The last few weeks of my time was spent on the East coast of Canada eating as much lobster as I could get my hands on and also occasionally working. Most of the guys (and I mean guys) I worked with are real hands-on type of guys. Their time is spent with large, grease-covered wrenches in their hands, swearing and fixing loud machines on giant, swaying boats. I helped these gents implement our CMMS software into their operations. A large portion of configuring their preventive maintenance software was run-of-the-mill inputting of assets, parts and scheduled maintenance in a logical ‘CMMS best practices’ manner. The other portion, however, was far more challenging: training the guys to use the system.
The average age of a maintenance professional is 51 years old. This leads to a slightly different array of challenges than traditional software training would. Not only is the level of computer literacy, let’s say, tilted slightly towards inexperienced, but it’s also more widely varied throughout the group – some will pick it up quickly, and some will need help logging in to their email. The challenge then becomes pacing the class to keep everyone engaged and on track. Following these lessons to mitigate this problem has been invaluable to me in the past.
Lesson 1: Obtain buy-in before diving into the training.
Demonstrate something that will benefit them personally to truly gain interest. Let’s face it, maintenance software isn’t extremely exciting, but saving time on the job, or making your job easier, can be. Be sure your anecdote or exercise is relevant to your audience and can clearly demonstrate something your class can really relate to.
In their training sessions, IBM segregates their classes into small groups and hands each group a lego set. Each set has various missing parts, instructions or both, and others with all parts and instructions intact. This amusing exercise demonstrates the importance of being prepared in maintenance and really really grabs the classes attention, poising them for further engagement in the rest of the training.
Lesson 2: Use relevant examples.
Minimize the number of items they need to process by using familiar examples for Work Orders and Assets. Your class is a resource to you. They have more expertise on their industry than you do, so ask them for examples. I find making this into a competitive game can help pry otherwise hidden wisdom from a group that might still rather they were in the local pub. Getting input is key, it makes the class feel they have a say, which empowers them and gets them more excited about the software.
Lesson 3: Repetition, repetition and…did I say repetition?
I tried to build in as many examples as possible into the training. First, demonstrate, then have the class replicate it. As you move on to more advanced concepts, be sure to keep referencing past material to ensure those brain pathways are carved out deep.
Us humans need hands on experience to truly absorb information. Watching someone perform an action in pales in comparison to getting your hands dirty and doing it yourself. Confucius was right on the money when he said, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
Lesson 4: Pair up opposites.
Group less tech-savvy people with more tech-savvy people. When you’re teaching a group, some people will get it faster than others and will be bored when you have to go over the same material again for the benefit of the slower ones. Pair these people up with those who are struggling, so instead of being bored, they feel good about teaching their peers. Or, when you’re checking people’s progress around the room, give additional assignments to those quicker individuals.
Lesson 5: Bribe them.
I ran a game towards the beginning of training to exemplify the difference between paper-based systems and using CMMS software. First prize was a bottle of whiskey. But since the game is rigged anyway, at the end I announced there is no winner and they’ll have to share it (this is a great trick to get the class to like you – and I expensed the bottle of whiskey).
Lesson 6: Recap everything that’s been taught at the end of the day – but make the class lead the recap.
Ask, “Ok, what are some things we learned today.” Believe me, once a person is put on the spot, that brain pathway is set in forever. Write their answers on the whiteboard or display them on the projector so everyone can see. This is also a good opportunity to go over some of the harder material and figure out what did not sink in.
Maintenance software is a dry subject. It’s also one that requires the users know what they’re doing, or else the data that’s inputted to the software won’t be useful. The key points I learned about training these people boil down to this.
- Get the class on your side (with whiskey, if you have to)
- Use lots of examples, and use relevant examples
- Pace the class appropriately to the skill level present
- Recap at the end of the day