Remote team training has challenges that make it more difficult to stay engaging and effective when compared to on-site programs.
When you can organize regular online meetings with chat or video conferencing, it’s a slower and more awkward process than in-person classes.
Remote workers often are more independent learners by nature. They can quickly lose interest when the pace doesn’t match their own abilities.
Given the technical and personality differences between local and remote teams, it is a good idea to assess how remote team training materials and programs are organized and presented.
Here are some ideas to keep remote team training engaging and effective over the long-term.
1. Remote employees and workers excel at asynchronous learning
Asynchronous learning lets each learner progress through a class or educational program at their own pace.
It doesn’t rely on meeting in-person or online for group classes in order to teach subject matter or skills.
Students can spend time on a training course at any time and complete it before or after their coworkers.
The result can be a more efficient learning system that doesn’t set artificial milestones for the entire class to reach before progressing.
Cloud-based learning apps have proliferated in recent years that teach subjects like software development or other professional skills. And tools exist for creating and deploying similar in-house asynchronous classes.
For subjects that are well-suited to self-directed learning, this option can take the scheduling hassle out of remote team training.
2. Leverage collaborative learning tools
Cloud software has revolutionized how businesses operate, and the technologies it supports continue to replace traditional offline software tools.
Remote teams once had only email or phone options to communicate, but today there is a multitude of collaborative tools that integrate remote workers like team chat, file syncing services, video conferencing, and even intranet social hubs.
This is something that simply wasn’t possible 30, even 20 years ago.
Learning management systems have started to migrate to the cloud-like many other traditional software tools. So, when designing training programs, grab the opportunity to use these new cloud-based services.
It’ll make training a team scattered over many geolocations more efficient. Not to mention how much more convenient it is for everyone involved.
3. Tailor training to the specific needs of the remote team
Depending on the size of your team, it is a good idea to poll your employees to see what level of knowledge they already possess for the subject of a training program.
Annual refreshers and compliance classes usually need to cover the topic completely each time, but skill-building classes can be tailored to the knowledge of employees enrolled in the program.
A good way to do this is to survey your remote learners or interview them individually if it’s a small group.
Performance assessments and long-term goals can also play a part in choosing which material to cover in-depth and which you can skim over.
Packing as much new material into the time you can devote to training will make it more engaging and productive.
4. Make presentations relatable with stories
Remote learners logged into a video conference or team chat have even more difficulty staying engaged than in-person classes, so it’s important to be creative with presentations.
Dry information can’t be completely avoided, but stories and analogies are a time-honored way to make difficult concepts and complex logic accessible to an audience.
If you can include some humor, it’s a definitive win.
When you lead off into a presentation, personal stories that dovetail with your lesson plan are always a good thing to weave into your script.
You’ll have better engagement and participation overall.
5. Curate class materials and training presentations
On-site classes often include books and other printed materials that trainees can keep and refer to in the future.
For online courses, though, the study materials are typically electronic, taking the form of videos, websites, slide shows, PDFs, and interactive software.
Keep these materials stored in a central location that can be easily accessed, otherwise they might easily get lost across different devices.
File-sharing and syncing services will store lesson plans, documents, multimedia files, and even software tools.
During the course, you can use a shared document location to provide these materials, which will ensure that your employees retain the links to the archive after their training is complete.
6. Act as a facilitator rather than an instructor
It’s easy to treat a training course like a classroom lecture you experienced in college, but the hierarchical instructor-student relationship doesn’t usually translate to a professional team very well.
Your employees might settle into the role of disengaged and bored classmates who refuse to participate actively.
A good way to avoid this educational model is to view yourself as a moderator or facilitator rather than an instructor.
Even if you do have more expertise in the subject than your trainees, you’ll show them you value their insights too.
The egalitarian atmosphere this model creates breaks the ice better and leads to more participation.
7. Use activities to get everyone involved
Activities are another way to keep participants engaged when training sessions are long or otherwise fatiguing.
Remote teams can engage in many of the same small group discussions and activities as in-person teams can.
You can use team chat tools to divide the class into small groups, or you can direct activities over video conference.
Whichever remote medium you choose, activities help learners who prefer interpersonal experiences over independent learning. And the interaction can help the audience break the ice at the start of a learning session.
Group problem-solving is also a good way to help a remote team establish a rapport that’ll improve their performance outside of the training course.
8. Create rewards for your top learners
Games and competitions that feature symbolic or trivial prizes can be quite effective for a competitive remote team’s training sessions.
You can recap a lesson with a trivia game designed to help your employees put what they learned into long-term memory.
Competitive remote teams like sales or financial professionals will find competitive games a natural extension of their work relationships.
Teams that rely on collaboration skills can play games that put small groups in competition with each other.
Either way, these exercises add humor and fun to otherwise monotonous training classes.
Training sessions designed for remote teams offer more opportunities for creativity than on-site training plans do.
The range of different communication, presentation, and learning tools are greater, and you can design courses tailored to individual team members.
The key to keeping everyone engaged is similar to in-person training, though. You’ll have more success by finding ways to avoid the lecture model of learning.
Skill-building tools can let your independent employees learn at their own pace, and well-designed group activities will keep everyone awake and participating.
With the modern communication and presentation tools available today, there’s no reason for remote teams to lag behind their on-site colleagues in terms of training.
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Ashley Wilson is a digital nomad writing about business and tech. She workes remotely as a content creator for various SMBs. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking homemade treats and trying out new flavors. You can get in touch with Ashley via Twitter.