Training remote workers can be one of the biggest challenges for a company with a distributed model.
Smart companies are already embracing remote work. Offering this style of work helps recruitment and reduces turnover, stress, and real estate costs.
As many as 86% of people prefer to work alone for better focus. Meanwhile, two-thirds of managers say their employees are more productive when they work remotely. Of course, not every job can be done remotely, but Global Workplace Analytics found that half of jobs are compatible with telecommuting. And up to 90% of workers want to work from home or another location outside a traditional office.
With all these benefits, it’s no wonder more companies are trying out distributed work arrangements. For the most experienced employees, the transition to remote work is often smooth. But what about new hires? How do you train remote employees?
Remote Training Starts with Recruiting
AnswerConnect has hundreds of employees working from home in several states and three countries. We’ve had to learn how to train remote employees. The process, our trainers say, starts before the job offer is made—with recruiting.
Hiring a good remote employee is not too different from hiring someone to work in your office. Technology skills are important for most jobs. They’re even more critical for remote work.
“You need someone fairly tech savvy,” says Lucy, one of our trainers. That’s because remote communication relies heavily on various apps and platforms. Remote access and support software like TeamViewer can allow your IT team to get remote workers set up and running. Still, remote workers need to be able to troubleshoot common issues themselves to make sure they stay connected.
Our trainers say there’s a silver lining to technology issues coming up in training. “I tell them, I want tech issues to happen now rather than when you’re out of training,” says Ciara. “That way, we can tell you how to fix it when you’re by yourself.”
Use a Learning Management System
A learning management system, or LMS, is an online platform for assembling, distributing, and tracking your training content. We use AdaptiveU, a system we developed internally. AdaptiveU even has a free version you can try yourself.
Using an LMS for remote training has several benefits.
Having a single home for all your training materials helps various trainers collaborate. “Four of us trainers putting our heads together for one video” makes for better results, says Lucy.
Another benefit of an LMS is the reporting. Trainers don’t have to wonder who’s completed which parts of the curriculum. The LMS tracks all that for you.
An LMS can help with trainee motivation as well. Giving points or small rewards for completing training modules, and introducing some light-hearted competition, can make training fun. “You want to be the one who has the most badges,” Lucy says.
“When I saw how training was handled through AdaptiveU,” says Trina, another AnswerConnect trainer, “that pretty much sealed the deal. I wanted to be a trainer.”
Train Remote Employees with Video
While your entire training program doesn’t have to be on video, it helps to mix synchronous and asynchronous elements.
- Synchronous: At the same time. The trainer and all trainees work through material together, such as in a video hangout.
- Asynchronous: Not at the same time. Trainees work independently at their own pace.
Working with video, Ciara says, helps trainers keep tabs on the energy levels of the class. When you’re on a video hangout all day, she says, it’s important to “make sure we stop if we’re getting those glassy eyes. On video, we’re able to see that,” she says.
Jacky, a trainer for AnswerConnect, says doing things synchronously, as a group, helps trainees by giving them a chance to ask questions. When new hires are sent off to work through too much material on their own, she says, “they may keep watching even though they’re lost about what is going on.”
Consistency for Effective Online Training
These tools and techniques all contribute to one of the most important goals for remote employee training: consistency.
When employees work in different locations, you sometimes have to take extra steps to ensure things are done the same way at different times and by different people.
A learning management system helps make sure your various trainers teach the same material in the same way. “They can’t say, my trainer didn’t show me that,” Lucy says, because each trainer uses the same online course materials.
Another LMS benefit is that different trainers can substitute for one another. If one trainer is out, another one can easily pick up where he or she left off.
Involve Leadership in Training
“We recently started a who’s who segment,” Jacky says, inviting company executives and leaders from different departments. Having these guests explain what they do and why gives trainees a better sense of the company as a whole, beyond the role they were hired for.
For AnswerConnect, having our founder come in to share his passion for what, how, and why we do what we do makes a big impression. When our CEO joins the video call to meet the trainees, she often shares a story about how she nearly quit on her second day. Nine years later, she leads the company.
Giving trainees a sense of who’s running things boosts their engagement and makes them feel like they’re a part of something bigger. When new hires see your leadership taking the time to make a personal connection with them, it makes them feel valued. That translates into higher job satisfaction, lower turnover, and better performance. It’s a small investment that pays off big!
Training can be an opportunity to share what sets your company apart. Trina says AnswerConnect trainees are especially excited when the get a chance to (virtually) meet John, who tells them about the software we developed internally—programs they’ll use every day on the job.
Whatever it might be that sets your company apart, make sure your new hires know about it! Not only will they be more excited about working for your organization, they’ll understand it better as well.
Train New Hires on Your Mission
Your trainees probably already know what you do, for the most part. Your training will teach them how you do it. But will they understand why? As Simon Sinek says, starting with why is important for any organization.
At AnswerConnect, our why has to do with the Triple Bottom Line, and how we free up business owners to work wherever they are, and keep in contact with their customers from anywhere. We believe this model of work is better for people, planet, and profit—and we make sure our trainees know it, too.
Whatever your company’s mission might be, why not put it in your training from day one? When you include why along with what and how in your training curriculum, your employees will have a greater sense of purpose. When people know why they’re doing something, rather than just blindly following a process, they perform better.
Free Demo from the AdaptiveU LMS
If you’re thinking about trying remote training for your business, take a look at AdaptiveU’s free demo, DemoU. But whether you decide to use AdaptiveU, another LMS, or something you devise yourself, putting thought into your remote training will pay dividends in the future.
After all, your company is only as good as your employees. And your employees are only as good as your recruiting and training.
With a little planning, your remote employees will be well trained, productive, and happy!
Have you tried remote training for your business? Let us know what worked and what didn’t in the comments.