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How can companies upskill their employees remotely?

3 May 2022

We heard from three learning and development experts on how companies can adapt to a remote world when it comes to training and upskilling their employees.

With remote working becoming more common for many companies, careful thought must go into how employees can be trained and upskilled in this new world of work.

While some companies with hybrid working policies may choose to train brand-new employees in the office before allowing them to work from home, other companies with a bigger emphasis on remote working will have to figure out how best to train employees from afar.

And beyond those new employees who need training to help them get to grips with their new role, there are often other employees who need regular career development and upskilling.

If your company is working on a remote-first basis, how can training and upskilling be successfully incorporated?

Using the right tools and processes

Ruth Thomas, head of learning and development at HR software company Personio, said companies need to review their current training processes to ensure they’re not stuck in the past.

“For example, bite-size learning is crucial when delivering learning remotely – it minimises ‘Zoom fatigue’ and allows training to be delivered in digestible chunks,” she said.

“On-demand and self-serve learning is also important in ensuring that development can fit around everyone’s unique schedule and helps employees to develop a sense of ownership in relation to learning.”

Thomas also said that communicating regularly with employees about what training they need is also vital.

“Doing this will ensure that those working at home or elsewhere are not left behind when it comes to training and upskilling, and that businesses are able to deliver first-class training provision in an ever-remote working world.”

‘Bite-size learning is crucial when delivering learning remotely – it minimises Zoom fatigue’

Stuart Curtis, senior director of global talent development at employee engagement software company Workhuman, said using elements of design thinking will help put the learner at the heart of what their employer is doing.

“Design thinking relies on observing, with empathy, how people interact with their environments and employs an iterative, hands-on approach to creating innovative solutions,” he said.

“Moving to technologies that are inclusive for all learners and making learning available in a self-paced model, whether they are in the office or working remotely, is very important for ensuring the experience is equal and impactful.”

Some examples of new technologies may include interactive whiteboards that share content via Zoom and snap-to-speaker cameras.

Look for new solutions

While figuring out how to move training into an online environment is important, Torunn Dahl, head of talent, learning and inclusion at Deloitte, said it’s important to remember that the core elements of learning haven’t changed due to remote working and that training for training’s sake isn’t always the solution.

“Opportunities to shadow meetings are often easier in a remote environment and provide excellent learning opportunities, particularly if followed by a debrief conversation to cement the learning. Digital resources and guides that people can access in their own time are also very useful and appropriate to being able to learn in the flow of work or when the immediate need arises,” she said.

“If the company has determined that live virtual training is the best way forward, they then need to focus on creating an optimal environment for people to learn. It’s hard to maintain engagement through a full day online.

“Think about whether the programme can be split across multiple days, allow time for longer breaks, signal to people when they can turn their cameras off and just listen, but also when to turn them on to ensure engagement and activity. Using breakout rooms to encourage discussion and interaction amongst learners is also an effective way of supporting learners to digest the information and build their networks.”

For companies wondering about when is best to employ virtual training and when is best to conduct in-person training, Dahl suggested that having a clear set of criteria for what is best will help companies make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

“The criteria will differ across companies, but some key considerations might be whether the objective of the learning is to build relationships and networks, upskill technically, learn by doing, develop behaviours and cultural values. Depending on the answer, the most effective mode of delivery may differ.”

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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