So if you are new to online teaching, need a refresher, or are looking to improve the engagement of your virtual training sessions, you’ll find some ways to get training online faster and more efficiently.
There are several different ways to set up and run remote training. Keep in mind that there is no “best” way and it’s all about what suits your team and your processes. We will help you to maximize your training sessions by providing guidelines and tips while also looking at overcoming the challenges discussed in the next section.
Common Challenges of Remote Employee Training
Remote working is a common issue in general due to the lack of face-to-face interaction, but it can be a pain point for remote training, particularly if the switch has recently been made from classroom-based models.
Lack of access to information
Newly remote workers are often unpleasantly surprised by the increased time and effort needed to locate information from coworkers and others. Even getting answers to what seem like simple questions can feel like a large obstacle to a worker based at home. Essentially, they need to know the WHAT, WHEN, WHY, and HOW of any remote training you want them to take well before the scheduled session takes place. They also need to know how to get help if they need it – both before and during online training sessions. Lack of access to this information is setting your training up to fail.
Feelings of isolation are one of the most common complaints about remote work, with employees missing the informal social interactions of a workspace setting. Fortunately, this is one area where online virtual training sessions can actually help if they are run correctly. If remote training doesn’t include group training sessions where people have the ability to communicate, isolation can cause any employee to feel less engaged and to feel that they don’t belong to the team. Ensure that your remote training sessions encourage interaction and inclusivity.
It’s very easy to get distracted when employees are working remotely, but employers typically must ensure that their remote workers have both a dedicated, quiet workspace and adequate childcare before allowing them to work remotely. Remote training is even less forgiving of distractions – it may be virtual but ultimately it is a training session – and 100% focus is not just nice to have, it’s a necessity. So it’s imperative that even if the rest of the day is open to distractions, your 1-hour training slot is non-negotiable.
It’s possible for training sessions to be interrupted by technical issues even when the team is office-based, so imagine how much more likely this is to happen when you attempt to run a remote session. A great number of things can go wrong and there is no way to guarantee that you won’t experience technical issues when you run a remote training session, but there is much you can do to minimize the likelihood of issues occurring.
6 training topics for remote employees
These are certain topics that shouldn't be missing from your agenda. Although they’re not much different when you are in the office, you might need to take a different approach and focus.
1. Digital skills
One of the greatest challenges of remote work is effective communication and collaboration. For the technical aspects of communication, your remote team relies entirely on technology. This makes digital literacy more of a core rather than an optional competency.
It’s up to you to determine the frequency and the media through which you’ll manage the workload, but whatever tools you deploy, they are going to be the glue that holds remote and in-house employees together. So, make sure your remote team is comfortable using them.
Remote employees should be a bit of computer technicians, too, and handle simple technical issues on their own. For example, they should know how to install antivirus software or fix their internet connection.
2. Company culture
Does the concept of company culture even apply when it comes to remote work? Of course. A strong company culture is key to engaging in-house and remote employees alike. Employee engagement, in turn, has a huge impact on employee productivity and retention.
Cultivating a sense of shared vision and goals is hard when you don’t share the same physical space with your employees. But that lack of direct contact is what makes developing a company culture even more significant.
A common example of company culture is whether you have a dedicated space and time for “watercooler conversation” or not (it’s best that you do!). Or the way you check in with remote employees and measure progress.
For example, do you expect them to work a certain number of hours per week? Or do you focus only on the deliverables? The more you're open about your expectations, the stronger your company culture will be.
3. Soft skills
It is true that remote workers are more productive than in-house employees, they also manage to collaborate effectively despite the barriers to communication. Otherwise, the whole remote work concept would have fallen apart.
But if communication and collaboration are challenging for employees that interact daily and in person, imagine how tough it is for those who work remotely. Or, how much organization it takes for remote worker to manage their time and prioritize their workload.
Soft skills are the cornerstone of remote work. Some might need to enhance their time management, communication, scheduling, and organizational skills before they can handle remote work. Especially those with no relevant experience.
4. Role clarity
Another essential training topic for remote employees is role clarity. Role clarity establishes transparency and helps remote workers understand where they stand in the company.
Job-specific training on the matter is a given. All employees should know their exact tasks and responsibilities, who they report to, and their job processes. Due to the lack of in-person interaction, however, remote employees have a blind spot. They often don’t know who is doing what in the company, or how their role is connected to that of others.
So, in addition to clarifying their own job duties, explain what the rest of the team does. Arrange virtual meetings until they meet everyone and create flashcards on your LMS with every employee’s job role and duties.
Remote teams, much like in-house teams, engage in casual conversations either as a group or one-to-one. At some point, someone could make a comment that sounds discriminatory or in any way insulting. Similarly, if an in-house financial executive can accept a bribe, so can a remote.
You get the idea. As long as there are rules to be broken, there’s no escaping compliance training. Remote employees should know which behaviors are acceptable and which are not according to your code of ethics and company policies.
Remote work isn’t possible without technology and the internet. So, addressing common cybersecurity threats and best practices during remote work training is well worth your while.
Whether to alleviate loneliness or during business trips, remote employees often work from public spaces. That’s what your cybersecurity training should begin with. Discussing the risks of using public Wi-Fi and safe alternatives is cybersecurity 101 for remote employees.
Another issue to address is physical security. Careless habits like leaving a device unattended or the screen unlocked can result in data leakage. It sounds like a no-brainer that practices like these are dangerous. And yet, they are very common among employees who haven’t received proper training on security awareness.
Other cybersecurity training topics for remote employees are password protection, proper use of antivirus software, as well as spotting phishing attempts and suspicious links.
How do you conduct remote training?
Choose the Delivery Model That Works for Your Team
The key questions to ask are, how well do you know your remote team, and what suits them? It’s important to remember that remote employees are human beings with lives outside of work. Respecting employee time and knowing the boundaries can help to create a great culture of remote work. A productive remote work policy can help with this.
Synchronous learning, such as online meetings where people learn simultaneously, is a popular method of remote training delivery. However, there are other methods. Asynchronous learning is self-paced and involves trainees accessing online learning content at a time to suit them. The blended learning method is a mixture of both, to create a custom solution.
Invest in the Right Remote Employee Training Tools
When investing in workforce optimization skills, it is vital to embrace the right technology. Training and development software for remote teams will increase efficiency and employee satisfaction while reducing costs.
Training methods can be simple, such as a pre-recorded podcast, or a little more in-depth, such as live webinar training. Most employers choose to have features that enable screen sharing, chat, remote access to each other’s desktops, and the sharing of files. Make sure to take time to thoroughly evaluate which are the best collaboration tools for your remote team.
Learning Experience Platforms
A learning experience platform is an entire learning portal. It tracks training progress and administers certification like a management system but adds flexibility by combining all of the smaller methods of training. This has many benefits, including giving trainers the chance to tailor materials. It also gives remote trainees the chance to learn according to their own schedule.
Remote Video Training Tools
These training tools are important to add some live interaction. Video conferencing software and hardware can enable you to meet your team virtually, adding the human touch. Just make sure your team has the right equipment to get the most out of it. It’s also a great idea for call center managers to record your training sessions to create a back catalog of videos. These can be shared with those who are unable to attend.
Project Management and Communication Tools
If you already use this type of software, why not repurpose it for training remote employees? Project management and communication tools can be used by employees to track progress, collaborate, and assess the effectiveness of the training.
Identify Skills Gaps
From improving digital customer service skills to understanding new product lifecycle management software and everything in between, it pays to identify the skills and knowledge that are lacking. This is known as skills gap analysis. A lack of skills for remote employees can lead to frustration and deficiencies in performance.
Preparation is essential to prevent problems and ensure everyone knows what to do. The following steps should help you to feel less flustered when organizing or delivering remote training:
1. Set short-term goals and create a plan to help everyone stay focused
2. Make a consistent and effective training schedule
3. Focus on communication which explains how trainees should access sessions
4. Prepare learning materials, checklists, and presentations well in advance
5. Ensure your online meeting solution is up and running and you have familiarized yourself with how it works
6. Establish ground rules—general housekeeping, such as keeping microphones muted unless speaking—is essential to avoid chaos
7. Ensure you have access to IT support if any problems occur during training sessions
8. Don’t forget to send a reminder email a few days before, containing a link to each virtual training session
Smooth Training Delivery
Digital collaboration skills need to be practiced just like any other kind of skill. Make sure you have completed a trial run of any training session, to give you the confidence for a smooth delivery. Take a personal approach and display your face clearly if presenting, along with a professional background. A messy or chaotic room can distract from the training content you are trying to deliver.
At the beginning of online training delivery, run through all the available functions, and clearly explain how everything works. This should prevent frequent interruptions of the “How do I…?” variety. Have reasonable expectations, though, particularly if people are joining remote training sessions for the first time.
Try to avoid the delivery of training being peppered with outside distractions. Both trainers and employees should divert their calls during the scheduled training time. ACD, meaning automatic call distribution, is a useful telephony tool to have in place here. It’s also a good idea to close down emails and other windows.
Recognize Virtual Learning Results
All remote learning should be documented to assess its effectiveness and to shape future training plans. Giving and asking for feedback is a key part of this process. Take the time to stay online after training sessions to answer questions and address any issues. This will be an effective addition to follow-up emails or surveys. It can be useful to chat when the session is fresh in everyone’s minds.
Don’t forget to reward learning results with certificates or prizes to motivate and engage employees. They are far more likely to stay on track when their efforts are recognized. You could even consider leaderboards or milestones to keep trainees interested.
The last piece of the jigsaw is to track the results of your remote employee training. Exactly how you do this should be tailored to your company’s needs. You may only be interested in course completions but it can be useful to focus on goals, rather than just time spent. Metrics such as assessment scores or completion speed are valuable when determining success.
Look at the wider picture, too. Improving remote employee training may also lead to an increase in productivity or customer satisfaction. This will often be picked up by business intelligence software.
How do you make remote training fun?
1. Don’t sleep on remote training
When a natural disaster or other catastrophe strikes, some businesses struggle to get remote training for employees up and running quickly.
While it can be challenging to develop full-blown digital courses overnight, you can use free online resources to develop quick references for employees. Even these simple resources, such as answers to FAQs or changes in processes, can keep employees focused, up, and running while you organize more remote training as needed.
2. Respect their time
Suddenly working from home isn’t all about the job anymore. It’s also about kids, pets, and roommates or partners who are also suddenly home. This means your remote training needs to respect employees’ time.
If training can be delivered in a few bullet points via a mobile push notification, choose the path of least resistance. Streamline, both in what you say and how you say it, especially in the beginning as you transfer to remote training. Communicate the essential information in the most succinct way.
3. Leverage technology
Let technology be your friend here and lean into the tools you already have available. For example, the office Slack channel is still a free and easy option as are tools like Zoom and Google Hangouts. Use them to live-stream lectures, collaborate on projects, and post videos.
Leveraging technology to create your new remote workforce courses also means using something as simple as screenshots or videos to show steps in a new process. This can make remote training clearer and easier to understand and reference. Taking these screenshots or videos is also one of the best practices for training remote employees on software or programs that will be used to deliver any newly-developed training in the future. It’s a win-win.
However, it’s not all about screenshots. Make sure whatever technology you employ offers plenty of opportunity for employees to see each other’s faces. Whether your remote work situation is temporary or long-term, some face time makes everyone feel more connected.
4. Create training that’s on-demand
When it comes to training remote employees, on-demand, just-in-time training is key.
Remember that point about respecting employee time? Everyone may not be working the same hours when they’re working remotely, so it’s crucial to get on-demand training for employees so they can access it when they need it. If you live-stream a training, for example, make sure there’s a recorded link they can reference later. You can also use video channels or mobile apps to post quick, one-minute bits of information.
5. Make mobile-first courses
On-demand training should be developed for mobile devices first. Why? In the event of a natural disaster or other crisis, many people are on their mobile devices more than any other technology.
If your remote training isn’t optimized for mobile, it won’t be useful (or, in some cases, accessible) to all employees.
6. Develop quick bites of information
Your on-demand, mobile-first courses can be in-depth, but make sure to also develop quick bites of information. Microlearning can be as simple as updated guidelines for sanitation, changes to building codes, and updates on evolving emergency situations that require remote workers to pivot to another strategy.
These bites of information are also incredibly helpful for workers who are managing to squeeze work in between caring for children or other obligations during the workday.
7. Balance self-guided and group training
It’s ironic that even with the demands of home life combined with a sudden, work-from-home situation, many workers find they are able to be more productive when working in pajamas.
How is this possible? Many employees enjoy the freedom of being able to set their own timelines and follow their own schedules from home. You can support this by balancing self-guided remote training for employees (e.g., training that moves them along on their personal professional development plan) with group training that would benefit the entire company. If they have additional time and want to build their skill set, this may be just the time.
8. Focus on goals, not time in front of a screen
Image text: Stop worrying about seat time. Focus on goals.
Many employers worry that their workers won’t spend their full workday plugging away in front of a screen. With a remote workforce, this doesn’t make sense. Instead, stop worrying about “seat time” and focus on goals. If your employee can achieve their goals more efficiently at home, don’t worry about how long it takes.
9. Document all training
A solid learning management system can help keep track of which employees have completed which training. This is crucial, especially in fields where certifications and licenses require training to stay current.
The documentation process also helps you keep your training programs consistent and seamless. If the person in charge of developing training leaves your company, you’ll still have a record of courses and resources used in each training.
10. Create a culture of remote work
You took the time to nurture a supportive work culture in the office, and now it’s time to do the same thing for remote workers. A culture of remote work outlines clear expectations for each job, avenues for support and help, and places (online or in person if possible) where employees can connect with each other.
Because a culture of remote work is not reinforced with daily interaction, it’s crucial that each employee knows and understands from the beginning what is expected of them and what they can rely on from you.