10 Best Practices for Microsoft Partners Training Their New Team Members

November 12 2021

I did a quick search the other day on LinkedIn Jobs for “Business Central” openings in the United States. Guess how many hits I received? 950. Almost 1,000 BC-related postings, listed in just one source! It seems seldom a day passes without seeing or hearing about a job opening at a partner. Every partner in our channel knows the shortage of experienced, knowledgeable resources has only deepened in the past decade. As many of the experienced consultants in the channel age, the influx of younger consultants has not kept pace. Coupled with a dramatic surge in Business Central projects, every partner in the channel is now scrambling to add to their team to meet demand.

As necessity is the mother of invention, I’ve heard a variety of creative solutions from across the channel as partners strive to adapt. Whether you’ve been exploring re-training consultants that were focused on another ERP system, training up Millennials with no prior related experience, or training industry hires on how to do consulting, one common element is the need for high quality training that incorporates training best practices and adult learning principles.

 If you’ve been around for a few years, like most of us in the channel, you’ll remember the traditional approach to learning the system (which was Dynamics NAV back then): get shipped off to a large city somewhere for 4 weeks of full-day, struggle to stay awake through classes conducted via the death-by-PowerPoint method. By the end you were exhausted and couldn’t begin to remember most of what you covered, so you toted your massive 3-ring binder of slide shots and notes home, never to be cracked open again.

If you’ve had this experience, you know that it was painful, and worse, ineffective. Fortunately, traditional training is no longer the norm. The world of training looks nothing like it did 20 years ago. The premium on effective training (or avoiding the damage from ineffective training) is now so much more significant, while the skills needed to design and conduct successful training have become much more advanced and specialized.

We’ve talked to dozens of partners over the past year as they grapple with getting their new team members up to speed, and everyone faces the quandary of taking the time to do training properly vs. the pressing demand for project resources. Many partners have turned to us to help their new team members get up to speed, but a significant portion feel too pressured to deploy their new employees on projects immediately and try to assemble a patchwork approach of more formal training with on-the-job learning. For those of you trying to balance these inexorable demands and conducting training internally, we’d like to help your efforts by sharing a quick review of 10 training best practices that we incorporate into our Boot Camps and BC Consultant Accelerator training programs:

  1. Start with the end in mind – It’s amazing how much clarity is driven by clearly stating your training objectives up front. For us we have 2 types of objectives: 1) The overall objective of making training that “sticks”. This is a key mantra for us, of course – if the student doesn’t retain the content, what good was the training? 2) The key learning objectives for the class. Identifying the key concepts that the student should understand and know how to execute serves as a clear guidepost for both the instructor (for developing and delivering the training) and the student (for setting expectations and goals for the class).
  2. Focus on application and heavy practice (aka NO death by PowerPoint) – Take a look at the graphic below. Likely you’ll recognize immediately the effectiveness of these options.

    You’re also likely familiar with the more current “explain, show, do” approach to training. While that makes use of some of these teaching methods, strive to incorporate as many methods as you can. It not only drives better retention; a more diversified approach connects better with the variety of students’ learning styles. Including workshops as a capstone in some of our classes is proving incredibly popular – it’s a great check on all the key concepts and builds confidence with a safety net of the instructor as a coach. 
  3. Use context and real-world examples – Context is a key component of adult learning principles, to enable the student to apply the content rather than it be only theoretical and rote. When your instructors have extensive real-world experience (and better yet, if they have experience as former end users), they can embed real-life terms, stories, and examples throughout your learning segments and exercises. The power of storytelling to drive retention and applicability is well known across the world.
  4. Use real data – Using fake and incomplete data about a bicycle shop will never be as meaningful and support retention as well as using realistic data. Spending the time to develop and incorporate real transactions and realistic examples makes the training more relatable and memorable. 
  5. Plan out and hold to a firm class schedule – Adult learners deserve respect. Their time is valuable, and everyone has plenty of pressing commitments without adding on top a chunk of hours in class. Planning out and following a detailed class timeline helps set expectations, increases engagement, and demonstrates respect for their time. In addition, adult learner attention spans are well documented. Scheduled, significant breaks enhance comprehension and retention, facilitate networking, allow trailing students to catch up, and help sequester distractions.
About Kerry Peters

Kerry Peters is CEO/co-founder of New View Strategies (NVS), five-time Microsoft MVP, and co-author of the BC Consultant Accelerator – an executive MBA-style program specifically designed to help new consultants get up to speed on Business Central and implementations. The program is designed specifically to complement the consultant’s work schedule and is spread out over time to combine their formal instruction with on-the-job experiences. Registration is open for the January 2022 semester. If you’d like information on arranging one of our 65 classes for your team or you’d like more information on the BC Consultant Accelerator program, please reach out to Kerry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/krosvoldpeters and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kerrypeters/.

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