The number of companies adopting remote operations continues to rise. While the distancing necessities of COVID-19 may have been an initial influence, there are other contributing factors now. Business leaders are recognizing the potential to lower overheads and boost employee satisfaction. There have also been more tools emerging to make remote operations practical for a wider range of roles.
That’s not to say that remote work doesn’t still present its challenges — particularly when it comes to employee training. Many of the traditional approaches to educating workers are designed to be performed in person. These approaches also tend to benefit from group participation, which can be difficult to cultivate in remote settings.
Let’s dive into some key considerations you’ll need to make (and challenges you’ll need to overcome) when training employees remotely.
Maintaining Effective Communication
One of the consistent challenges businesses find with training remotely is in implementing effective communications protocols. With in-person training, this isn’t a hurdle many companies need to overcome, even when people have different communication styles. This is because all trainees are interacting with each other in the same space at the same time. Because the distance of remote training can be a barrier, it’s important to be intentional about maintaining good communication.
Your processes will likely depend on your approach to remote training. With live video conference-style training, ensure there are tools in place for trainees to contribute to discussions. If your workers feel they’re just been lectured over video, they may be more likely to disengage.
The training curriculum should be designed to facilitate meaningful conversations between colleagues and the trainer. The training coordinator should also be clear about communication expectations at the start of each session. They should explain to employees how to gain their attention to ask a question and encourage them to contribute to discussions.
If part of your training process revolves around self-directed e-learning modules, this doesn’t absolve your company of the need to maintain consistent communications. There must be tools in place to make certain trainees have the support they need throughout their learning. This could include instant message channels dedicated to the specific training module, for example. You must also clarify how trainees can reach out if they have any questions or concerns.
Keeping Employees’ Focus and Attention
In-person training has an innate physicality. You have the energy of the room and colleagues can bounce ideas off of one another. This is, unfortunately, something that doesn’t come quite so easily with remote training. You need to design your training to keep remote workers’ focus and attention.
Make sure each of your trainees is working in a distraction-free space. Before the day of training, give your employees a comfortable place to work. Rely on tried and true methods for productive workspaces, even if translating those methods to a home office or coworking space.
Additionally, consider the length of each training session. A recent study on the effects of online learning found lengthy video lectures or reading materials negatively affected attention spans. If you’re planning to run for the entire day, make sure tasks are separated with plenty of breaks so your employees have a chance to step away from their computers. It can also help to have online “breakout rooms” or text channels for trainees to spend time casually chatting with each other. This can keep them engaged, as well as allow them to connect with coworkers.
Consider offering a dynamic range of activities during each training day. Incorporate both independent activities and group sessions. Switch between live training, pre-recorded demonstrations, and e-learning modules. This prevents remote staff from becoming demotivated by a single activity.
Representing the Workplace Culture
While training can occur throughout an employee's time with the company, some training challenges are specific to the onboarding process. One of the key aims of onboarding is to instill a clear understanding of the company culture. This helps workers to apply the company’s standards and values to their tasks and their relationships with new colleagues. Experiencing a strong culture can also boost employee retention.
When training remotely, make sure your processes, tools, and communications include all of the hallmarks of a great company culture. There should be regular references to your organization’s core values, alongside behavior from trainers and colleagues that lives up to those values. Make your new hires feel valued for their contributions, even at this early stage, as this sets the tone for the rest of their time with your organization.
Don’t just praise trainees for their efforts; offer them opportunities to give constructive feedback and provide opinions for improvements. These are vital early opportunities to learn about the company culture, while also helping remote workers forge strong connections with your organization.
Remote training can be difficult, particularly if your company is more used to in-person practices. Prioritize communication so your trainees feel connected to the curriculum, as well as their colleagues. Design your training plans and schedules to maintain trainees’ focus and attention throughout. Remember that training during the onboarding process should reflect and emphasize the positives of your company culture. Training remotely isn’t always going to be easy, but being mindful of the challenges and adapting accordingly can ensure everyone benefits from your sessions.
About the Author: Miles is an independent writer with a background in business and passion for tech, psychology, news, and simply helping people live happy and fulfilled lives. He has lived and traveled all over the United States and continues to expand his awareness and experiences. When he is not writing, he is most likely mountain biking or kicking back with a cup of tea.