I have a confession to make: I am a remote employee. I work 3,000 miles and 3 time zones away from my company’s home office in Washington.
Let’s stop and think about that for a moment – 3,000 miles!
Twenty or 30 years ago, that would have been nearly impossible. But here I am, 7 a.m., writing this blog from a small town in New Hampshire while the rest of my team is in Seattle fast asleep in their beds. I am getting my work done, I am adding value, and I am doing it from someplace else.
And I am not alone.
A study released in 2018 by Zug, Switzerland-based serviced office provider IWG found that 70 percent of professionals work remotely at least one day a week, while 53 percent work remotely for at least half of the week. And these numbers are only going up.
With a growing number of organizations expanding their remote workforce, and more people using technology as their primary source of communication, as a learning leader I am compelled to ask the question, how do people learn in a remote world?
Clearly, I am not hopping on a plane every time I need to learn a new skill. In fact, long gone are the days of solely relying on in-person training to meet our learning needs.
Our budgets aren’t big enough to fly every team member to the same location or take our teams out of the field for days on end. Instead, organizations are beginning to think smarter about the way they execute learning. Enter virtual training.
The virtual classroom has and continues to gain momentum as a highly effective learning solution that is poised to take us and our teams into the future.
In addition to the compelling statistics about the growing remote workforce, we must recognize the simple fact that we live in a digital world.
Younger generations of leaders are and will be expecting their learning to blend seamlessly into their world of tablets, smartphones social media and the internet. And with a new way of “getting business done” already underway, there is a new gap emerging – how to lead remotely.
Education of our teams, therefore, needs to reflect the experience of today’s learner by combining traditional teaching strategies with accessible technology.
If you have a remote workforce, are a remote worker yourself, or are trying to reach a remote group of learners, here are a few tips to ensure you get the most from your virtual training initiative(s):
I have seen many organizations fail with their virtual learning strategies simply because they tried to do too much too fast.
They went from all classroom instruction to all virtual instruction and didn’t consider the impact on their learners. Virtual learning takes some getting used to it. Allow your learners to warm up to it, to understand the benefits, and take care not to let a new approach to learning overshadow the learning itself.
If you are new to virtual learning, but still want to incorporate it into your learning strategy in the new year, try taking a blended approach. It is a good way to slowly acclimate your team to a new way of learning while providing a familiar learning environment for your team to come back to.
Blended learning combines virtual learning components with in-person classroom training. This approach has been proven to be effective because it includes multiple learning methodologies and instructional design perspectives.
Content will resonate with more learners, no matter their learning style, because of the variety in the instructional approach. Plus, you won’t give your employees whiplash in the process.
When launching any form of virtual training, the same scrutiny that you place on the physical classroom should also be applied to the virtual “classroom”.
Ensure your learners are set up for success. If you are launching a course that requires them to engage verbally, to have conversations with other learners over a phone or through their computers, take into account where they will be sitting. Will each learner have a quiet room or space to sit in, or are they in the middle of a boisterous office surrounded by a lot of noise and chatter?
Are learners on laptops? Desktops? If learners are on laptops they can easily relocate to make their learning environment more suitable for their learning needs. If they are on a desktop (and in the middle of a noisy office space) the learning could be compromised, or challenging at best.
When I train virtually, my first ask of the client is to test the technology before entering the classroom on the day of training. That said, I have still had countless instances of internal firewalls preventing access to the classroom, or overloaded phone systems (yes, it happens) that can’t support 20 or 30 employees calling into the same location at once.
Do your due diligence and test the technology in advance. Do your research to see what kind of “load” the systems in your building can handle, or what firewalls may be in place that would prevent you and your learners from successfully connecting to the virtual classroom.
Thirty minutes of time upfront can save you from countless headaches the day of the event.
Virtual training can be an incredibly powerful tool when done correctly. Not only will you see better training outcomes (not to mention improved business results), your remote employees will receive a better, more engaging learning experience.
And please, please don’t forget to check your tech before your next virtual training!
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