6 Tips for Training a Remote Workforce
It is the digital age. Most workplaces are striving towards computerization of all its processes and making them completely paperless. With increasingly easy access to the internet and the latest technology, it is no wonder that employers and employees are opening up to alternative options to traditional workplaces such as remote work and telecommuting.
The benefits of working remotely appeal to a lot of employees and organizations across the globe, giving a boost to the trend. According to a Gallup survey, 43 percent of US employees have worked remotely for at least some time. Similarly, according to a report published by the UK Trades Union Congress, the number of people who work remotely has increased by 241,000 throughout a decade in the UK, and that half the workers in the UK will telecommute or work remotely by 2020.
Remote Work – Beneficial for Both Employers & Employees
It is hardly surprising to note that about 90 percent of the people who start working remotely are not likely to work in a traditional office setting again throughout their career. Telecommuting or working from a remote location not only offers many benefits to employees but also proves to be highly advantageous to employers. Hence, we see a lot of employers opening up telecommuting opportunities for their staff.
With such a positive change towards remote working over the past decade, it is time that employers ask if they are ready and can manage a remote workforce. According to 64 percent of hiring managers, their companies have the technology, resources, and processes to be able to offer telecommuting options to their employees but 57 percent of employers lack the policies required to manage a remote workforce.
Training is Important
Training remote staff is a fundamental problem area for most employers. But, before we go into how to deal with the problems while designing the training processes for telecommuting staff, let’s look into some issues faced by the staff that works from a remote location. 21 percent feel lonely working away from the office, and an equal percentage said they have problems collaborating and communicating. 13 percent said they were having issues due to different time-zones and 16 percent got distracted while working at home. 14 percent could not stay motivated enough. While employees and employers have managed to deal with some of these issues, they are still grappling with most of them.
Training programs for remote staff are more complex and a newer phenomenon in comparison to the traditional or regular staff training programs. So, it is only natural for them to have some teething troubles and pitfalls. It is essential that you keep these issues in mind right from the time you start designing the training program itself.
6 Tips for Training a Remote Workforce
Let us now take a look at some crucial steps you can take while conducting training to ensure that you get the best out of your remote staff.
Start with the hiring process: If you are hiring someone with the intention of having them work off-site, it is always better to hire someone with some telecommuting experience. Asking a question like “What has been your experience working remotely?” will not only give you an idea about the candidate’s remote work experience but can also open up a discussion on how well they can work in that scenario. It is important to gauge their time-management skills as well as their ability to meet deadlines. It is also vital that the potential candidate is self-motivated with a strong sense of commitment and excellent communication skills.
Provide continuous training: Since you do not interact continuously near your remote workers, it is essential to provide constant guidance to them so that they can perform to the best of their ability. It is also imperative to have clear goals, plans, and expectations for the first 30/60/90 days and let these goals determine the course of your training program. Even after the initial phase, it helps to incorporate personalized training sessions at regular intervals to consistently enrich your remote staff.
Content chunking: It may happen that remote workers cannot spare a specific number of hours at a predetermined time every day for training sessions like regular workers who attend office can. This may mainly be the case if you have a remote team based in different geographical locations and time zones. In such scenarios, you can invest in content chunking (or byte-sized learning methods). These training sessions can be undertaken alongside regular responsibilities and are also more effective.
Face-to-face interactions: It is essential to have a face-to-face interaction with your telecommuting staff at least for a part of the training program. You can use reliable video-calling facilities such as Skype and screen sharing programs wherever required. While it may seem like overkill to some employers, not providing such communication channel can be a mistake. Not only does such visual collaboration improve learning efficiency, but it also helps build a sense of team spirit and cooperation among remote workers; both of which is vital to retain talent.
Don’t reinvent the wheel: Easy access to advanced technology has made it convenient to conduct online training for remote staff. You can use LMS tools, webinar apps, etc. to conduct training sessions.
Get feedback: It is essential to conduct assessments or quality checks to assess performance. Also, it is imperative to seek input to see what you are doing wrong and fix it on a continuous basis.
With growing reliance on remote workers, it helps to put in efforts and channel some of your resources to design conduct effective training programs for them. Successful training programs not only ensure lower turnover rates and enhanced productivity among employees but also indirectly help to make a positive impact on your company’s bottom line and long-term success. Thus, successful training programs designed specifically for the telecommuting staff is critical if your company wants to embrace this trend of off-site work which is here to stay.
Anand Srinivasan is the founder of Hubbion, a suite of free business apps and resources.