In the ever more diverse modern workplace, the amount of remote workers is increasing on a daily basis. Recent surveys show that around 70% of employees worldwide work remotely at least once a week. This number has increased in recent years alongside further advances in communication technologies, creating a more dispersed workforce.
Alongside the increase in the overall amount of remote workers, the demand for flexible work from employees is increasing as well. Roughly one third of American workers say they would change jobs for one that allowed them to work off site, meaning businesses looking to attract employees could use remote work as an incentive.
While advances in technology provide access to a wider global talent pool and allow businesses to grant their employees the perk of flexible working conditions, remote employees present a unique set of challenges. These challenges are no more obvious than in employee training.
Getting remote workers onboarded, trained and up to speed requires a certain finesse. Without the luxury of learning through direct observations and everyday interactions in the office, remote workers need a special approach. Below are some guidelines for how you can best train your remote workers and make sure that they are ready to perform.
Set Clear Expectations and Communication Guidelines
The success of your remote training program will largely lay in agreeing on how you will communicate (email, Instant Messenger, Phone, etc.), what the employee’s learning goals are, and why this is all important. Therefore, the best way to begin any training program is by setting clear expectations. This is especially important for remote training given the lack of direct in-person supervision during the process.
Start off by having a discussion around the each sides expectations for the training process. This is best done with an ‘in person’ video call, so that both sides feel more comfortable sharing. Don’t forget that this is a two way conversation, and it’s equally important to both speak and listen during this process.
Allow for Personalization
Letting remote workers learn at their own pace can help to keep them engaged, a key challenge for e-learning. Creating short webinars and other online content can allow the trainee to choose the pace and way in which they learn, which can help ensure that their learning is lasting. While the ultimate goals should be clearly laid out and agreed upon in the beginning (see the previous point), the path to reaching these goals should be flexible.
Focus on Mission and Values
Between soft and hard skills, the latter elements in a remote training program can often be the easier of the two. Remote employees don’t benefit from the daily office interactions that can reinforce your business’ mission and values. That’s why it’s important to be purposeful in how you approach questions around what drives and unites your team.
The best approach here is to highlight your organization’s mission and values through real life cases in order to give your remote employees a clear idea of what lies behind the words. Discussing specific situations in which the trainee can see your values in action will help them to translate them into action later.
Don’t Only Tell, but Show
Try to make the training as practical as possible through clear demonstrations of the different processes you are covering. This can be done through recorded demonstrations, but in order to be most effective you should find ways to demonstrate ‘in person.’ One of the best ways to do this is through screen sharing software which allows you to remotely take control of the trainees computer. The most successful remote training programs know very well what screen sharing is, and actively include it in their sessions.
Enlist the Help of Different Team Members
Training programs, particularly those at the beginning of employment, are the perfect chance to begin building professional connections between colleagues. Given that remote workers won’t have the benefit of random ‘water cooler’ talk where they can get to know their colleagues, it’s important that you use the training period to actively integrate them into the team.
Invite as wide a range of colleagues as possible to take part in the remote training process. Through these interactions you’ll begin building a strong team, while at the same time enlisting the experience and expertise of a broader group of people to lead the training sessions.
Hold Frequent Progress Meetings
When working with remote employees it’s crucial to build a personal connection. Frequently review progress towards goals through one on one video meetings in order to maintain the personal element of your training program. This will also give the trainee time to ask any burning questions and share any feedback they have regarding the process. Such two-way communication is crucial for continuously improving your training programs in order to best meet the needs of your remote workers.
Engaging remote workers can be a huge benefit for your business. The flexibility that remote work provides in terms of accessing a wider pool of talent, and providing a desirable work experience, can help accelerate your business’ growth and development. In order to make the best use of this trend, however, you must ensure that you have the training structures in place to support your remote workers and help them reach their fullest potential, regardless of where they are in the world.