As the numbers roll in citing the increased productivity, efficiency, and savings sparked by remote work, businesses are taking notice and making changes. Since 2005, telecommuting has increased by 80%, according to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, and the trend continues to rise. But as more companies add working from home to their business model, they find themselves facing new challenges—such as training a remote team. Flying employees to a training location can be costly and time-consuming, but without face-to-face interaction how do you ensure employees are engaged and ready?
We thought our training department would be the perfect place to gather some insider tips and tricks for training remote workers. Responsible for training a team of 500+ remote employees, Ciara Sellars, Jacky Alvarado, and Trina Mendez share their top 3 ways to ensure a distributed team feels connected:
You’re only as good as your tools
There are many programs and applications out there designed for online communication at little to no cost. Choose ones that work across multiple platforms and operating systems. “It can be challenging if there are internet or computer issues,” says Ciara. “We all have different computer brands and models and many operating system versions. If a technical issue arises for one person it can potentially hold the class up or cause one associate to get behind.”
Luckily, cloud-based universal apps aren’t hard to find. Google Hangouts works fantastically for video conferencing with multiple people and has the added benefit of screensharing. Skype is excellent for chat and one-on-one calls. YouTube is quickly becoming less of a viral video vehicle and more of a resource for uploading and sharing educational videos. We use our own free app AdaptiveU allowing us to create an online university complete with badges and rewards.
Keep the dialogue flowing
Employee engagement is probably the number one issue that arises when in-person communication is lost. To counteract this, Jacky recommends a direct approach. “I keep trainees engaged by asking them questions, especially after watching videos,” she says. Asking questions encourages participation and is a great way to check the temperature of your class. Try to aim for open-ended questions that require the trainee to think, as opposed to repeating back what they’ve just heard.
Trina finds getting a little personal helps build rapport. “I like to provide my class with real-life stuff that has happened to me when I was just starting. I find that when trainees know you were in their shoes, it tends to bring a certain level of appreciation.”
Maintain an open-door policy
Asking questions is a two-way street. While group discussions are vital for an active, engaged training team, one-on-one conversation is equally important, especially for those who feel uncomfortable speaking up in front of others. “I encourage my class to please come to me for help,” says Trina. “I want them to feel that they have always have someone to go to.”
An open-door policy can be as simple as sharing a chat handle or email address. The key is creating an environment in which your employees feel they’ll be heard if additional assistance is needed. Chances are if they have a question, someone else in the class is thinking it too.
You may not be able to incorporate trust falls or catered lunches into your remote training program. But that doesn’t mean your trainees have to feel distant. Making full use of the many communication tools available and encouraging open dialogue goes a long way to making your employees feel like a part of a team. As Ciara puts it, “Everyone learns at different speeds, allow people to learn from mistakes and lend a (virtual) helping hand. It takes practice to learn new systems.”