Of all the consequences the COVID-19 will have on the business landscape, remote work feels like one with the most staying power. As we moved forward, some companies understood that working from home was going to be part of the new normal, so they invested in the proper tools and platforms, as well as in training sessions, for their workforces. All things considered, a lot of them succeeded in such a massive switch.
However, believing that the challenge is behind them would be a mistake. That's because a remote work model needs constant monitoring and redefinition. The tools that work today might end up not working tomorrow. Today's online practices can change dramatically, forcing you to rethink your business processes. What's more, your workforce will surely change, with employees coming and going.
Naturally, it's not just about tech adoption – given the dynamic nature of remote working, ongoing training is more crucial than ever. Keeping your employees up to date with the latest digital processes and practices is key for remote efficiency. Yet, a lot of companies fail to develop a sound remote training program that allows them to better leverage the potential of their workforces.
In this article, I wanted to share some tips on how to better train your team for remote work. The tips below come from years of experience working with IT professionals distributed across multiple countries as a part of a nearshore development team. You can rest assured that these are tried-and-tested ways to train your collaborators and help them perform at their highest.
1. Choose relevant topics
You'd be surprised as to how many corporate training programs tackle topics that aren't essential. Some training sessions include employees that won't benefit from the topic at hand. All that leads to a fruitless effort where most attendees end up losing precious time that could be put to better use.
Picking topics that are relevant to your workforce is key, as is inviting only the appropriate members of the team to the training sessions. Since whom you invite to attend will mainly depend on the topics you choose, let's review what you can do to select better topics for your training program.
First and foremost, you should consider the three main factors that define whether a topic is a good fit for training a remote team. Thus, the topic has to be:
New: What you choose to teach has to provide value; otherwise, it's not worth your time and your employees'.
Applicable: Your employees have to gain actionable insights from the topic that they can apply to their daily tasks.
Teachable in an online setting: There will be some things that benefit the most from in-person training; consider whether the subject is conducive to being taught online before picking a topic.
Some of the topics that I know work well in remote training sessions include software training, digital marketing, project management and customer service. Of course, there are plenty more topics you can choose from. Still feeling a little lost? Check online courses to get some fresh ideas.
Better yet, ask your team what topic are they interested in, and see which ones make sense for you as a business. Interaction with your team is essential in training, so be sure to keep an open communication channel with your employees to learn how they feel about the training and what you can do to improve it.
2. Think about the training lesson format
If you've been to more than a couple of training sessions, then you've surely come across those when someone is just talking to the camera for seemingly hours on end. Or you've likely attended a presentation where the trainer reads the slides. Both are capital mistakes for any training lesson, as they'll bore your workforce out of their minds.
If you compare those online training sessions with in-person training, in-person training often relies on more than just talking and slides: Those lessons use group activities, videos, hands-on practices, Q&As and more. Your remote training should have some of those elements, or, at the very least, some sort of interactivity to prevent attendees from getting bored.
That's trickier than it sounds, mainly because we all learn differently. For example, I like to read. I don't mind going through book after book to learn something. Some of my colleagues wouldn't learn anything if a video isn't involved. Take into account those different learning styles so you can better adjust your training programs.
In other words, your training sessions should include auditory, visual and kinesthetic aspects to keep everyone engaged. As you progress with your training plan, you'll be able to adjust depending on feedback from your workforce.
3. Rely on the proper tools
Picking the right topic and using the proper format is essential but not enough. You also need to think about the technologies that can help you boost both topic and format to achieve a fully immersive experience. Today, a lot of people think that remote training is only about using Zoom or Meet. While video conferencing software is obviously at the core of remote training, it's far from being the only tool that can work for your training lessons.
For instance, you can use those video conferencing applications for a lesson and then use Google Classroom to provide reading materials and videos. You can use Zoom polls to include a more interactive touch to a specific lesson. Or you can hire a learning management system that includes games, polls, evaluations, structured lessons and more.
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Thus, you can leverage the benefit of training tools, which have been thriving since the pandemic hit. You can add extensions to known platforms or use them separately to access multiple-choice tests, gameshow-type exercises, and even customized schedules for lessons, both for different individuals and groups.
Additionally, you have to take into account that not all software is the same. Some platforms will be more intuitive and easier to use; others offer more features, and others will require more computational power. Think about all of these things, as not everyone has the same tech savviness or has access to powerful tech equipment. You need to choose technologies that serve everyone in your workforce.
Keep in mind that there are many tools and platforms out there that can help you bring a more vivacious vibe to your training sessions. Don't settle for PowerPoint just because you know it well. Take some risks, include videos and games, and check new ways to get everyone involved.
4. Be mindful with training scheduling
When you have all of the above sorted out, schedule the training lessons, which can be somewhat difficult depending on how many people you need on board. It'd be easy to think that you can schedule a training session within business hours and expect everyone to show up (after all, they should be working!).
Remote working is characterized by being more flexible than in-office work. You can expect some people to develop more personalized business schedules that allow them to better balance work and personal life. Additionally, you have to consider that training sessions might have to contemplate schedules of people from different teams, so you have to find the right time for everyone.
What's more, you need to specify the duration of your training lessons. A one-day session might be enough for specific topics, but it's highly likely that you'll need more time for broader topics. That's especially true for complex topics (like the integration of new management tools or the implementation of a new work methodology). Don't pack an entire day to get it over with. It's better to spread content out so you don't burn out your employees.
Also, you have to consider training as an ongoing effort. The fact that you go through some lessons on a specific topic doesn't mean you shouldn't revisit it later on. Most business sectors change and evolve; you'll experience changes in your workforce over time. Not only do have to keep in mind the scheduling of a particular training session but also the scheduling of your overall training program.
The benefits of ongoing training
I can't think of any other way to reap the benefits of working remotely than to constantly train your workforce in the remote model's best practices. Tools change, processes change, people change, so keeping your workforce apprised of the latest applications, technologies, and techniques is something that will take you way more time than just a one-off training session.
If you develop a robust training program throughout the year, you'll have a more prepared workforce that can better tackle their day-to-day tasks in a work-from-home environment. Thus, you'll see that remote work can be an efficient alternative to in-house work, and you might understand why the new normal is already considering remote work as a great ally.