Managing training needs of remote workers is a responsibility that employers have tried to address to a fair extent. As the number of on-site and out-of-office roles has been somewhat limited when compared to in-house employees, companies usually handled their training on a need based system. Most often remote employees refer to training or reference material that is hosted on the company’s servers. This is no longer the case. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has caused several renowned firms to encourage employees to work from their homes.
With remote work becoming increasingly preferable and popular, eLearning initiatives may well be a more structured and systematic way to train a virtual employee base, especially one that is bound to grow.
Recruitment and Training Amidst Covid-19 pandemic
Companies irrespective of size, industry, and geography have cut down on in-person hiring and training initiatives, given the restrictions on commute and call for social distancing. Organizations with a sound information and technology (IT) infrastructure are managing their routine functions remotely, minimizing physical attendance unless warranted. Employers now have the choice to complete the recruitment and training of remote workers online. The task, by any means, is not an easy one.
Remote work, recruitment, and training are not feasible in companies that thrive on manual labor. Blended learning, though, may prove a viable option to train employees.
Training a Remote Workforce Via eLearning: Key Challenges
Training a remote workforce and onboarding new hires virtually is something that companies are yet to get a grip on. This is uncharted territory, with no tried and tested practices to fall back on. There are quite a few challenges that are likely to surface. Most prominent among them being:
Relevant, Just-In-Time Information to Support Daily Tasks
Training for role-specific skills and career progressions is essential. However, creating training material or product documentation for instant reference also needs equal attention. Employees working from home will need relevant information to sort out any problems that they may face on a day-to-day basis. It is worth noting that companies are no longer addressing the information needs of just a handful of remote workers.
Measuring Effectiveness and Effort
Yet another challenge is to measure the effectiveness of the training process and the employee’s effort that goes into applying newly acquired skills or subject expertise. While routine desk operations are digitized and hence better traceable, companies must have the necessary infrastructure and processes to monitor and assess client-facing operations.
Boosting Employee Morale and Motivation
It is essential for employers to keep their distributed workforce motivated and engaged. Remote workers are likely to miss their routine workplace interactions and chatter. Ensuring learning continuity is one way to tone down the insecurity and anxiety that is related to remote work. With recruitment drives on the back burner for now, employers need to focus their efforts on suitably upskilling or re-skilling the current workforce. Such initiatives not only serve to maintain learning continuity but also keep employees in high spirits.
By training a remote workforce for skill gaps, companies can build a talent pool, ready to shoulder additional responsibilities if and when needed.
Building and Sustaining Work Culture
Companies spend a lot of time and effort in fostering mutual trust among employees and building a work culture and in line with their core values. With the work environment now expanding outside the physical office space, strengthening the core values and sustaining work culture is no easy task. Inducting new hires into the system will need additional attention.
In workplaces where daily operations are for the major part digitized, employers and HR managers are left with no choice but to rely heavily on digital data when it comes to:
- Assessing skill gaps and training requirements
- Planning and organizing virtual training programs
- Tracking progress and employee performance
Remote work is always prone to distractions, more so in the absence of supervision. It is vital to make sure that employees take their remote training sessions seriously.
A robust and reliable IT infrastructure and secure internet access are essential for online training programs. Technical glitches are bound to occur as there is no control over the IT environment, the health of personal devices, and network connectivity at the employees’ end. This is an issue that needs to be contended with and suitably addressed.
Interestingly, one consultant firm, Talento, has embarked on an AI-backed online initiative to spot, upskill, and suitably place promising candidates in entry-level jobs.
Training a Remote Workforce: How can eLearning Help Address Challenges and to What Extent?
Most companies have some form of rudimentary online content to support employees who work outside their main offices. The same, however, may not be adequate or even ideal to train a large number of employees working from their homes. eLearning initiatives, when carefully planned and implemented, can help resolve some of the hardships that companies typically face in training a remote workforce.
eLearning programs are flexible in terms of where, how, and when employees choose to catch up with learning. Even when working from home, employees can catch up with training programs outside regular work hours. Unlimited access to training resources, including recorded versions of live sessions, enables staff to make up for any missed time.
The latest tools and technologies help make eLearning programs engaging and interactive as well. They serve to keep employees in good cheer, gain each other’s trust and build a working rapport. They also help remote workers combat boredom and loneliness typical of remote work.
Given the reach of eLearning programs, it is possible to train the entire remote workforce on compliance, safety, role-specific processes, and company policies. Many of the prevalent technologies and learning management systems also support online classes with decent batch size.
The success of eLearning initiatives in mitigating challenges depends on how frequent, engaging, relevant, and rewarding they are likely to be.
Where do Learning Management Platforms fit into this equation?
eLearning programs lend themselves to different delivery modes. They support synchronous (in real-time), asynchronous (offline, self-paced-learning), and a blended (both former modes) delivery of training content. Accordingly, trainers are free to use an assortment of tools to create, manage, and conduct the training programs. They could instead opt for a cost-effective and reliable cloud-based Learning Management Platform to do the same.
Learning Management Systems (LMS) take the pinch out of working with multiple tools to author, manage, and deliver eLearning programs. More importantly, they facilitate assignment distribution, performance assessments, and feedback. They also double up as reusable knowledge repositories. The in-built tools prove valuable in building and delivering engaging online programs from scratch.
LMSs, among other features, also support:
Another feature that proves handy is the ability of an LMS to integrate with in-house software and third-party applications.
The LMS can be integrated with any standalone HR / Training software that a company may be currently using.
Once the integration is complete, employee-specific training needs recorded in the in-house system are accessible from the LMS. It is now possible to address these requirements via suitable training programs hosted on the LMS. Training records are updated on the LMS and synchronized with the HR software too (on request). This enables employers to assess the effectiveness of the training programs using the employee performance metrics logged in the in-house HR software.
This kind of seamless integration ensures that the training initiatives are purposed right, and the results are measurable.
eLearning has proved to be an effective alternative to conventional corporate training in addressing the training requirements of a remote workforce. Companies may do well to carefully plan and strategize their efforts to fully digitize the Training and Development function and ensure that all employees are suitably skilled to handle remote work.