With how monumental 2020 was in breaking the office status quo, it’s not surprising that everyone’s talking about the remote workforce and how to make this new way of working work for them.
Between buying employees headsets for Zoom meetings, reminding everyone to mute themselves when they’re not talking, and having to deal with pet or child-related interruptions during the working day, chances are that there’s one major thing that’s slipped by the wayside.
Training your employees.
If you’re reading this, then you’ve already realized that either your current training strategy isn’t working, or that you’ve not put one in place since your employees either moved to or were hired remotely. This is the first step in putting together a comprehensive remote employee training plan.
Thankfully, the next steps don’t have to be difficult. Here’s how you can train your remote employees without hassle.
So how do you train remote employees, Anyway?
Until recently, training employees meant gathering your team together for presentations, using an intranet-hosted software suite, or sending them to remote courses. Either way, you were able to see if your employees were engaging with your training schedule because...well, you could physically see if they were or not.
Training remote employees comes with a whole new set of challenges you’ll need to account for.
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Challenges of remote employee training
Lack of face-to-face training
Previously, it’s likely that certain training modules (like cybersecurity, health and safety, or compliance) will have been taught to whole teams or departments at once. If your company has never hired remote workers before, then it’s likely that you’ll be wondering how to adapt face-to-face training to this new way of working.
Thankfully, with the right software, there’s no reason that previous face-to-face training modules will have to change drastically. Changing your training for remote workers is a perfect opportunity to re-evaluate whether this training needs to be done by an entire team at once, or if it can be completed individually using training software.
Timing and scheduling issues
In a similar vein, in-house training before would usually have been done on a specific day that was easy to schedule around. However, given that remote work means working at home around other commitments like children or pets, everyone now has conflicting schedules.
The best solution to this problem is to schedule training sessions weeks in advance so that participants can plan around it. Plus, thanks to modern software, you can record training sessions to make them available for participants who can’t attend in real time.
Given that remote employee training relies heavily on technology like voice call software and other learning environments, technical issues will always present a problem. Whether that’s issues with the software you’re using, the employee’s Internet connection, or the hardware that’s being used, technical issues can easily derail training sessions.
Running technical tests with any new software before your training session is a good way to make sure everything is working properly from your end. It’s also worth scheduling extra time during a training session in case participants have to fix any technical issues from their side.
Issues with accessing information
Like this article mentioned above, it can be an issue to run training sessions when that information is traditionally held on an intranet that can only be accessed inside the office. When your employees aren’t working in the same place, accessing information is no longer as easy as walking up to someone’s desk and asking for it. So, it takes longer for your employees to get the information they need.
To solve this problem, you need to make sure that employees have access to a central folder where all of the training information they need is kept. If new documents need to be added, you need to add this before the next training session so they don’t have to waste time looking for them.
How to deliver remote employee training
Given the rise of remote working, you’re in a fortunate position where there are thousands of software solutions out there to help you deliver your training schedule. However, before you dive into the training program you’ve got idealized in your head, hold your horses - there’s more to learn.
Asynchronous vs. synchronous training methods
How do you prefer to deliver your training? What’s best for your team members and your business?
Most modern businesses use a blended approach of asynchronous training (where employees learn at their own pace) and synchronous training (where a group of employees attends instructor-led classroom training). However, one style of training might work best for your employees than the other.
Asynchronous training is brilliant for remote employees because it means they can work around their schedules, and this can be completed without needing an instructor. However, it can also be pretty isolating, particularly if your employees struggle to contact their managers if they need help.
Synchronous training, on the other hand, is great if you want to train your whole team at once. However, you’ll need to block out time for this type of training, and it often requires your employees to find childcare or other support to avoid distractions.
Once you’ve figured out what style of training you want to go for, you need to kit your instructors and employees out with quality webinar software. While you can use platforms like Microsoft Teams, alternatives like Zoom or Zoho have more features that allow for seamless learning experience.
Alternatively, you might want to consider a virtual learning platform like Larksuite or GoToMeeting, as these have been designed to easily facilitate remote learning.
E-learning management systems (LMS)
You’ll also need to invest in an e-learning management system, or LMS, to manage your remote training program. This is vital for the asynchronous part of your training strategy, as it’ll allow your employees to access learning materials, complete courses, and take graded assessments without having to have an instructor present.
Software suites like TalentLMS will do all of this, and it’ll also provide the tools you need to build custom training courses too.
You also need to consider how you’re going to create training materials for your employees. While you might be able to scan and import previous training materials, you’ll also need to consider virtual presentations and other visual aids for courses.
The Microsoft Office suite will often offer plenty of tools for creating training slideshows and worksheets, which is a cheap way of supporting remote training. However, if you want something more advanced, most LMS software tools will let you build custom courses.
If you want to build virtual roleplay scenarios, create videos, or build polls or assessments, and you’re not using an LMS tool, then you’ll need to look for specialized software to help you.
What do remote employees need training on?
Let’s answer this question with another: what do you usually train your in-house employees on?
Because the answer really is simple. You need to train your remote employees on all the same skills. These employees still need to understand health and safety, compliance, and know how to use the digital tools your workplace uses.
Saying that, your remote employees will also need additional training to account for them working at home. So, let’s go over what remote employees need to know in addition to your standard training process.
With employees left to manage their own IT systems at home, they need to understand how to keep their devices and their data secure. Cybersecurity training is essential for your remote workforce as it prevents data losses and breaches that can occur when proprietary information is sent via unsecured networks.
When you onboard a new employee, they won’t necessarily know how their job role fits in with the wider company. Often, this can leave new remote employees feeling isolated as they’re not sure what they’re responsible for. Training employees on their role, expectations within it, and how it relates to their team can help them understand why their role is important.
Whether your remote employees are new to working at home or they’ve never set foot in your office building, developing a company culture is vital to maintaining a productive remote workforce.
Working from home can be extremely isolating, so promoting company culture through training sessions, team-building exercises, and even dedicated “watercooler discussion” time can make a huge difference. By using this time to run informal check-ins, quizzes, or even interactive games, you can strengthen employee engagement and help new hires get oriented with the business’ culture.
How to train remote employees well
With all of this being said, it’s not enough to simply throw together a training session and hope for the best. Make sure you learn how to make remote training work for your employees before you get started.
Schedule training sessions
With your remote workforce facing more distractions during the day than if they were in the office, it’s easy for training sessions to slip their minds. Once you’ve designed your training schedule, make sure that each session’s date and time is communicated to your employees at least one week in advance. Even better, do this via a calendar invite so the session is automatically booked in when they accept.
Giving your employees a good amount of notice means they can find childcare or other support so they can be completely focused.
Go for a test run
When you’re getting ready for a remote training session, whether that’s an instructor-led class or you’re onboarding a new employee to your LMS, there’s no such thing as too many test runs. This makes sure that the software you’re using works on both your end and your employees’ so there are no hiccups along the way.
If you’re running a team training session, then send the link out ahead of time and ask employees to test it and report back any problems.
Make the rules clear
While video conferencing technology has given us the ability to do remote training, etiquette in these meetings can be difficult, particularly for employees who are used to in-person training. When you send out remote training invitations, make it clear how participants are expected to behave and who they need to talk to if they have issues.
Common rules include:
- Muting your microphone unless you’re speaking
- Mute mobile phones and email notifications
- Use the “raise hand” function when you need to ask a question or seek clarification
With both synchronous and asynchronous remote training, your participants need to know that they can ask for help with their training and seek out additional support when they need it. Working remotely can often feel isolating, so to build trust with your employees, make sure they know who can offer support for each training session.
Most importantly, as a business leader, you need to make sure that those designated support avenues will actually provide that support for your employees.
How to train remote employees: in summary
Training your remote workforce doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, once you’ve got your head around the problems that come with people working remotely, it can be just as simple as training your in-house staff. While working remotely can be isolating for employees, and you don’t have the same level of supervision as you would do if they were in the office, there’s nothing to say that you can’t run engaging, fun, and valuable training sessions with your remote teams.
Whether you want to run instructor-led sessions or use e-learning software so they can learn at their own pace (or do both!) is up to you. But, with such a wide range of tools available to support the remote working revolution, you can make remote training a breeze.