Is your SAP training program working? Probably NOT!
As a preface, I must say that I'm a huge fan of SAP. It's one of the most wonderful systems ever devised and contributes greatly to the efficiency and profitability of businesses all over the world. But at the same time, most people I know consider it one of the most difficult software programs to learn, let alone master. Let me put it this way - you have a better chance of successfully hitting 100 straight drives on the fairway than you do mastering SAP. Not good odds...
But why is that? Why do companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to effectively train their workforces on a multi-million dollar system, only to fail? The answer can be found in video games.
Most people don't realize that the video game industry brings in far more revenue each year than does the combined box office receipts of Hollywood. There are all sorts of games - Madden Football, Halo, StarCraft, World of WarCraft - that are extremely difficult to master. Yet people spend their own money to buy them and then go on to dedicate hundreds (if not thousands) of hours learning, studying, and blogging - all trying to get better. You certainly don't see people going out of their way like this to learn SAP.
So what is the missing element?
It's actually two things: competition and a robust rewards system. In all of these video games a person is rewarded for spending time and energy. These rewards come in the form of (virtual) money, higher levels, better prizes, and a leg up on the competition. Contrast this with an SAP training program that usually requires people to spend dozens of hours in front of a computer doing boring exercises with the ultimate reward of, possibly, a certificate. Not much of an incentive. It is hardly surprising then that most SAP training programs fail to provide much value because they offer little reward back to the student.
So that's all interesting, but what do we do about it?
The answer is to involve Human Resources in the creation of a reward system that is built into your training program and ultimately your job descriptions. Use financial, organizational, and recognition rewards in your training programs. Define levels such as beginning, intermediate, experienced, and advanced such that when someone attains them (you have to be able to define and test for each increment), they are recognized. In the past I have built cash bonuses, organizational recognition, and role progression into the jobs of people I send to training. The better people get at using SAP, the better they are in their jobs and the more valuable they become to the company. I've even restricted promotions to senior level roles until people achieved "experienced" levels of proficiency.
In almost every case, when I attach specific, tangible rewards to my SAP training programs, their effectiveness usually triples. Oddly enough, employee satisfaction also trends up in a significant way. As humans we are built to compete. Video game companies recognize this (and profit from it) and so should your company!