Welcome to another post in the “How I Solved This” series. In this series, we do a deep dive into a specific business problem and share how one #AwesomeAdmin chose to solve it. Once you learn how they solved their specific problem, you’ll be inspired to try their solution yourself! Let’s take a look at how Laura Etzler was able to successfully and efficiently train happy end users in Salesforce. 

Key business problem: 

Sometimes, we have end users in our orgs that have very specific, limited jobs to do. They don’t need to know the ins and outs of everything Salesforce, but they do have to be trained quickly and thoroughly.

I want my users to be comfortable with the aspects of Salesforce that they need, without unleashing Trailhead on them or giving them unnecessary information. (Note: This assumes your org does not have access to MyTrailhead.)

Background: 

U.S. Navy Ombudsmen are sailors’ spouses who volunteer their time and energy to serve as a liaison between families and the command/ship. Currently, most ombudsmen use spreadsheets, free email accounts, and tons of sticky notes to handle their caseloads and track metrics. In the best of times, this “system” works, but not efficiently. In a crisis, this method is a major hindrance, adding hours of burden on these heroic volunteers.

Enter Ombudsman Cloud Care (OCC), a case management app designed to assist military ombudsmen in handling their day-to-day caseloads. OCC was built by a group of volunteers and published on the AppExchange through Salesforce Labs and the Open Source Commons program of Salesforce.org. 

Ombudsman volunteers operate under pressure, within the time constraints of jobs and family responsibilities. OCC offers a place to store information about service members, family contacts, resource organizations, and each family case and interaction. It also provides a one-stop shop for communication among ombudsmen.

OCC logo: Shows an aircraft carrier with three smiling people on the deck.

It’s critically important that the Salesforce Admin of a new OCC instance can teach a new ombudsman the basic functions of the app without getting bogged down in the minutiae. As any admin knows, it’s easy to wax eloquent on how malleable Salesforce can be to support just about any need your organization has. It’s much harder to take a step back and consider that, sometimes, less is more.

After all, ombudsmen have already gone through three full days of training just to get the VOLUNTEER job, not to mention the upkeep training they’re expected to take on a monthly basis. Anything we do on top of that had better be memorable and effective. 

And perhaps most importantly to any end user is the “What’s in it for me?” factor. In the case of an ombudsman, they already have a system in place that mostly works. It may be clunky, inefficient, and reliant on sticky notes, but it’s there and it’s what they’re used to. Training has to be clear right away that a Salesforce org offers efficiency and perks that they can’t get with their current system.

How I solved it:

Great news! Your company is expanding its amount of new hires next month. Up to this point, your company has only really brought people on one at a time and trained them individually. This makes for a fantastic, tailored experience for each new user, but it took a significant time commitment from the admin. 

This time, there are five to six new hires coming on board at the same time, and your Executive team has discovered some flaws in their previous training plans. They can’t afford to pull an admin off their duties for the time it would take to train each user individually, and there aren’t any notes or outlines for the training itself.

Your Executive team comes to you and asks you to set up a training plan for these new hires — and you have just a few weeks to make it happen.  

Here are some steps you can take to tackle the request:

  1. Identify your user groups.
  2. Figure out the specific features your users need to know.
  3. Apply a training template to those features.
  4. Create a handbook based on the training templates.
  5. Test with a small group of users to check for understanding.
  6. Review and revise as needed.
  7. Roll out to your larger groups.
  8. Review your documentation with every new Salesforce (and your own app) Release.

Step 1: Identify your end user groups

I got lucky on this step. I only had two groups of users that I had to develop training for: the ombudsman end users, and the admin volunteers who work behind the scenes. You may have several more groups and will need to tailor your training to the needs of each specific group. 

Let’s say you have a group of sales reps and a Support team that will need training soon. There will be some overlap in what they need to know, as well as some very specific topics that are only applicable to one of them.

Step 2: Determine what your end users need to know

OCC’s original trainer, Salesforce Admin Shelley Bolt, built an outline for training in the early days of OCC. It covered the logging-in process, necessary objects and features, personal settings, etc. I used that outline as my jumping off point for identifying the topics that were absolutely necessary for my end users. 

Borrowing our end users from Step 1, your sales reps may need to understand Chatter, Accounts, Contacts, Leads, and Opportunities. Your Support team will also need Chatter, Accounts, and Contacts — but they will also need Cases and Knowledge. 

Sorting out the “must-knows” from the “nice-to-knows” is an important part of this step. You can always do level-up training in the future; for now, I recommend you focus on the nuts and bolts.

Step 3: Apply a training template to each feature

Now that you have identified your end users and their needs, it’s time to flesh out the bones of your training. I recommend using a template to keep on track. I’ve included one below to keep me on the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) track.

If you plug each necessary feature into this template, you will not only keep your thoughts in order but you may also identify topics that are not “must-knows.”

Note: At some point, you may think, “This resembles a Trailhead module.” There’s a reason. I didn’t reinvent the wheel, just removed some extra spokes. 

Training template for admins

  • What Salesforce feature/object am I training on?
  • What aspects of that object are crucial for my trainees to know?
  • What’s in it for them? How does this knowledge save them time/effort?
  • Insert a relevant use case. (Example: Rather than relying on an outside program, Chatter allows you and your team members to tag each other, make public posts, and even talk to your Salesforce Admin! You can also make a Chatter post from a Case, bringing your team members straight to that record.)
  • Give them practical experience. (Example: Have your end users make a Chatter post tagging another user, or have them post from a record.)
    • Your practice example should be a situation that is reminiscent of one that the end user will encounter and include any often-used fields or processes.

This is what one of my templates looked like once completed:

Example of Laura Etzler's template

Step 4: Create a training manual

Once you have all of your templates filled out, it’s time to organize them into a training manual (or whatever your final training product will be). Depending on how your org handles their training, your end users may have a few hours, a day, etc., dedicated to training. That will determine, to a point, how you organize your templates. 

OCC’s basic app training is split into four modules, organized in order of importance to the end user.

Image of a training module table of contents.

However, compiling all of the bits took some thought, especially as my bosses had some requirements of their own.

For them, a successful training must be finished in an hour or less (including time for questions), simple and easy to replicate, and run by anyone who has already completed the training themselves. That last requirement necessitates a second handbook for trainers that covers org basics and effective teaching methods, as well as the “What’s in it for me?” hook for the end user. 

Additionally, training must cover all topics and have resources that exist in a static place, shareable with a link. (I like bit.ai for its intuitive customization features, but Google Drive is also a fine option.) 

In addition to the above criteria, my psychology and education background held requirements of its own. I was taught early on that any effective training must appeal to a broad array of learning styles without relying too heavily on any one method. There’s some debate about how many learning styles there are (anywhere from three to eight, last I checked), but I focused on the “big” four: Visual (see it), Auditory (hear it), Read/Writing (read it or write it down), and Kinesthetic (do it). Most learners have one or two that are excellent methods for them and some that do not work at all. 

Please note: This is not an exhaustive list of learning styles, nor am I an expert. 

Visual learners benefit from pictures, demonstrations, and videos, etc. Screenshots are effective for this IF they clearly show the topic at hand and aren’t busy. (We’ve all experienced THAT slide with a billion arrows that cover up the necessary information. Don’t do that.) If you choose to use demonstrations or videos, there are ample options for free video hosting websites and video conferencing. We primarily use Loom and Google Meet. Please consider adding captioning to videos!

Auditory learners also lean in to demonstrations and videos, as well as the traditional “lecture” style of teaching (usually hand-in-hand with written material).

Read/Write learners can appreciate training manuals, written walk-throughs, and note-taking.

Kinesthetic learners are an underserved set of learners in general. Working manipulatives, movement, or actual practice into training takes time and effort, but it is necessary. For this reason, I like to do training in a sandbox so that everyone (but especially Kinesthetic learners) can really have the OCC experience without worrying about “breaking” it. These learners need to “do” the thing! Have them open cases, add test contacts, walk through the lead process, merge records, etc.

Regardless of learning style, the action step is valuable. The best lecture in the world cannot truly compare to learners getting into the org itself and working through the training. I recommend having a practice step for each training section. 

In the end, this is what my Ombudsman Onboarding Manual became.

Step 5: Test with a small group of users to check for understanding

Now, combining my criteria and learning style requirements took some work, and really forced me to stick to the basics. But all of that prep does not necessarily translate to solid understanding. Having a small group of users go through your manual and experience your training will provide you with valuable feedback. 

Additionally, I updated my superiors regularly on my progress and submitted it for their review. 

Step 6: Review and revise

Take the lessons learned in Step 5 and adjust as needed. There are always some awkwardly worded sentences to hunt down!

Step 7: Roll out to your end users

Congratulations, you made it! You’ve plotted, written, taken endless screenshots, practiced, and revised — and now you can profit from all that hard work. You’ve created something practical for your end users, and they can reference back to it as they delve into their new positions! Excellent work! 

Step 8: Review your documentation with every new Salesforce (or your own app) Release

As admins, we all feel the pain of a new release and all the bugs that suddenly pop up! Sometimes, these gremlins will require an adjustment in your training manual, so remember to review it after every update/release. 

Do try this at home

Challenge: Can you put together a basic training regimen for your end users that fits the qualifications above? I’d love to see how you solve this, too! #AwesomeAdmins #HowISolvedThis

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