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 away from traditional training toward remote employee training platforms. In 2018, we saw corporate e-learning had grown by a staggering 900% over the past 16 years.
In remote training, the trainer and trainee are separated by time and location, and learning is conducted virtually instead of in a physical office setting. Remote learning can be asynchronous (not constrained by time), or it can occur at set times. This flexibility 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 right for your team?
Organizations that embrace remote learning can support the career development of employees no matter where they are.
However, it can be difficult to know if remote learning is the right solution for your team or organization.
By weighing the pros and cons of remote vs. in-person training, you can determine which format will work best for you.
Benefits of remote employee training
For organizations, remote learning can reduce the cost of educational and developmental programs. The money saved by not having to pay for venue space could be reinvested into other areas of your business.
Other business benefits of remote learning include shorter program completion time, a standardized training structure, and the ability to provide employees real-time feedback.
Companies that support remote working opportunities have a 25% lower employee turnover rate compared to those who do not.
Remote learning can increase employee engagement, performance, and productivity by allowing them to complete training exercises at their own pace and in a format that suits their needs.
1) Equal access across time zones
If you work with global teams, you know scheduling can be an obstacle. You may find yourself working with people who are a whole day ahead of you, or 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 or not they operate in the same time zone. By using a remote learning model, you can mitigate the impact of dispersed locations 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.
This style of asynchronous distance learning can help the learner better manage their time, decrease costs associated with training, and improve the overall educational experience.
2) Improved workload management and prioritization
According to Global Workplace Analytics, 43% of U.S. employees frequently work remotely. Among the Millennial workforce, one of the highest reported benefits of remote working is flexibility.
With 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 hybrid work solution allowed them to integrate employees, assets, knowledge, and workflows more effectively.
Whether your team is home-based, spread across time zones, or working in the same building, offering remote learning opportunities can help them manage their workload.
Without constraints on time or location, e-learning leaves employees free to complete their 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 at their selected time and location.
3) Standardized training experience
As your company grows into multiple office locations, crafting a uniform training experience can be a challenge.
Providing online communication tools or a company intranet can unify employees 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 between offices. Standardizing your training keeps employees on the same page and ensures everyone receives the same quality of learning.
You can homogenize employee onboarding, training, and development by building a digital hub of learning materials and offering remote training, onboarding, and development.
With a standard online learning platform, you’re also able to view your team’s training progress clearly and identify skill gaps. This will allow you to check-in with employees efficiently and provide extra support where needed.
Benefits of in-person training
Although remote learning has many perks, there are circumstances where in-person training is more appropriate.
In a classroom setting, the instructor controls the pace and topic, which might be the right solution for certain teams or training purposes.
1) More engagement
If your team works in the same office or nearby, an in-person training session could be more engaging than online learning. Classroom-based learning is better suited for situations where employees need to participate in hands-on tasks.
For example, sales teams could roleplay pitches and conversations with their colleagues while receiving in-person feedback and guidance from the instructor.
Research shows that students involved in active learning acquire more information than those who passively gain information in a lecture.
Furthermore, a report by PhoenixTS suggests employees feel more valued and place greater emphasis on education as a result of in-person learning.
2) Synchronized set up and networking
If you conduct in-person training, you can control the environment where you deliver information.
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.
On the other hand, if you run the same weekly course virtually, you can’t control the stability of each member’s internet connection (for example, a live seminar may cut out) or their engagement with the material.
3) Impart physical skills
For job roles that require hands-on skills, e-learning probably won’t cut it.
An electrician, for example, would benefit from on-the-job training more than online learning.
Practical training and assessment are necessary to ensure candidates of this job type have the proper skills and can competently undertake the work entailed.
As such, distance learning may not be a practical solution for physical careers. Manual jobs that require hands-on experience and knowledge cannot easily use online education as a sufficient substitute.
In this situation, employers could supplement in-person training with online learning. This blended method could deliver the theoretical elements of manual training through an online learning platform while maintaining in-person application.
- If you’re spread across time zones, remote learning gives everyone equal access to educational materials.
- If your team is particularly busy, remote learning lets them manage and prioritize their time and balance it with training/learning.
- If you have more than one office location, remote training standardizes lessons and ensures a uniform message.
- If your team is co-located, in-person training can be more engaging.
- If you’re in a country that doesn’t have great internet access, remote training can be a challenge if it’s live or video-based.
- If your training requires in-person demonstrations and assessments (e.g., welding), remote learning may leave out essential elements of education.
To sum up, distance learning holds many advantages for both employers and employees.
Embracing a remote learning model can 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 remote training is a good option for you, let’s dive into how to implement it and keep it engaging.
Execute remote training effectively by making it fun for your employees
Training your employees through online courses can be fun and convenient. Digital learning tools and methods gives 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 simple as buying or throwing together a few courses and encouraging people to take them. For best results, you need to design an experience that’s both fun and rewarding.
1. Set specific goals that tie into work
Your remote training program should appear practical to employees. If it isn’t clear how it will help them improve, they’ll simply treat it as another box to check.
To avoid this, you need to make it applicable and relatable, which means setting specific goals around digital learning that tie into work. Base their learning on real-world situations.
For example, if you’re putting together a program for your marketing team, have them apply what they learn to their next campaign. Tangible results show your team how learning new skills increase their efficiency.
2. Choose the right platform
The learning and development platform you choose for your digital course will affect the program’s success. Ideally, it should be simple to use and allow you to create custom learning experiences with ease.
Here’s a snapshot of 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 to get your program started. It also makes it simple to create your own courses.
- 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, it’s simple 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 has great gamification capabilities.
We’ll dig deeper into different tools later in this article.
3. Schedule time for learning
Your employees don’t have a ton of spare time during the workday for training.
If your team has a mile-long to-do list, digital learning can easily be relegated to the bottom of that list, especially if time hasn’t been scheduled in advance.
Here’s the thing: Your team wants to learn new things. The trick is to encourage learning the right way.
The first step is to reward individual interest in educational advancement. This doesn’t have to be a tangible incentive; intrinsically motivated employees will respond better to a 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 times, there’s a better chance training won’t be skipped on the to-do list.
Finally, lead by example. If you want your employees to value your digital learning experience, you have to take part in it, too.
4. Let employees decide their learning paths
Instead of making everyone take the same courses, you can set a budget for your team to choose the lessons and programs that best suit their needs. But first, you need to establish some boundaries.
Set a budget
Before you give your team the freedom to choose their courses, you first need to make sure essential continuing education is in the budget.
The next step is to look at how much is left over and then assess what results you could reasonably expect from a particular program.
Define and communicate expectations
Employee selection 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.
Institute a set of criteria on what kind of courses you’re willing to enroll your team in, and what doesn’t qualify. Distinguish clearly between permitted and prohibited to prevent confusion.
5. Encourage your team to pick accountability buddies
It’s easy to procrastinate if no one is there to keep you in line.
Having someone to learn and grow with you can make the experience both more useful and understandable. An accountability buddy can fill that role, providing members someone to talk to about learning concepts and specific business applications.
Depending on the size of your workforce, you may need to rely on tech to connect people.
- Encourage cross-team mingling. If you have more than one team doing the same training, don’t be afraid to shake things up a little. Challenge teams to find someone they don’t normally work with and have them partner for the lesson.
- Help them break the ice. Allocate social time for accountability buddies to get to know each other. 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 implement what they learn
Putting knowledge into practice is fun – and important if it’s going to stick in your teams’ long-term memories.
Try to find a way for your employees to apply what they’ve learned as quickly as possible after they finish their training. The sooner they adopt their new techniques, the more likely they are to maintain them.
Consider making digital learning a prerequisite for a team project dedicated to their training. It will give colleagues a chance to test theory in practice straight away.
Virtual education tools for remote employee training
Now, let’s dive into different tools you can use to implement remote employee training, from classroom to collaboration.
1. Start with a top-notch live-training platform
A webinar platform is a great way to deliver live training and help your remote employees connect with the material and each other.
It doesn’t matter how impressive your training materials are: if your presenter is lackluster or if employees don’t feel involved in the experience, your learning opportunity is in danger of becoming a box-checking exercise.
What platform should you use to deliver live training?
Webinars give you the ability to broadcast presentations and record programs for employees who can’t attend the live event. But each platform has unique features aimed at specific industries:
- GoToWebinar: A robust webinar platform that is well-known for an effective HubSpot integration that allows you to track your leads through the funnel.
- Demio*: Geared toward marketers with a focus on brand integration in the platform. Great if you work with remote sales or are ramping up for a product launch.
- Livestorm: Has a strong focus on app integration that links webinars with your company’s Slack channels. Connects smoothly with tools like Salesforce.
- StreamYard: Leans on a social media-like experience. Perfect for startups or organizations that want to add a casual feel to the learning experience.
*Note: Demio is a client of mine.
Look for a platform that’s easy to use, has all the features you need, and fits within your budget.
If you don’t use most of the features included in a particular platform, you may pay 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. Collaboration projects that utilize the knowledge they’ve learned will help your team put theory into practice.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Just like deciding the right webinar platform, the best collaborative tool for your employees should expand on your preexisting systems.
Joint participation makes training relatable. Below are a few awesome collaboration tools to help your team apply what they learn through joint projects.
- Trello: Great for organizing your workflow and deadlines with digital cards. It’s straightforward to set up and use, with low cost per team member. On the downside, it’s difficult to share learning selectively, and fairly basic for thorough project management. This can be a challenge for remote teams.
- Notion: Great at centralizing data for remote workers. You can put everything from calendars and kanban boards to onboarding documents and team resources here. On the downside, it can get bloated and I found it’s easy to delete/move things you don’t mean to.
- Microsoft Teams: Appeals to technical and security-conscious disciplines like engineering. Bechtel recently turned all projects in the energy sector remote with this thanks to how secure Teams is. However, Teams works best on Windows-enabled machines, and participants must set up a Microsoft account to join.
- Asana: Great for designing simple workflows and assigning tasks to group members. Nonetheless, Asana is not always suitable for detail-driven projects.
A project management tool should facilitate team collaboration and knowledge sharing. Choose one that suits your team and helps them communicate effectively with each other.
Ideally, any software you use should also support multiple file formats so you can add training directly to relevant sections.
3. Locate storage for 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 finish, you need to archive the results and data.
The right learning management system (LMS) will furnish your team with 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 both webinars and testing programs.
- Bridge (covered above): Offers tailored LMS depending on the industry. It focuses on sales and marketing, so if you haven’t created your course yet, their pre-made materials are an invaluable temporary solution.
- Open Edx: Takes the hassle out of building courses. Offers a fully managed training program suite, as well as a do-it-yourself subscription. This is ideal if you want to limit the amount of time you spend constructing programs.
A training “storage” tool makes employee training readily available to present and future team members.
Choose something that supports your educational goals and conforms to your organizational structure.
4. Communication tools
To build a great team, the members have to get acquainted. Socialization can be difficult if colleagues don’t share the same office space — or time zone.
Employee training is an excellent opportunity to build and strengthen relationships. Interactive group lessons allow everyone to talk to each other and share their experiences.
Let’s look at some tools that break down virtual walls:
- Skype: Simple set-up and offers free voice calls. It’s cost-effective and lets people connect in “virtual” person. Works best with Microsoft Office.
- Hangouts or Meet: Easy to set up a virtual chat. Great if your team plans to communicate on their laptop or desktop. Mobile optimization runs smoother on Android than IOS. Works best with Google Suite tools.
- Slack: If your team uses it already, try adding learning-specific channels to connect everyone.
Setting your team up for success
Your team wants to learn. Researchers found that continuing education is one of the top five elements a company needs to offer to win and retain the best talent. If you want your new employees to stick around, stay productive, and love their jobs, you need an effective employee training process.
Virtual education tools enhance remote employee training so everyone is on the same page, and your team can learn continuously and happily.