Remote working has taken off in the last couple of years, and this new way of working isn’t going away anytime soon. It is estimated that by 2025, 70% of work will be done remotely. As with anything, this comes with its pros and cons. One of the biggest challenges with hiring remote workers is delivering a solid virtual training program.
Hiring remote workers is a great way to scale your business at speed. But there’s a risk of high turnover if remote workers begin to feel isolated and disconnected from their work due to physical distance. It's a challenge to make sure they feel confident in their role and part of the team.
To maintain employee satisfaction throughout your whole workforce, you need to know how to build an employee training plan for remote workers. That’s where this simple guide is here to help.
Step 1. Ask yourself what you want from your Virtual Training program
Transferring your in-person training to virtual content isn’t as simple as copying and pasting. There are a lot of necessary changes and inputs you have to make for your virtual training program to be effective. It's most likely you will want your virtual employees to hone the same skills as the rest of your team. Therefore, the first question to ask yourself is:
What do you want from your workforce as a whole?
Even in the early stages of creating a virtual training program, it’s important to consider what you want from your workforce as a whole—consider the employee life cycle. Don't isolate those working remotely by thinking of them as different from the rest of your team. It's about achieving the same results, but acknowledging you'll use different methods to get there.
Here are three examples of attributes you might like your workforce to have and challenges to bear in mind when trying to achieve them virtually:
Competent and confident workers
To achieve a confident and competent workforce you must provide individual training that is role-specific. Consider building an employee development plan. For example, before leaving someone in charge of firewall monitoring, train them in the tool you use to monitor a firewall.
Adequate training in role specificities will save you time in the long run. If people are under-trained in these areas they will be forced to ask questions as they go. Learning in the workplace in person is one thing, but learning virtually can be confusing if clear instruction isn’t given. Rather than face an inbox thread of question-filled emails, go into clear detail during initial training. It will make your life easier further down the line.
An inclusive workforce
You can’t simply create email with custom domain and think that your job of banding together the workforce is done. There’s a lot of behavioural training that goes into creating an inclusive workplace environment. This might include cross-culture training and communication training.
Inclusivity is heavily dependent on equality in communication and relationships. For remote workers, communication and forming relationships with co-workers is challenging. People working from home miss out on those all-important in-person connections. Messages and emails are open to interpretation, and miscommunication can lead to people not feeling valued.
A positive team culture
Creating a positive team culture takes continued effort. There need to be clear departmental and organizational goals. Having communal goals is the first step in eliminating chances of tension. People also need to be flexible and understanding of one another.
Making sure a newly-hired remote worker feels part of the team is one of your biggest challenges. Onboarding buddies for new hires are a common way to combat this challenge. Remote workers lack the in-person connections we so often take for granted. If anything, training remote employees demands more emphasis on psychological well-being in the workplace. Innovation is needed when coming up with ways to ensure remote trainees feel part of the team and don’t feel isolated in the long run.
Step 2. Prepare
Outline a plan of short-term and long-term goals
Before diving into creating your virtual training program, you need to create some overall goals. This outlined plan will keep you on track when you inevitably spend too long fiddling with an interactive presentation. Having a point of reference for your short-term and long-term goals will guide you through, even when frustrating technical difficulties occur.
A short-term goal might be for everyone to understand your website. For new remote workers, you'd conduct this type of training early on as a form of introduction to your company. Don’t worry, you don’t have to sit through telling them how much your domain name cost or what an AI domain means. You should, however, guide them through your site via a screen-share.
This short-term goal can be easily achieved, and will undoubtedly leave employees feeling more comfortable when dealing with customer queries. If you have gone through a recent website migration, be sure to guide both new and old employees through your site. You might have one of the best personalization websites out there, so make sure your whole team knows it!
Long-term goals are just as important to consider because they act as the underlying motivators for each virtual training session. An example of a long-term business goal might be to double your number of customers by the end of the year. With this in mind, the virtual training you deliver would prioritize developing employees' customer service skills.
Sharing long-term goals can increase a sense of camaraderie and help remote workers feel less isolated. Through publicizing a collective goal you are encouraging the philosophy that through working together, something great can be achieved.
Pre-plan your method of communication
With each piece of training, you are going to have to adjust the method of communication. For example, video chat might be the most effective method for behavioural training, because it allows room for discussion and questions. It's a case of trial and error.
Whether you decide to deliver a training module over email, PowerPoint, or video, be sure to check the quality of your chosen method. You might decide Zoom isn't for you because you require a higher image quality. If this is the case, find an alternative to Zoom that matches your delivery goals.
Step 3. Deliver
Leave plenty of time to practice presenting your training content
After all that groundwork, be sure to leave yourself enough time to practice the delivery of your ideas. It’s not easy to transition from planning, to creating, to delivering virtual content.
Regardless of how much time and energy you put into an idea, if it is presented poorly, your employees won't find it engaging. To deliver engaging training, your communication skills need to be top notch. The best thing you can do to ensure you’re ready to present is leave enough time to practice.
Virtual training requires you to simultaneously focus on technology as well as what you’re saying. If you’re presenting a PowerPoint, practice by setting up a voice recorder and, as you speak, move through the visual content you’re going to present.
20% of remote workers claim that the biggest difficulty they face with working from home is communication. Don’t let this be the case for your team! Put as much effort into practicing your delivery as you do into planning the training and creating your content.
Ensure learning sticks with mentors and peer coaching
Many corporate training initiatives involve online courses and seminars. Although they are important and will not likely disappear anytime soon, there are better ways to make learning stick. By pairing employees with mentors, they can discuss what was learned during training as well as the goals they have for their careers. It makes it more relevant and meaningful. Mentors can reinforce what's learned as well as provide additional guidance and advice.
In addition to mentors, employees should also be paired with one another for peer coaching. Similar to mentorship, employees can build on what they’re learned together by discussing what their goals are and how they’re working towards them. It’s a different kind of relationship than a mentor-mentee relationship, but still very impactful. Peers can instill some healthy competition and accountability.
Both mentors and peer-to-peer learning benefits employee development.
Step 4. Track and get feedback
The only way to truly know if a virtual training program is going well is to find out from your employees. Send out a survey asking for feedback on your training program. Be sure to investigate what is working well and which areas need improvement. If your training program is flexible, you’re at a huge advantage, as you can incorporate changes throughout.
Through using the feedback you can begin to compare your virtual training program to in-person training. Being able to spot gaps will show you what needs improving in both in-person and virtual training programs.
If you choose to use a tracking tool, rather than a survey, try not to focus too much on the clock. Whilst the time it takes for someone to complete training can be a useful indicator of ability, it's not everything. What's more important is assessing whether employees are reaching their set goals.
Now's the time to start
Now you know how to conduct a solid virtual training program for employees, it's time to get going. It takes a while to adjust to virtual training, but having a solid training program plan in place is a great way to start. Putting time into your virtual training will undoubtedly help your company in the long run.
Feedback is the key to improvement. If employees aren't connecting with a program there is no point in continuing with it. Irrespective of how much time you put into planning virtual training sessions, the only way to find out its effectiveness is to give it a go. Virtual training programs will differ between companies and teams. Continuous development is the only way to ensure you're building a future-ready organization.
Francis King leads customer acquisition at OnlyDomains, a domain management solution that offers global services and support that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. Francis has been a part of the team since 2009. He is our go-to guy for everything online advertising. Originally from Melbourne, Francis cannot go a day without lifting weights; he is considering taking on Jiu-Jitsu next. He has also written for Zumvu and Trujay.