

Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, OneDrive for Business, Trello and other cloud collaboration apps have seen a surge in popularity as companies turn to new digital tools to help maintain productivity in employees working from home. But there is a challenge. If people do not use a newly deployed application to the intended extent, employees will not attain the desired productivity level.

To make sure your staff starts using a digital tool as quickly as possible and as much as possible, you need a quick onboarding program. It only takes a week of daily one-hour webinars. It's like launching or relaunching an application in your organization plus running an early digital adoption program, but on a shorter timeline for users who are all working remotely.

Keep in mind the steps below are not enough by themselves to drive the change management needed to grow sustainable digital adoption, but they will drive everyone to get started and embark on a journey to increase software usage. For a comprehensive approach, learn "The 5 Essential Programs for Successful Digital Adoption."

Successful Employee Onboarding Needs a Strategic Push

Broadcasting an email to invite everyone to use an app is unlikely to bring enough people onboard in time. A little push is needed. Especially when doing it with several people at once and within a short amount of time.

Surprisingly, despite a sudden necessity to work from home, which would definitely require some readjustment, people still tend to resist change. Many would view the call to use a new tool as just another task added to their daily to-do list.

Also, there is always the worry of bumping into new and unfamiliar friction points that may lead to the commonly experienced temporary drop in productivity.

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Present Demos, Tutorials, To-Do Lists and Q&As

To get people to start using a newly deployed app, run a quick onboarding program — a campaign of five interactive kickstart webinars. Make sure to involve your company's leadership in every webinar.

Segment every webinar into four sections: demos, tutorials, to-do lists and Q&A. If you don't have in-house personnel for a section, Q&A, for example, bring in an expert to answer any questions participants may ask. To avoid information overload, keep the duration of each webinar under 90 minutes.

Before you start creating content for the webinars, make sure to have the following ready:

  • Select the features your workforce needs the most so you can prioritize training content. Group the features into five batches. Each webinar should cover one batch. For example, if you are onboarding users to Microsoft Teams, you would prioritize the following features across the five webinars: 1st webinar — creating a team, adding a channel and using instant chat; 2nd webinar — making calls and running video meetings; 3rd webinar — sharing files; 4th webinar — coauthoring documents; 5th webinar — integrating external apps.
  • Search the web and find training tutorials that explain how to use those features and how to complete applicable tasks.
  • Write down a list of first tasks users should perform using those features.
  • Search for commonly asked questions around those features and prepare answers in advance. During the webinars, users may ask additional questions but anticipating and preparing answers for most of the questions saves you time.

In each of the five batches, you should have a list of features with their tutorials, tasks and questions-answers. Now, organize a webinar for each batch and run five webinars, one per day, all within a week. The accelerated pace helps to boost engagement and maintain momentum. 

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Demos Section

In this section, show users how the features of the app solve their problems. Use screen-capture videos as much as possible. It is much more engaging when people see things being done live on screen. Here, the goal is to impress, persuade, inspire and motivate.

Next, run through the list of personal and business benefits. Have top executives participate in the webinars to explain what is expected from every employee in order to reach intended goals with the app. Executive sponsorship goes a long way when trying to get buy-in from the user community.

Finally, highlight your governance policies and recommended best practices.

Tutorials Section

In this section, share the list of tutorials that cover the features demonstrated in the webinar. Ask everyone to consume those tutorials the same day after class.

Most popular apps have training sites that host tutorials. Just share the links and have people view them later. Advise people to refrain from trying to view all the tutorials at once— information overload tends to discourage action. To deliver custom training content directly into the app interface, in-context, so users don't have to search for help at the moment of need, consider using a digital adoption platform.

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To-Do List Section

In this section of the webinar, give the learners homework. Give them a list of tasks to complete the same day after the webinar. It is important for them to take action immediately after the class. This should nudge them to use the app for the first time and start getting familiar with the most important features.

With most collaboration apps, these tasks may include creating a profile, connecting with team members, and joining a conversation.

Q&A Section

Go through the list of the frequently asked questions you've gathered and answer every question on the list. When done, invite everyone to ask any questions they have.

It is much more productive to answer questions when you have the attention of the entire workforce than replying to emails one person at a time.

Adding a questions-and-answers section to every webinar offers multiple benefits: users get to clear confusion, they learn from answers given to other questions, and your support team gets fewer help desk tickets. At the end of the section, instruct everyone to write down any additional questions they have and bring the list to the next webinar.

Kickstart Usage With a Quick Onboarding Program

When you don't have time to rollout comprehensive digital adoption campaigns but you want your remote workforce to start using a newly deployed tool, run a quick onboarding program.

With just one kickstart webinar a day for five days, you should be able to help people get familiar with the new enterprise software application. The resulting comfort level after a week is enough to allow everyone to start completing essential tasks and continue learning additional features. To maximize user onboarding results, run the same five-webinars campaign two weeks later.

As productivity improves, you can start planning for a full digital adoption program.