According to reporting by Global Workplace Analytics, the total number of remote employees has grown by 173% since 2005. This goes to show that working remotely isn’t just a fad but an entirely new reality for hundreds of millions of people.
If you are an organization that has been relying on remote employees for a while or is just starting, you may be wondering what the best practices for training remote employees are.
With workplace rules being reshaped continuously, it is important to adapt to the new circumstances, and this extends to the way you’re training employees. It’s usually not enough to employ the same techniques you did with workers who clocked in every day to work from a cubicle.
In order to help remote and distributed workforces keep up and thrive at the same time, organizations need to provide engaging and thoughtful training.
We compiled a list of the 10 best practices for training remote employees, so if you want to boost productivity and keep your distributed team happy, have a look at our list of practical tips and actionable advice.
1. Don’t attempt to re-create the in-person experience
If you are transitioning your in-person training for your remote team, it’s important not to try to re-create the in-person experience and translate it to an online environment. Take some time to rethink your activities and make the necessary changes to suit the challenges of the online environment.
Try to break down the learning process into small pieces because no one wants to sit it through a six-hour webinar. By chunking the learning at appropriate intervals, you can take more complex information and break it down into palatable pieces to avoid overloading your team with too much information.
By presenting information into small, digestible pieces, your team will have a better chance of processing and understanding the information. Break the content into multiple sessions and look into multiple opportunities for presenting the content to see what works best for your team. For example, you may want to create short instructional videos or interactive e-learning courses in addition to live webinars.
2. Make it all about the team
Working remotely can be isolating, mostly because it lacks the sense of community in an office environment. Remote workers may choose to work in public settings or have sporadic interactions with customers, but they certainly don’t have any colleagues to turn to or any watercooler moments to relax with their peers.
When training remote employees, it is essential to remind them that they are indeed part of something bigger. Make them feel like they operate in a team, even though the team might not be a visible one. For example, you can build human connection between remote colleagues by encouraging them to share their expertise with the team.
But it’s not all about work. It’s also vital for employees to feel that they can express some of their personal issues as well, so encourage frequent happy hours or informal chats over Slack in order for everyone to understand that they are members of a team.
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3. Keep the information centralized and accessible
When training remote employees, it’s important not to spread information too thinly over too many applications. If possible, try to centralize all learning material into a single platform, preferably one that makes it logistically easier for all employees to access.
This is a good way to make sure your employees don’t have to switch between programs to complete their learning constantly. When people experience a lot of friction in accessing learning, your project is likely to suffer low completion rates. This also means that you are wasting your time creating instructional content while people are missing out on vital information.
Remote employees perform better when they have access to seamless technology, preferably working with apps that mimic the ones they use in their leisure time. If you want your remote training processes to succeed, you need to keep your employees motivated. If you insist on delivering instructions in a medium that’s not engaging (for example, a 60+ minute instructional video or module), your team won’t feel inspired to complete it.
By delivering content that is easy to access and engaging, you can motivate your team and ensure their success in training, which results in the success of the entire project.
4. Make video a central part of training
Video is the perfect vehicle to deliver information when training remote employees not only because it’s the most engaging content format, but also because it adds a human touch and has the potential to create emotional ties.
Most people are drawn to video when it comes to receiving and digesting information. Many remote employees prefer it as a method of instruction because they can understand it quicker.
Humans process visual information in 250 milliseconds, and studies have shown that video activates over 50% of our brains, being a highly engaging medium. Moreover, you can use video to convey the most information to people using the least amount of effort. This is because video is an illustrative content format that is ideal for communication, instructions and training.
5. Set short-term goals with a firm direction
Employees who work remotely typically perform best when they have short-term goals because these allow them to stay focused while also increasing their productivity.
When you’re managing a remote team, it’s important to train your employees in a way that allows them to be focused on short-term goals while keeping the big picture in mind. You need to have a clear direction for every project so everyone knows what the destination is.
Try draft the plan that incorporates short-term goals for the employees to be focused on in order to increase performance. Once those goals are complete, you can move on to the next plan.
6. Make the most of technology
There would be no remote working in the absence of technology, but it’s important to know exactly how to harness its power to train remote employees and boost the productivity of the team.
Start by leaning into the tools you already have available, such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, and the office Slack channel, for example. These are essential tools to collaborate on projects, use for live-stream training, and post instructional videos.
Try to leverage technology when you create your training courses for the remote workforce. This could mean anything from using screenshots or videos to showcase the steps of a new process to making a database of sort instructional videos the entire team can have 24/7 access to.
No matter what type of technology you decide to use for training your remote employees, you should make sure that everyone gets plenty of opportunities to see each other’s faces or communicate in real-time via instant messages. This makes everyone feel more connected, which reduces loneliness and isolation while boosting productivity and motivation at the same time.
7. Focus on goals, not on numbers of hours worked
When transitioning from a traditional office environment to remote working, many employers worry that their team won’t spend their full workday actually plugging away in front of their screen. It’s important to understand that screen time doesn’t make sense with a remote team.
Instead, try to focus on goals. Multiple studies have already shown that remote workers are more satisfied, more productive, and economically viable to a company than those who work in an office setting. This happens even without set schedules, as employees are free to choose the workday schedule that works best for them.
If employees can achieve their goals efficiently, you shouldn’t worry about the number of hours they actually work. It is important to look at deliverables and goals only because that is what matters in the end.
When you are training remote employees, you should stress that everyone should work towards meeting the team’s goals in the best way possible.
8. Employ educational best practices
Even though this may seem rather obvious, it’s essential to pay attention to what makes a good learning experience before running virtual training. When dealing with employees who aren’t in the same room as you, you need to employ some tactics that you might overlook when conducting training in a traditional way.
Start by creating a preparation checklist that includes information about setting up the workspace, how to connect, and what to do when challenges arise. At the beginning of the training, you should provide a clear outline of the course flow and give everyone a heads up when Q&A periods or break times are coming up.
You should also try to make training as interactive as possible. Keep things engaging by conducting surveys or asking questions that actually relate to an individual’s experience.
Finally, try to use answers from the learners as a jumping-off point for new points of discussion. This helps students get involved with training and learn from each other.
It’s always a good idea to record some of your training sessions and play them afterward so you can notice areas where you can improve upon.
9. Track productivity regularly
To ensure that your trading practices are successful, it’s important to track the team’s productivity on a regular basis. It’s important not to mistake monitoring output with micromanaging, though, because the latter typically results in decreased motivation and lower output.
You need to have as much transparency as possible when it comes to remote work. Having a transparent workflow and goals is important to keep everything structured and organized, making sure that every member of the team knows how they fit in and what’s required of them.
Communicate your expectations to the team and then make sure to check on their activity regularly.
Transparency is important for maintaining productivity in a remote or distributed team, but this doesn’t mean that you should require your remote employees to take regular screenshots or install any kind of invasive tracking technology.
When training remote employees, it’s important to stress that the core foundation of the team is a joint effort towards mutual goals.
10. Have reasonable expectations
When defining project deliverables or working hours, it’s vital to make sure that employees are given enough clarity and that the tasks you are asking of them can actually be completed on schedule.
Unlike in the case of the traditional work environment, there are multiple variables that you need to take into account when establishing delivery schedules. It’s always a good idea to know every individual’s capability and be open to the team’s opinions to get a complete picture about the kind of output you can expect from them.
When working on multiple tasks simultaneously, your team might lose track of what was accomplished and what’s expected from them. Having an end-of-day report summary ready for the team is a good idea because it helps you outlining potential issues, identify opportunities for improvement, and decide whether you were short and long-term expectations are indeed reasonable.
Training remote employees is different from traditional training, and the best solution to engage them is to be transparent and open-minded. Holding your employees accountable for deliverables and meeting goals instead of micromanaging them is key to building a productive remote or distributed team.
At the end of the day, remote employees are more focused and productive if they know exactly what is expected of them and have all the training and materials needed to complete their tasks.
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