Micki Frankland, learning and development manager at Hays EMEA, shares her experiences of delivering remote training to employees.
There are many benefits of conducting virtual training. These include the flexibility it offers, costs savings, knowledge retention from shorter training modules and increased convenience in terms of people’s schedules, not to mention the environmental benefits from the reduction in travel.
So, even as we do move beyond the pandemic, while I don’t expect face-to-face training to be replaced in its entirety, remote training is going to play a huge part going forward, especially now we’ve proven we can do it and that it is practical.
As we began our journey as a training team during the early days of the pandemic, we had literally hundreds of face-to-face training sessions planned that had to be cancelled and immediately replaced by virtual versions, so it’s safe to say that there were some big lessons learned. I’ll share some of them with you now.
1. Learn how to use the new technology yourself
It has been said by many people already, but our experiences of this pandemic would have been very different without the technology that is available to us today. We’re able to connect with people from across the world, we can share documents instantly and can talk face-to-face.
The majority of companies will have already had some sort of video-conferencing technology at their disposal. We have been using a number of various platforms, including Fuze, Webex, Skype and Microsoft Teams to deliver our virtual training.
Which one we choose to use on any given day is decided by a number of factors, such as choosing the platform that is most used locally, how secure the platform needs to be, if there is any additional integration into existing systems required and the overall goal of the training session.
Learning how to use these platforms is important – if anything goes wrong you don’t want to lose the attention of your audience while you take time to fix it. In addition, if you know what the platform is capable of, there could even be a better way of delivering the training.
2. Change the format of your training courses
You will also have to review your existing training programmes and ask yourself whether they still work in this new virtual format – the answer will likely be no. For instance, when training is carried out face-to-face, you might split people into groups to work on exercises as a team. This works very differently when everyone is in separate locations.
You will also have to take attendee engagement levels into consideration. It is much more difficult to hold people’s attention when they are remote. This means you will have to think about the length of the content as it will be harder to judge the room when you’re looking at only a handful of people on a small screen.
While it becomes harder if you are training a large group, addressing people directly to receive constant feedback will help you ensure that everybody is participating, or consider insisting all attendees have their camera permanently switched on. Another issue that you will likely find is not being able to be personal with people, as it is harder to support specific requests when you can’t talk one-on-one as easily.
So, there is a real need to adapt. Ensure you know why people are taking that particular training course prior to their attendance and what they want to get from it. Make sure everyone in that group has a similar level of experience, so you’re not over or under-explaining anything. Just make sure you’re delivering the right thing to the right people at the right time, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
One of the most effective changes we made to our training very early on in the lockdown period was to make our virtual training much more focused on particular topics and also reduce the length of time of each course. For example, where a training model would have traditionally lasted a day, now we have reduced them into two 2.5-hour sessions.
3. Adapt your virtual training to the next era of work
The world of work is now very different compared to what it was just a few months ago, so the need for different skills has come to the forefront as more professionals are having to be flexible to the changing needs of their businesses.
This means the skills that were lower down the list of priorities pre-crisis are now seen as essential. For example, remote employees may be using new technology that they have little knowledge of and, in order to use it successfully, they need to be taught.
From a people manager’s perspective, many may never have had to manage hybrid teams, so you will need to make sure they are equipped to manage their people the best they can in the new environment. This will include managing the wellbeing of remote workers and ensuring the team is still connected with one another and operating as one.
It’s also important that you’re helping managers to avoid falling into the trap of micromanaging their team, as well as providing them with guidance on when to offer praise and when to give feedback.
As well as looking at what virtual training is relevant to your employees right now, you also need to make sure that what you’re teaching them is useful for when they’re back in the office or working in the new hybrid structure. So, find the right balance between what’s relevant to the current situation, but also what will be important in the new era of work awaiting us in the near future.
4. Provide one-to-one training support
Being accessible is a crucial role for a training team, particularly as we enter the next era of work. However, you’re not face-to-face and thus it can be quite difficult for employees to feel they can just approach you if they have a question or concern.
At Hays, in addition to the formal virtual training programmes, we have also begun to run virtual training clinics. During these clinics, employees can call us if they have any questions and if they want ideas or advice. We have found quite a few of our people have taken advantage of this.
A key area they often want to talk about is the new skills they personally think they need to thrive in the next era of work, such as technological skills or how to network in a remote world. It has been great to hear directly what skills they believe they require, rather than guessing what they might need; we then know what training session will be better suited to them.
The future of training
This process of having to review and adapt our training has helped me look at our offering as a training team from a different perspective, and question why we do what we do. Overall, one of the biggest lessons for me has been to be open-minded.
We have always thought that we need to carry out training by being psychically in front of attendees but, to be honest, that isn’t always necessary. It’s very much about the adaptation of what you’ve been doing and evolving it for the new era.
I am not convinced remote training will ever fully replace the face-to-face experience, simply because it remains so effective. However, during this period we have learned that just because we are used to delivering something one way, it doesn’t mean we should necessarily continue doing it as we did before.
Micki Frankland is the learning and development manager at Hays EMEA. A version of this article previously appeared on the Hays Viewpoint blog.