With sheltering-in-place, social distancing, and work from home becoming the new normal, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed much about American society. As the virus rapidly spread, many businesses found that transitioning employees to remote work was the only option that allowed them to continue operating. Although restrictions are lifting, a number of companies that instituted remote working motivated by necessity are now moving to make such arrangements permanent.
However, working remotely has unique challenges, which necessitates new methods of training employees to do their job without onsite resources and conveniences. But first, let’s look at this new landscape.
An analysis of the remote workplace under COVID-19
Global analytics and advice firm Gallup conducted an extensive study of the remote workplace in the United States as the result of COVID-19.
According to the Gallup Panel data, 31% of employed adults in mid-March 2020 said they had worked from home due to the pandemic. The figure quickly rose to 49% a few days later. It went to 59% a week later before settling at 62% in mid-April.
Gallup, in late April, asked another question, more specific this time – how many of the employed adults “always, sometimes, or never” worked remotely to avoid catching or spreading the coronavirus. During the first two weeks, on average, 70% of workers said they always (52%) or sometimes (18%) worked remotely. However, 31% said they never worked remotely.
The combined figure of those working remotely has seen a slight dip recently, but at the time of this writing stands at 68% – with 48% always and 20% sometimes working remotely. When Gallup asked remote workers about their preferences for returning to work in offices after the restrictions, this is what working adults had to say:
- 26% would return to their workplace once businesses and schools reopen.
- 25% would prefer working remotely due to coronavirus concerns and wait for the situation to normalize before returning to their offices.
- Approximately 50% would prefer to work remotely – 22% of those out of choice; 27% because of concerns about COVID-19.
Challenges of remote employee training
In short, remote working is likely here to stay – and the need to effectively train employees remotely will only increase. Making sure your company is ready for the challenges involved in online training requires big-picture planning. Here are the most common issues.
Absence of face-to-face supervision – While working from home has been a learning curve in itself for most employees, the situation is more complicated when the same employees need to participate in their training programs. Those who are accustomed to attending in-person training sessions in a meeting room or off-site location may miss the instructor support and communication of a group setting. And corporate trainers may be concerned that some employees could struggle more without the opportunity to ask questions directly – or may even lack the self-discipline to do the required program within the provided time frame.
Access to information is hard to come by – Remote workers usually require more time and effort to gather information from their supervisor and coworkers about their duties as it is. When it comes to an online training session, they need answers to such questions as how to access the training, how to ask questions, how it all works, how to get help, etc. And they need to know these details well in advance of the session. You’re setting up your employees for failure in the training session if you don’t provide this basic support.
Increased social isolation – Employees who work at home may miss the camaraderie of co-workers. Online training sessions that provide group interaction can create an interactive situation that promotes engagement, better participation and improved retention of the materials covered.
Distractions at home – Employees often are dealing with young children who are also at home, as well as such typical distractions as working in a makeshift space that may not be away from domestic activities. Make sure your employees are able to have the amount of time allocated to the training session free of distractions so they can focus on the task at hand. It may be necessary to have a training module that employees can download and complete at any time in order for each person to take the session when it is most convenient for their schedule.
Technical challenges – While we’ve all experienced technical glitches during onsite training sessions, the situation can be worse when conducting a remote session. Unstable internet and VPN connections, software and platform issues – and even training environment access – can all occur. Therefore, you need to ensure that you minimize the technical issues that might interrupt your training session.
Setting your remote workers up for success
Managing remote workers requires careful planning. You need to have a strategy in place to get the best out of your remote team. Training Industry provides some valuable advice on setting your remote workers up for success:
Promote a caring culture – Whether you work in an office or work remotely, you need appreciation to keep yourself motivated. That is why people like to work at organizations where they feel appreciated. If your organization offers a caring culture, it promotes open communication and makes learning fun and easy. It is crucial to make your workplace transparent and sharing because it helps employees feel wanted, which improves employee collaboration irrespective of their physical location. This is what helps a remote team click.
Use qualified and trained educators to impart knowledge and engage workers
If you have trained and qualified educators, it is a big help to remote workers. Lessons are all teacher-led, designed to cover learners from diverse backgrounds through cross-training techniques. Rather than a flat lecture, employees can shift from self-study to role-playing in gamification exercises in small groups. It is a better method of learning, which improves retention, as well.
Skilled virtual classroom training educators can break down content into bite-sized pieces that are convenient and easy to digest. For example, trainers can use microlearning to make the sessions more engaging and interactive by animating presentations and using infographics. To ensure complete participation in a virtual setting, trainers can incorporate interactive experiences and game-based learning.
Have a long-term strategy
Because it’s difficult for employees to grasp all of the material presented in a single day, it is crucial to keep reinforcing the key points that you want them to retain. To develop a long-term strategy, trainers need the help of a learning management system (LMS). With an LMS in place, trainers can create a 30-, 60- or 90-day development program, which can look after all the learning and development needs of your remote workforce.
You can also develop a worker community website to complement your efforts and integrate your team. The employees can use the site to review their performance, interact with their peers and receive business updates.
However, when it comes to corporate training, it is vital to understand that there should be no compromise on the content you use within your LMS. The content is as important as the LMS itself.
When you want to add richer content and different elements to your e-learning portfolio, you realize that you need something more than just an LMS. That is where a learning content management system (LCMS) comes into the picture. With an LCMS in place, you don’t have to invest heavily in content development, which means you don’t have to recruit content developers or hire course development companies.
It is here that an LCMS like eServe can help you. eServe is an LCMS designed to complement your LMS. Just as an LMS helps you manage people, an LCMS for e-learning helps you manage your content creation. It empowers you to create and integrate top-quality content for your employees. Contact us to learn more about our industry-leading solutions.