In this “new normal” term that seems to be here to stay, never has it been more important for companies to invest time and money in learning and development (L&D) so that the transition to remote working can be a smooth one. At least until this new normal goes back to being normal again. But no one knows when that will be. The truth is, changes implemented to keep moving forward, are here for months if not years to come. Healing has begun; it’s the scar tissue that we need to take care of for quite some time to come.
Now is the time to invest in employee development so that your team can come out of this with a clear mission and path to go on so that they can succeed and, ultimately you can too.
So, let’s get comfortable with workplace remote learning, shall we.
Having said this, let’s keep in mind that this “new normal” isn’t so new after all. Prior to Covid-19, up to 74% of managers already had teams working a significant portion of their projects and tasks remotely. So let’s keep things in perspective here.
Predictably, some of the workforce that went offsite during Covid-19 might opt to continue offsite, if the option is given to them. Some businesses rather than streamlining people, will probably streamline leasable space. The very near future will show just how much global companies will decide to change their footprint in the marketplace.
Let’s face it: working remotely is a normal day at work. Therefore, it is imperative to make L&D a part of your company’s alternate strategy business model. You need to provide your entire workforce with the support they need to navigate current challenges and the disruption that lies ahead.
And don’t think all that is required is adding a few on-demand courses and sending out links to content. An effective strategy must be designed to overcome the unique learning challenges of remote teams.
When working from different locations and often in isolation, remote workers or teams may face the following challenges:
Not everyone has the same comfort with technology
The reality is, we are all on different comfort levels when it comes to technology. Some people are comfortable taking a computer apart and putting it back together again while others get a little anxiety when the system does a simple update. For those employees who aren’t as tech savvy, there is going to be a small learning curve and your patience might be tested. Although some people will need more time to adjust than others, your IT personnel can greatly assist, and those employees who have stronger computer skills can help their coworkers adjust. This will also strengthen the bond between teammates.
New rules of etiquette
In the pre-COVID days when in-person meetings were the thing and we all worked in an office together, we relied on visual communication, eye contact and body language for cues on when to speak, how to politely interrupt and be heard. Effectively communicating in virtual environments and interacting on video conferences requires new skills and takes time to get comfortable with if you’re not familiar with these platforms. Basic etiquette skills are a must. Phrases like, “Excuse me” and “I’m sorry to cut you off” are going to be important to keep tensions low. You may also want to consider appointing someone as the meeting moderator to keep things in order.
Learning in isolation
Team members seeking information and learning independently may not have the proper guidelines or tools to be able to do so. There is no matrix to measure, no learning curve to gauge what progress is being made and often times, no advice to seek. When we work in the same office as our coworkers, it was as simple as walking down the hallway to ask a colleague a question. These days, employees are going to have to be self-starters and do more of their own research and troubleshooting. Team managers might want to consider popping online for 15 to 20 minutes each day for a dedicated Q&A session focused on employee questions and concerns.
Unequal L&D opportunities
Not everyone may be able to attend in-person trainings, and if the company isn’t properly set up virtually, remote team members may receive lower-quality experiences than their onsite counterparts. This is bad news for developing the vital skills of your employees and in the long run, may severely impact quality and output. You might have to get creative to balance the learning environment for all. If you can’t implement the right technology so that everyone can benefit from learning, consider mentor teams where more experienced personnel are assigned to work and coach less experienced team members. Many trainings can also be done over the phone, and that’s a technology we are all comfortable with.
If you know what challenges may lie ahead, you may be able to minimize errors and improve the impact of what you offer because you’ll be able to gauge if your offsite team members are engaged with the training you offer, can absorb the content, and are putting into practice their learnings.
While technology plays an important role in a remote L&D program’s success, an equally significant portion rests in the leaders leading these teams. Both are needed, both are required.