Location-based learning is no longer the only way for employees to learn, and in today’s circumstances, that’s great news. Even before COVID-19, many companies were turning from traditional training to online platforms. In 2018, we saw that corporate e-learning had grown by a staggering 900% in the past 16 years.
Remote training occurs when the trainer and trainee are separated by time and location, and need to conduct learning virtually instead of in a physical office setting. Remote learning can be asynchronous, thus not constrained by time, or it can occur at set-times which would make it synchronous remote learning. This flexibility within remote learning offers major benefits for both the company and employees.
In this article we’ll discuss how to decide if remote training is right for you, tips to help execute remote training, and tools you can use to implement your programs.
Is remote employee training the right solution for your team?
Organizations that embrace remote learning can support the career development of individual employees, no matter where they are.
However, it can sometimes be difficult to know whether remote learning is the right solution for your team or organization.
By weighing the pros and cons of remote vs in-person training programs, you can find out whether online training could work for you.
Benefits of remote training
For organizations, embracing remote learning could mean reducing the cost of learning and development programs. By not having to pay for venue space for training days, your company could reinvest that money into other areas of your business.
Other business benefits of remote learning include reducing learning time, having a standardized training structure, and providing employees with real-time feedback.
Companies that support remote working opportunities have a 25% reduced employee turnover rate compared to those who do not support remote working.
For your employees, remote learning could lead to increased employee engagement, performance and productivity by allowing them to complete training exercises in their own time and in a format that suits their needs.
1) Equal access across time zones
If you work with teams across various time zones, you know that scheduling can be confusing. You may find yourself working with people who are a whole day ahead of you, or people who are just starting their day as yours is ending.
It’s important to have clear, frequent communication when working in a team that’s distributed across different time zones.
Remote learning is one way to ensure everyone has access to the same educational materials and support, whether they’re operating in the same time zone or not. By using a remote learning model, you can help minimize the impact time zones may have on employee training and development.
Asynchronous remote learning methods, such as pre-recorded training videos, downloadable worksheets and a digital hub of learning materials, ensure employees can access training documents at any time.
Asynchronous distance learning can help the learner better manage their time, decrease costs associated with training, and could improve the overall education experience.
2) Improve workload management and prioritization
According to Global Workplace Analytics, 43% of U.S. employees frequently work remotely. For the Millennial workforce, one of the highest reported benefits of remote working is flexibility.
Keeping these statistics in mind, allowing employees to learn remotely could offer similar benefits for work flexibility.
A case study by BT, a British telecommunications company, also reported that moving to a flexible working solution allowed them to better integrate employees, assets, knowledge and workflows.
Whether your team is home-based, spread out across various time zones, or working from the same building, providing remote learning opportunities could help them with their workload management.
Without constraints of time or location, employees with access to e-learning will be free to complete their work training or career development in their own time.
Implementing a distance learning model can help employees to balance their workload with their career training by providing them with freedom of choice and flexibility so they can learn at their own pace in their selected time and location.
3) Standardize a uniform training experience across offices
As your company grows into multiple office locations, crafting a standardized training experience can become a challenge.
Providing online communication tools or a company intranet can help employees feel unified as a team, regardless of geographical distance.
If your company already has more than one office location, you may have noticed a lack of consistency in training and policies across offices. Standardizing your training enables employees to stay on the same page and ensures everyone is provided with the same quality of training.
By building a digital hub of learning materials and offering remote training, you can equalize employee onboarding, training and development.
With a standard online learning platform, you should also be able to clearly see your team’s training progress and identify any skill gaps. This will allow you to effectively check-in with employees and provide extra support where needed.
Benefits of in-person training
Although remote learning has many perks, there are certain circumstances where in-person training could work better.
A classroom setting where the instructor controls the pace and topic could be the best solution for certain teams or training purposes.
1) More engagement in person
If your work team is located in the same office, or nearby offices, an in-person training session could be more engaging than online learning. Classroom-based learning sessions could be better suited for situations where employees may need to participate in interactive tasks.
For example, sales teams could role-play pitches and conversations with their colleagues while gaining in-person feedback and guidance from the instructor.
Research shows that students involved in active learning pick up the information more than those passively gaining information in a lecture.
Furthermore, a report by PhoenixTS suggests employees may feel more valued and place greater emphasis on learning as a result of in-person learning.
2) Synchronized set up and networking
If you conduct in-person trainings, you can control the environment that you deliver information in.
For example, if your marketing team attends a weekly course on SEO trends in person, you can provide the room, Internet connection, and space to do team activities together.
On the other hand, if you offer the same weekly course to your team virtually, you don’t control the stability of their internet connection (a live seminar may cut out) or how engaged they are with the material.
3) Impart physical skills
For job roles that require hands-on skills and training, e-learning probably won’t cut it.
For example, an electrician would benefit from on-the-job and in-person training more than online learning.
Practical training and assessment is necessary for ensuring candidates of this job-type can competently undertake the work, skills and knowledge in accordance with the associated professional body for that niche.
Distance learning may not be a practical solution for careers requiring hands-on skills. For manual jobs that require hands-on experience and knowledge, in-person training is necessary and can not be substituted with online education.
In this situation, employers could supplement physical in-person training with online learning. This blended training could be completed by delivering the theoretical elements of manual training through an online learning platform.
- If your team is spread across timezones, remote learning gives everyone equal access to the education materials.
- If your team is particularly busy, remote learning means they can manage and prioritize their time and balance it with training/learning.
- If you have more than 1 office location, remote training standardizes lesson quality and ensures a uniform message.
- If your team is all co-located, in-person trainings can be more engaging.
- If you’re in a country that doesn’t have great access to the Internet, remote training can be a challenge if it’s live or video-based.
- If your training requires in-person demonstrations and assessments (ie. welding is a very hands-on skill), remote learning may leave out an essential part of the training needed.
So distance learning holds many advantages for both employers and employees.
Embracing a remote learning model can help you remove bottlenecks from your existing employee training program by increasing flexibility and improving standardization.
However, it’s important to recognize that remote training isn’t always the most suitable option.
If you’ve decided that remote training is a good option for you, let’s dive in to how to implement it and keep it engaging.
Execute remote training effectively by making it fun for your employees
Training your employees through digital courses can be fun and convenient. By using digital learning tools and methods, you can give your team access to diverse programs – including those run by top experts in the field – at a fraction of the cost.
However, creating a rewarding learning experience isn’t as easy as buying or making some courses and encouraging people to go through them. To get the best results, you need to make the experience both fun and rewarding.
1. Set specific goals that tie in with work
Unless your remote training program feels practical to employees, and they see how it will help them improve, they’re going to treat it like another box to check.
To avoid that, you need to make it practical and relatable, which means setting specific goals around digital learning that tie in with work. Base learning around real-world situations.
For example, if you’re putting together a program for your marketing team, have them apply what they’re learning to a real-world campaign. This helps your team see how learning specific new skills will help them be more efficient.
2. Choose the right platform for the job
Choosing the right learning and development platform for your digital course will affect how successful your program is. The ideal learning tool should be a pleasure to use and make it easy to create custom learning experiences.
Let’s take a superspeed look at a few tools you can use.
Tip: Skip to the bottom of this article for more remote employee training tools!
- Bridge is a clean, easy to use employee development platform. This business-focused option includes a number of off-the-shelf courses you can start with. Plus, Bridge makes it easy to create your own courses too.
- PiiQ is a great tool if you have a catalog of learning material you need employees to get through in a short amount of time – like an onboarding package. Plus, PiiQ makes it easy to add reviews and set collaborative goals.
- Thought Industries focuses on continuing education courses and professional development. This program works directly through your company’s website or learning portal, and it’s got great gamification capabilities.
We’ll get deeper into a breakdown of different tools later in this article.
3. Schedule time for learning
It’s unlikely that your employees have a lot of spare time during the workday for training.
If your team has a to-do list a mile long, digital learning can easily get pushed to the very bottom of that list, especially if appropriate time hasn’t been scheduled in advance.
But here’s the thing. Your ideal team wants to learn new things. The trick is to encourage learning the right way.
The first step is to reward individual interest in learning. This doesn’t have to be a tangible incentive; intrinsically motivated employees will respond better to reward if it’s in the form of engagement and personal development.
Next, choose periods of low activity to schedule learning. If you can avoid busy periods, there’s a better chance learning won’t be pushed down the to-do list.
And finally, lead by example. If you want your employees to value your digital learning experience, you have to be a part of it too.
4. Let your employees choose their own courses and workshops
Instead of making everyone take the same courses, you can set a budget for your team and let them choose the courses and programs that work best for them. But first, you need to put some boundaries in place.
Set a budget
If you’re going to give your team the freedom to choose the courses they want to take, you need to make sure essential continuing education is budgeted for first.
The next step is to look at how much is left over and then assess what kind of results you could reasonably expect from a particular program.
Set expectations and communicate
Employee choice should be focused on courses that will drive value. For your team to make good choices, they need to know what you expect from them.
Create a set of criteria about what kind of courses you’re willing to enroll your team in, and what kind of courses don’t make the cut. Then, make it easy for your team to tell the difference.
5. Encourage your team to pick accountability buddies
It’s easy to put off doing something important if no one is there to call you out.
Having someone who’s learning and growing with you, who you can discuss learning concepts and specific business applications with, can make the experience both more useful and more fun. An accountability buddy can be that someone.
Depending on the size of your workforce, you may need to use tech to make it easy to connect the right people.
- Encourage cross-team mingling. If you have more than one team working on the same training, don’t be afraid to shake things up a little. Challenge teams to find a buddy they don’t normally work with and partner up.
- Help them break the ice first. Set aside some social time for accountability buddies to get to know each other a little better. This doesn’t have to be a big chunk of time, but the act of setting it up will reinforce how important accountability is.
6. Help your team practice what they learned
Putting knowledge to use is fun – and it’s pretty important if it’s going to make it in your teams’ long term memories.
Try to find a way for your employees to apply what they’ve learned as quickly as possible. The sooner they get into the habit of using new techniques, the more likely they are to continue using them.
Consider making digital learning a prerequisite for a team project dedicated to the training they’ve just taken. It will give colleagues a chance to put theory into practice straight away.
Virtual education tools for remote employee training
Now let’s dive in to different tools you can use to implement remote employee training, from classroom to collaboration.
1. Start with an excellent platform for top-notch live-training
Using a webinar platform to deliver live training is a great way to make your remote employees connect with the material and each other.
It doesn’t matter how good your training materials are: if employees can’t see the passion of your presenter or feel involved in the experience, there is a danger that this learning opportunity will turn into a box-checking exercise.
What platform should you use to deliver live training?
Webinars give you the ability to broadcast presentations and to record programs for employees that couldn’t make the live event. But each platform has different features aimed at particular industries.
- Demio*: Is geared toward marketers with a focus on brand integration in the platform. Great if you’re working with remote sales or are ramping toward a product launch.
- Livestorm: Has a strong focus on app integration that links webinars with your company’s Slack channels. It easily connects with tools like Salesforce.
- StreamYard: Leans on a social media-like experience. Perfect for startups or any organization that wants to add a casual feel to the learning experience.
*Note: Demio is a client of mine. You can use the link above to get $25 in credit to test them out.
Look for a platform that’s easy to use, has all the features you need, and fits inside your budget.
If you aren’t using most of the features included in a particular platform, you may end up paying too much and miss out on the perfect software for your company.
2. Choose a great collaboration tool
If you want training to stick, it needs to be relevant, relatable, and easy to apply. Using what they just learned by collaborating on projects will help your team put theory right into practice.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Just like picking the right webinar platform, the best collaborative tool for your employees should expand on the systems you already use.
Joint participation makes training as relatable as possible. Let’s take a look at a few great tools you can use to collaborate and help your team apply what they’re learning through joint projects.
- Trello: Great for organizing your workflow and deadlines using digital cards. It’s easy to set-up and use, with low cost per team member. On the downside, Trello can be too simple for through project management and makes it difficult to share learning. This can challenge remote teams.
- Basecamp: Great at centralizing data and making it accessible for remote workers. The creators wrote the book on remote work. On the downside, Basecamp’s interface can lead you down rabbit holes that take up valuable time.
- Microsoft Teams: Appealing to technical and security-conscious disciplines like engineering. Bechtel recently took all projects in the energy sector remote this way because of how secure teams is. On the downside, Teams works best on Windows-enabled machines, and any participants need to set up a Microsoft account to join.
- Asana: Great for creating simple workflows and assigning tasks to team members. On the downside, Asana is not always the best for detail-driven projects.
A project management tool should help your team collaborate and share what they learned. Choose something easy to use, that makes sense for your team and helps them communicate with each other.
Ideally, any software you use should support different file formats so you can add training directly to relevant sections.
3. Choose a platform for storing lessons and information
Once you’ve built your employee training program, you need to store it somewhere.
Webinars are great for content delivery, but once your lessons have run their course, you need to archive the results and data.
Picking the right learning management system (LMS) gives your team easy access to past and future courses without extra steps.
Let’s take a look at some platforms:
- WizIQ: Great for creating and storing training projects and instructor-led courses in the cloud. It’s an all-in-one solution that can run webinars and testing programs.
- Bridge: (Covered above) Offers tailored LMS dependent on the industry. It has a focus on sales and marketing so if you haven’t created your course yet. Their pre-made materials may be an invaluable temporary solution.
- Open Edx: Takes the hassle out of building your courses. Offers a fully managed training program suite, as well as a do-it-yourself subscription. This could be ideal if you’re trying to limit the amount of time you spend on building programs.
A training “storage” tool helps you make employee training easily available to present and future team members.
Choose something that supports your educational goals and fits in with your organizational structure.
4. Communication tools
To build a great team, you need to help your people on your team to get to know each other. That’s not easy to do when colleagues don’t share the same office space or time zone.
Employee training can be an excellent opportunity to build and strengthen relationships if you make it easy for everyone to talk to each other and share their experiences.
Let’s look at some tools that make this easy:
- Skype: Easy to set up and offers free voice calls. It’s a good way to keep costs down while connecting in “virtual” person. Works best if you’re using Microsoft tools.
- Hangouts or Meet: Easy to set up a virtual chat. Great if your team plans on communicating from their laptop or desktop. Mobile optimization works better on Android than IOS. Works best if you’re using Google Suite tools.
- Slack: If your team uses it already, try adding learning-specific channels to help everyone connect.
Setting your team up for success
Your team wants to learn. Researchers found that continuing education is one of the top five things a company needs to offer to win and retain top talent around. If you want your new employees to stick around, stay productive, and love their jobs, you need an effective employee training process.
Using these virtual education tools to enhance remote employee training makes it easier to get everyone on the same page and keep your team learning, happily.