Research on behavior and learning shows that the learning context matters. So, when users learn to use new technology, make it click. Put them in a realistic context. That means immersing them in the right setting and information, so they can imagine themselves doing business in the new way.

How do you make it real?

Scenarios. Training scenarios describe all the conditions under which people will practice using the new technology to do their jobs. This is a great opportunity to merge the things they already know with the elements of their to-be world.

Data. The data the user sees during a practice session or simulation should look as real as possible. Customer names, product names, services, sales data… all these should mimic live data. Resist the urge to get too creative by building whimsical data into the training program. It’s fun for us, but for the learner it’s more of a distraction than a delight.

Job Context. Yes, training should be developed by role, and roles combine to make jobs. But use any job information you can. If there are only a few jobs that perform a certain role in the organization, let the learner branch from one job’s version of training or another. Have instructors or coaches embellish training by discussing real issues, process hand-offs, and the other roles users will deal with on the job. Wrapping realistic discussions around realistic training helps people make the mental leap to the new way of doing business.

A model workspace is as real as it gets.

The model workspace is a dedicated and supported space equipped with the same hardware and infrastructure as a real workspace – desks, tables, computers, printers, chairs, reference materials, and conference spaces. Participants use a training environment that mimics live production. The model workspace is staffed by project team members and – most importantly – change agents or super users from the stakeholder groups being trained.

Better? Have entire work teams use the model workspace all at once, so learners can rely on their peers and the people who will be there on Day One.

Even better? Use the actual workplace or space inside the same building.

Does it have to be an office? No! A plant floor, medical facility, or even a temporary workspace can be made into a model workspace. Whatever the setting, you can simulate it.

Realism is not just a cherry on top of your training – it has real business impact. The more real you get, the better people learn, retain information, and perform with your new technology.