The transformation from a traditional 9 to 5 model of work into immersion in digital presence is really gaining momentum. A few years back an option to work from home was considered almost a privilege. Today? Companies that don’t offer work in hybrid or remote teams are being outcompeted on the market.
At first, the pandemic caused this overnight and chaotic change. Some companies that haven’t introduced the remote working model before have tried to copy systems that worked in the office and implement them into the work done by distributed teams. But that obviously could have been only a temporary solution. Now, because so many of the organizations and their employees have recognized the great value and this huge scope of opportunities and freedom it brings, remote and hybrid models of work are really making their way.
That is also the reason why the traditional model of training is going into oblivion, being replaced by virtual options. Self-paced courses were one of these attempts, but time showed that they didn’t really pass the test because their users tend to drop out without finishing the whole course. Data shows that the average completion rate for these kinds of courses is only as little as 5-15%. If we want to provide a valuable learning experience then it is pretty clear that the change of form is needed, and self-paced stuff should only supplement the virtual training but not be the main/only part of it.
Because of my passion for remote work, I went further with the research to discover what are the real pain points for hybrid & remote teams when it comes to taking virtual training. I was able to identify the top three challenges that these distributed teams are facing and would love to address them and provide you with the solutions that can be implemented from day 1.
What are the biggest virtual training challenges for hybrid & remote teams?
1. Having a high engagement rate
As mentioned before, self-paced courses don’t really do miracles when it comes to achieving progress in virtual learning. People are overwhelmed with the amount of courses, learning materials, audios etc etc. There are two groups of people within that. First: those who see participating in another course as a waste of their time since they can take little value out of it and because the materials don’t really cover what they want to learn. Second: those who would like to participate, but the course doesn’t kick off from the level they are at, so they get lost at the very beginning, with either terminology or advancement and therefore they quickly lose interest because they simply can’t keep up.
The engagement lies also in how people perceive training and what motivates them to take part in it. The ideal situation is when education happens in a continuous way, as kind of a habit rather than one time event here and there. Unfortunately, this is far from how it is delivered in many cases.
2. Finding the right facilitator
Every team has different needs and different expectations and the responsibility for closing this gap is on the facilitator. That’s why it is absolutely crucial to find a perfect match. For hybrid & remote teams the facilitator needs to know the exact specifics of working in such an environment and know the process of virtual learning.
Virtual training is not just about taking the materials, content and techniques from the traditional format into the virtual one. It’s adjusting to this new environment, creating new energy, building attendees’ trust, driving their engagement and following up with them to make sure they stay on track with implementing new skills or knowledge they gained during the training. The facilitator’s role then is not only to deliver the content but also to keep everyone interested and engaged, foster learning, inspire to make their own reflections and provide feedback.
3. Delivering “on the job training” – continuously rather than as a one time event
A big issue for many companies is that they have training and a lot of learning for new hires, but don’t really provide further “on the job” training programs which would aim to keep these employees motivated and up to date with the tools and trends within the industry. This unfortunately boils down to missed opportunities, lower engagement and thus higher turnover.
There is also an issue of team motivation to take part in training. If it’s just a one time event once in a blue moon many of them don’t feel the real need and are simply not willing to spend their time on it, as they don’t see it bringing any improvement or results.
Another thing is that serving a few hour long training sessions is not really a good idea, because even the most focused and attentive attendees won’t be able to memorize everything, not to mention implementing it in their work later on.
Solutions to these challenges
1. Having a high engagement rate
🛠 Personalization: At the very beginning, before you even start the virtual training program, find out what are your employees needs, interests, what are they truly passionate about, where are the skill gaps to fill and include them in the whole process. People will be much more engaged when you give them some kind of control and when they can see the big picture.
🙌 Social learning: Make the whole process social – a good example would be cohort based courses, where attendees get the sense of community and networking becomes a natural part of it. Experience sharing and interacting with one another can be as valuable as the content delivered during the training.
🎯 Tactical case studies: Another good idea to boost the engagement is to present the content in a real world context. Use case studies from your own company whenever possible – it doesn’t matter if they actually happened or only could have happened – these cases are going to be way more memorable when people are familiar with the setup and can actually relate to it.
🎡Fun, fun, fun: And here’s one more – make it fun! For real, that’s a game changer. Incorporate some humorous elements. That’s going to help you keep the attention of the listeners, but also to make your point in a more digestible way, rather than throwing just a bunch of facts or statistics.
2. Finding the right facilitator
🗣 Recommendations: Searching for the right facilitator can be such a time and effort consuming process, but it doesn’t have to! Let’s start with the most obvious thing which is checking the recommendations. The more people were satisfied with the virtual training services one provides the bigger chances are that you will too. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
👀 Skills gaps: As we said, every team has different needs and skill gaps to fill so in order to find the right match for you and your team you need to identify these needs and gaps first. Once you have that clear, talk to the potential facilitators to see if they can meet these expectations, and have the level of knowledge and ability to present it in the right context for your team.
🤝Culture fit: Talk about the organization culture as well: what tools do they use? What are their training methods? Did they work with a team with work arrangements similar to yours? The cultural fit is a huge element to consider, so make sure they simply vibe with what you’re looking for.
3. Delivering “on the job training” – continuously rather than as a one time event.
👣 Step by step: Continuous learning is tightly connected with building team motivation in participating. Delivering virtual learning as one big piece is tiring for the attendees – at some point they start losing motivation and can’t focus anymore. Instead, it is better to deliver the material in small chunks, covering one topic at a time. This way the training becomes easier to absorb and to fit in everyone’s schedule.
😺 Nudge learning: An important part of this are also so called refreshing pieces of training as well as follow ups. Participants should be leaving the session with a particular goal, a new skill or a piece of knowledge that would help them to improve what they’re working on. Later on, it is the facilitator’s responsibility to check in with them whether they were able to put this new knowledge into practice.
👯♀️ Cohort based courses: A great solution to that as well, as employees don’t feel left alone in the whole journey but they share the experience with their colleagues or like minded professionals in the field. In Remote-how we introduced this form of learning and called it learning cycles. Each learning cycle is oriented to acquiring one particular skill in the form of an interactive workshop or a webinar ending with an assignment and then is followed up with another meeting with the facilitator to check how it went with completing it. It also encourages networking and experience sharing that happens directly on the platform only participants of the particular course have access to.
Way to go
Getting it all together, virtual learning for hybrid & remote teams requires good preparation to get everyone on the board, boost team motivation and keep them engaged later on. It is essential to check the team members’ expectations and needs and let people be in the process from the very beginning.
Next – find the facilitator that would match your organization and be able to fill knowledge and skill gaps for the team. Confirming all the details with the chosen facilitator is essential too, to know exactly what you can expect from them, what methods they are going to use and that you are on the same page with the overall goal.
It is highly recommended to serve knowledge in smaller portions, divided into shorter sessions rather than during one long event. Focus on making the training interactive, fun and engaging – it brings way better results when attendees are a part of the training all the way through.
Next thing to remember is to always follow up with the participants after the virtual training session in some way. This would give them an extra kick of motivation to actually implement what they learned in their work and give them an additional chance to ask any questions if anything came up in the process of implementing.
And let’s not forget about making virtual learning a continuous process, almost creating a habit of it rather than trying to cram everything in one session and expect people to remember it all. It makes it easier to fit the training in everyone’s schedule and prevents people from getting overwhelmed.