LOS ANGELES -- You've designed and supervised the building of a software system that could revolutionize how your agency accomplishes work. It should help your workers get more done in less time despite your shrinking budget. What's more, service to the citizen should improve. Modestly, you admit it's a masterpiece.

Now it would be nice if someone would use it.

Even if you aren't fortunate enough to have a system destined to win national praise and awards, chances are that what you do have is not being used to capacity. Designing and developing a system is one thing, getting people to understand and use it is an entirely different problem. Even when systems are "user-friendly," they still present a training problem for those unfamiliar with graphical user interfaces (GUIs). Moreover, modern programs often have so many features, it is hard for new users to select out the important ones. Because of these kinds of problems, the effectiveness of your training program becomes at least as important as the capabilities of the new system.

Commonly, there have been two approaches to training -- classroom-style and self-paced study. Traditional lecture-style teaching usually gets traditional results -- some students get it, others don't. Self-paced study generally has a poor record for student completions. In the practical world of public service, those kinds of results aren't acceptable -- public agencies do not need accountants who get the right answer 85 percent of the time or bridge inspectors who get it right nine out of 10 times. Customers expect, and even demand, professional quality service.

Applied Scholastics Inc. (ASI), a Los Angeles-based education and training organization with offices around the world, is using a new approach to training called "100% Proficiency Training," which is based on the education methods of best-selling American author and researcher L. Ron Hubbard. The week-long 100% Proficiency Training Course teaches trainers how to organize course materials into "checksheets" -- a list of theoretical and practical application steps students need to accomplish to achieve 100 percent proficiency. Checksheets are part of Hubbard's popular "Study Technology," a body of work which describes the fundamental barriers to study and ways to overcome those barriers.

Ingrid Gudenas, president of ASI Northern California, has worked in training for 17 years, but has never seen any other approach produce the kind of results she is getting now.

"When I do talks to trainers at conferences, I usually ask them how effective they feel their training is," said Gudenas. "Most say it is in the 40 percent to 50 percent range for classroom training. For self-paced training, it's rare that more than 40 percent of the students even finish the course. Yet the amount of technology people have to learn today is astronomical. I've known for a long time that the level of a user's proficiency with a new technology determines their response to it and their ability to be productive. For agencies investing in technology, this means that their return on investment is directly impacted by how proficient employees are after their training."

HIGHWAY PATROL

Don Johnston, a staff programmer analyst with the California Highway Patrol, is now using the 100 percent proficiency method to train officers on the California Commercial Vehicle Inspection System (CCVIS). The new computerized system replaces the old paper-based system in which truck inspections were written up on forms which were then passed off to a data entry unit for keying.

"After keying," said Johnston, "the information eventually made its way electronically to Washington, although the error rate was extremely high. Some of the written forms didn't get fully completed, some were illegible, or the information was miskeyed entirely. These things lead to only about 60 percent of the inspection results getting to the federal government -- the other 40 percent were circular filed."

Even with data entry verification, the error rate couldn't be pushed

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