A version of this post was originally published on September 8, 2020, in Training Journal.
Remote employee training is a hot topic right now, as a direct consequence of the global health crisis. Even though remote work and online training have been around for a while, many businesses have had (and some are still having) a hard time adjusting to the new realities of work, including putting essential employee training online.
Change is indeed hard, but many challenges are, in fact, opportunities in disguise. At the end of the day, a remote workforce still consists of people who need to constantly develop their skills and competencies to better perform their jobs, and L&D specialists still need to design training programs that meet these people’s learning needs. Using the online environment to do so is a change in the form of training, not in its contents.
Any successful training program has at least three intertwined aspects: content, time, and people. It has to provide the right content, at the right time, to the right people. To achieve this — whether through traditional, instructor-led training or online training — talent development professionals have to personalize learning experiences based on employees’ various backgrounds and differences in knowledge and experience, and align them with the desired learning objectives.
How to provide personalized training to remote employees
Remote work has its own characteristics, with both benefits and drawbacks. To thrive in it, remote employees need to learn how to minimize the negative issues and boost the good ones.
Instructional designers and trainers need to step up their game and create and deliver training programs that meet the specific needs of a remote workforce. Here are the first three steps to take:
Design on-demand training
Remote employees need to learn how to use new online technologies, manage their time and other resources well without direct supervision, focus on tasks and keep their motivation, avoid distractions, follow cybersecurity best practices, communicate and collaborate with others virtually, all while keeping up with the ever-changing developments of their industry.
To help them develop all these skills and bridge any competency gaps, as an instructional designer, you should first perform a training needs analysis. This can be based on the current requirements of the workforce to identify what specific aspects have to be included in the training materials. Then you need to create different training content that is relevant to learners’ needs and also design that content in multiple formats.
Remember that employee skills development requires ongoing support, no matter if they work remotely or not. Remote training activities have to happen continuously until the necessary skills and behaviors are embedded in the organizational (virtual) culture.
MATRIX White Paper: Thriving through change with continuous skills development for your workforce
Embrace asynchronous training
If the first step was about training content, the second one is about time. The most important thing to always keep in mind when adapting any training activity for the online environment is quite simple: online learning doesn’t have to happen simultaneously as online teaching. After all, learning is an activity, not a place.
Asynchronous (or self-paced) training gives more agency to employees as learners. When employees can decide when they learn, how much they learn, or what course or module they’ll take, they’ll be more invested in each training activity and learn and retain better.
Allowing employees to access training at the point of need is probably one of the most efficient strategies to ensure learning happens. In many cases, remote workers will find that an asynchronous training model is sufficient for their learning and development needs.
Read more: Exploring 5 types of asynchronous training
Remote work and remote talent development can’t possibly happen without technology. There are many types of online tools remote workers have to use. First, there are project management and online collaboration tools that simplify working processes. Video-conferencing tools then enable more direct communication within remote teams.
But the most important of all is a learning management system (LMS), as it incorporates all the training content and provides an environment in which learners can access that content. An LMS also suggests various topics based on the curriculum and employees’ personal interests through adaptive learning features.
A business LMS is a critical component of any online training program, allowing L&D specialists to design and deliver training to all employees, across departments, work experience, tenure, and location, thus helping remote workers build the skills needed to perform in a virtual work environment.
All in all
Remote workforces will probably become the norm in the future, so company managers and L&D specialists need to set up procedures and best practices for the way people will continue to learn and develop professionally. They need to invest in and implement effective online training programs that provide personalized learning experiences and facilitate continuous skill development for each employee, working on the premises or remotely.
Graham is the CEO and Founder of CYPHER LEARNING and MATRIX. He is a serial entrepreneur, e-learning enthusiast, published author, and educator.