Posted Friday, August 19, 2016 by Rich Bowlen

Not Your Granddaddy’s Technology Implementation

Have you ever had to sit in a room for hours upon hours listening to someone explain how a new technology is going to work, and then by the time you get back to your computer and try to start using the tool, you completely forget what you were supposed to do? So. Incredibly. Frustrating.

Not only is it frustrating, but it’s inefficient too. In fact, research has shown that students only retain 20% of information they learn by sitting and listening passively in a lecture-style environment.

We’ve seen first-hand the amount of cases, projects and priorities human services workers are expected to juggle at once. We know you don’t have time to sit in a classroom, listen to someone explain how a tool works in theory, and then figure it out for yourself in a real-world environment with no additional coaching. Instead, you need training and support when and how it fits into your day-to-day work – which often means in the field, through an app, or via a web-based interaction.

Not Your Granddaddy’s Technology Implementation

Knowing that a traditional, one-size-fits-all approach to technology training isn’t always ideal, Northwoods uses a coaching model designed specifically to accommodate human services’ complex environment, which we know is unlike any other profession.

Northwoods uses its expertise in human services to learn about an agency’s specific processes, and then trains workers in their own environment on how to use technology to support those processes. That way, workers feel coached, confident, and ready to use everything on their own by the time training is complete. For example:

Tailored training:

In a more traditional model, workers are challenged to apply training to their specific job. Through the coaching model, however, learning can be tailored to each individual worker’s needs, and trainees are taught to apply the software in specific situations that are relevant to their program area or job role.

Hands-on learning:

Northwoods’ training does begin with a quick classroom training on software basics, and how the technology helps workers do their jobs. The difference is that our coaching model gives workers the opportunity to begin using the technology immediately – not days after they’ve learned its capabilities. For social workers in protective services who use technology during home visits, this even includes a series of two or three ride-a-long visits to help them quickly acclimate to using the new software in the field.

Immediate and accessible support:

When workers discover they need help after traditional technology training, support is generally nonexistent, or only available in the form of a dense, multi-page handbook. The coaching approach is different, providing support through a number of formats. For example, Northwoods provide internal coaches and champions with an actionable “playbook” including best practices, and sample communication plans. Additionally, we encourage agencies to hold daily, 15-minute meetings to talk about new techniques and lessons learned from the previous day, answer users’ questions, and troubleshoot challenges. (And, of course, our support team is available to answer questions.)

Still need convincing why a coaching model is so good for human services?

The stats speak for themselves: knowledge retained increases to 75% when someone is given the chance to practice what they’re learning. Add coaching on top of hands-on training, and the outcome is even better, with workers’ productivity increasing 86%.


A Field Guide to User Adoption

Download A Field Guide to User Adoption


Training and support will determine user adoption, and thus make or break a technology implementation project. In order to ensure adoption is high, you have to provide your workers with training and support when and where they want it.

The end result means more productive and happier workers, and ultimately better outcomes for the families your agency serves. And that’s why “your granddaddy’s technology implementation” just doesn’t cut it in human services.


Editor’s note: While Northwoods’ coaching model is designed for protective services, many aspects of the approach can be tailored to other program areas, as well. For more information on the Coach Model as it applies to protective services, download our business brief: Cookie Cutter Training Won’t Cut It for Protective Services.


Rich Bowlen.jpg Rich Bowlen is Director, Protective Services at Northwoods, where he is dedicated to improving the lives of caseworkers and social workers. Rich has 25 years serving in child protective services and is known for his passion for improving the lives of children.