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Training SharePoint End Users Is A Waste Of Time

Training SharePoint End Users Is A Waste Of Time

by: Asif Rehmani

Many years ago, I came to the conclusion that thoroughly training end users on SharePoint is a waste of time for employees and trainers. I don't mean to say that SharePoint trainers are bad people or that all training programs are useless. It's just that comprehensive SharePoint training, crammed into a 1/2 day or five days is by and large wasteful. This might sound controversial, but this is the conclusion I have come to after many years of unsuccessful attempts by myself and other Microsoft MVP trainers like me.

The Situation
This realization dawned upon me about six years ago when I was conducting a class for SharePoint users in Chicago. I felt pretty good about myself (and thought the training was going well) since everyone was nodding their heads and truly seemed like they were really getting it. This was a two-day training class filled with topics such as sites, pages, lists, libraries, permissions, web parts, site columns, content types...the works!

At the end of the two days, the organization requested that I sit in their office for a couple extra days, so if end users had any questions while using the system, I could give them a little support. I had no doubt in my mind that there would be a few questions, but nothing substantial. I was so wrong!

The entire two days that I sat there in that office, I got questions on the how-tos of what I had just taught them thoroughly during the training class. Questions came at me such as:

  • "Do I make a new subsite when I don't have enough room on this site home page?"
  • "Where do I upload our company pictures? In the document library you showed us?"
  • "I want to give permission to this user on this site, but not on this other site. How do I do that?"
  • "Why is it asking me to 'check out' the document that I'm clicking on? This is too confusing. What does this mean?"

 Ugh!

Tough Lesson
I honestly felt terrible. It was as almost like I robbed the company for the training that I provided to these end users since they continued to have questions on the same stuff we had already talked about in the training. I did the best I could those two days I sat there then I had to bid them farewell and good luck. At the time, they had very minimal native SharePoint knowledge, and I wished that I could leave behind some knowledge that would help their SharePoint users when they needed it. I was suspicious that I was going to get e-mails/calls afterwards. I was definitely right about that part!

This was a tough experience for me. It taught me that no matter how much I wanted to, I couldn't help their employees become SharePoint end users in that brief amount of time. They had great expertise in their domain (the company dealt with secondary institution insurance). They didn't really care about SharePoint much; it was just a tool to help them do their job.

Eureka Moment
I finally had the following realization:

Many times, people who use SharePoint often don't want to become expert SharePoint end users any more than those who use MS Office want to become expert Office end users. They're not going to be completely excited about using a new tool. Therefore, they're not going to master SharePoint after sitting in a class for a few days.

It is impossible to thoroughly train end users to become SharePoint-literate completely in a couple of days. The time spent explaining how to use all the capabilities of SharePoint would be better spent explaining how end users can be successful in their jobs by using this platform, which happens to be a set of tools powered by SharePoint. Users need to understand what's in it for them first? If they feel it's nothing, then the training will likely be a waste of everyone's time.

(By the way, I think the what's-in-it-for-them is being capable of doing their jobs effectively without a lot of stress.)

Quite obviously the SharePoint platform has a lot to offer companies. We all know that. But getting your employees to process how to do so many tasks in SharePoint makes leveraging the power of the platform impossible. Instead of trying to shovel all the knowledge into users' brains in a two-day period, I truly believe (and now have experienced many times) that it's better to provide assistance to users when that help is needed, as they're doing their work.

Help provided in-context and on-demand to users just works!

No one really cares about how to create a new column on an existing list until they have a need for it. Checking out a document from a library is not cool until there is a need for locking down a document to be edited, until they learn that checking out is the way to do that. Editing a site page site is not something anyone gets excited about until an end user wants to share results of a contest on a page that shows final results and pictures of the winners and their trophies. This is when a user needs to know how to edit a team site page ? not three weeks ago at a training class.

Final Thoughts
Here are some thoughts as you consider how you'll help end users adapt to and adopt SharePoint:

  • Avoid wasting the time of end users, trainers, and your management team trying to train them thoroughly on SharePoint; stick to only the tasks they'll be doing in the platform.
  • An end user doesn't want to (and quite honestly should not have to) be as enthusiastic about SharePoint as you and me.
  • People who use SharePoint just want to do their jobs and not have to "ramp up" on all the bells and whistles in another system.
  • Provide your end users the help they need when they need it, instead of prior to using or after failing to accomplish a task.

Best of luck onboarding your SharePoint end users!

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