A question was posted to a listserve for nonprofit techies looking for tips on training staff on a new database.  I discussed training at a high level on page 13 of this chapter from CASE's Handbook of Institutional Advancement.  Here are some more detailed rules of thumb:

  • 90% of training is forgotten within the first 2 weeks if it's not put to immediate use.
  • Not everyone can train.  It's an art.  The trainer needs to understand the database, present technical concepts clearly and without jargon, teach at the students' level, and be incredibly patient.
  • Train the system administrator thoroughly at the start of the implementation project.
  • Also train the team that will be making decisions about the system's configuration at the start of the implementation project.  Train them again just before going live.
  • Train end users just before going live.
  • Train end users on a sample database, not production data. 
  • The sample database should be configured with your own codes, menus, security settings, and any customizations.  Ideally it should be populated with your own data, not a vendor's dummy data.
  • If you're training a lot of people, try to train in a classroom setting so everyone hears the same thing.  But recognize that not everyone will be available for classroom trainings, and some people will need 1 on 1 training to understand the concepts.
  • Test the computers and software in the classroom before every training.
  • Document your data entry standards, policies, and procedures before training so users are taught to do things the right way from the start.
  • Create cheat sheets for common tasks.  Give trainees materials they can take away.
  • Provide access to online video training materials if possible.  (Record the training sessions if you can and make those videos available.)
  • Someone needs to be available to answer questions and provide refreshers after the first training.
  • Don't give users access to add, change, or delete records until they've demonstrated that they understand what to do.  Be prepared to retrain staff who aren't getting it.  And be prepared to take away their add/change/delete access if they still don't get it.
  • Training is not a one-time event.  You'll get new staff, staff will need to learn new things over time, and there will be new software releases. 

What have I missed?