Several companies around the world have found themselves pivoting their training initiatives from primarily in-person to exclusively online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
By definition, remote training constitutes any type of corporate learning that is not tied to a physical location.
Though most companies have embraced digital learning to some degree, there is likely room for improvement. Why is this?
For many, it will have been a change implemented quickly, in response to a crisis. It will also likely be their first time training employees remotely. Training a remote workforce shares many similarities with supporting an office-based one - providing clear instruction and making feedback a two-way street - but it is also fundamentally different.
Read on for our six best practices for training remote employees - a must read for any Operations or L&D (Learning & Development) Manager looking to deliver a remote training program that is really a cut above the rest.
Training ideas for remote employees
1. Keep it centralised, accessible and engaging
What is the best way to train remote employees?
It’s important to not spread information too thinly over too many applications. Where possible, centralise all learning material into a single platform. This makes it logistically easier for employees - they aren’t constantly having to switch between programs to complete learning.
The more friction people experience in accessing learning, the more likely it is that your content will suffer low completion rates. This means you are creating content in vain and that your people are missing out on vital information. People are looking for seamless technology and ease of use that mimics the apps they browse in their leisure time.
For remote training to succeed, employees must be self-motivated. If learning is being delivered in an unengaging medium (e.g. a 40+ minute instructional videos and hour long modules), they will not feel inspired to complete it of their own accord.
Delivering content that is engaging is at the crux of motivating individuals, securing their success, which in turn secures the success of the whole unit, known as Workforce Success.
2. Make it communal
Being a remote worker can be isolating. It lacks the sense of community and camaraderie of an office environment. A remote worker is by nature alone - they may have sporadic interaction with customers, or choose to work in a public setting, but they don’t have colleagues they can turn to, or “watercooler moments” with peers.
Cigna’s 2020 Loneliness Index found that remote workers are more likely than their non-remote counterparts to always or sometimes feel alone. They are less engaged, more likely to churn and less productive. Their work is 12% lower in quality, they are 2 times more likely to miss work due to illness and 5 times more likely to miss it due to stress.
Remind people they are part of something bigger, and operate in a team, though this team may not be visible.
One way to execute this and build human connection between remote colleagues is by encouraging individuals to share expertise within teams and between departments via video.
This promotes knowledge exchange and peer-to-peer learning, while simultaneously replicating that all important “human touch”.
3. Use video
Video is both the most engaging content format someone can consume, and a means through which to stave off loneliness by creating emotional ties between colleagues and adding a human touch.
Humans are naturally drawn to video as a way of receiving information. This is perhaps to do with the fact that we are able to understand it quicker - we process visual information in 250 milliseconds. Video is also highly engaging, activating over 50% of our brains.
Video is also the most illustrative of the content formats, i.e. you can convey the most to people using the least effort. This makes it the ideal medium through which to upskill, communicate, instruct or train employees.
4. Set expectations
Before you send learning out, make sure each piece has objectives attached to it. Not only will this help you craft the learning material and make it relevant to begin with, but it will motivate individuals to achieve whatever learning outcomes you have specified.
Goals are powerful. They enable learners to understand what is expected of them and adjust their behavior accordingly. Beyond this, goals also create a sense of purpose.
Humans are relevancy and goal-oriented - without knowing why we should do something, and without a goal to aspire to, professionally or otherwise, there is nothing to give meaning to our actions or drive us forward.
The importance of purpose to employees can’t be underestimated - 90% of professionals would sacrifice 23% of their future earnings for work that is always meaningful.
5. Gamify learning
Remote training can be made more engaging in several ways. One is by using a remote training tool that provides learners with gamified learning experience.
Gamification is when the mechanics, principles and strategies of game-design are applied to a non-gaming context. In terms of remote training, the context is learning.
Gamification motivates learners by triggering dopamine release in the brain. This makes learners want to repeat learning as they associate it with a feel-good factor.
Through inclusion of features like points, levels and leaderboards, learners can see their performance level and where they sit organizationally in relation to peers. This inspires healthy competition, motivating learners to repeat or carry out new learning so as to surpass colleagues.
Gamification makes learning engaging, interactive, immersive and fun. It taps into peoples’ extrinsic motivation - they act so as to attain a reward. In gamification this reward translates to a badge, or position on a leaderboard.
6. Check in with people
Last but by no means least, to successfully execute remote training on a large scale, you must create a dialogue and empower your people with a voice. Information and training can’t just be a one way barrage - it should be an ongoing, two-way stream of communication.
Related: What is a ‘Pulse Survey’?
Checking in with your people becomes even more important when you can't see them. Humans communicate with each other both verbally (e.g. speech) and non-verbally (e.g. body language). The combination of these two forms of communication allows us to understand how those around us might be feeling in a given moment.
When an employee is remote, they technically cannot carry out either, at least not as effectively - you can’t read body language in an email.
Related: Giving the modern workforce a Voice
Measuring the ‘pulse’ of your workforce is key to successfully managing remote employees, who are more at risk of loneliness and the consequent compromised wellbeing and mental health. When people feel heard, a byproduct is that they are 4.6 times more likely to perform at their very best.
So make a point to check in regularly with your people by sending out short but frequent surveys. These should be related to both your learning material and employee wellness.