Training is a vital part of professional development and new employee onboarding. It can still take place during the ongoing pandemic thanks to technology. Now, more than ever, businesses are turning to virtual platforms to continue employees’ learning and growing.
How can you ensure that employees respond to virtual training as well as they would in-person training? What are the different ways to ensure training that resonates with a diverse audience? We asked 11 thought leaders to share their best virtual training ideas for remote teams to help you make the best of your remote workplace.
“When the people you are training only show up as small video squares on a screen, it can be hard to know if people are engaged. Open your meeting on a positive energy note by ordering team members a Starbucks drink to be delivered to their door. Involve team members by asking open-ended questions, doing polls and quizzes throughout the training, and giving them adequate breaks to log off and reset.”
- Henry Babich, Stomadent Dental Laboratory -
Personal interactions throughout any training session supports engagement, and interactive virtual sessions helps the trainer to get to know the individuals present at the session. Providing time and space for trainees to ask questions and share their thoughts presents the trainer with a chance to offer clarity and resolve any issues during the session.
“Learning new material in training sessions can be difficult to do remotely. Encourage team members to minimize distractions by setting up a quiet work area, putting away phones and tablets, and telling the dogs and kids to play in another room until training is done.”
- Vanessa Molica, The Lash Professional -
Working from home presents many distractions, and every individual will have their own challenges. For those with a neurodiversity such as ADHD, maintaining focus in any environment can be challenging. So, when it comes to virtual training, it’s important to be aware and ask what you can do to help. Perhaps think about sending some additional resources ahead of time, such as a document which outlines the structure of the day, with some space for trainees to add their notes. This will help trainees to follow along, and give them a space to process their thoughts in line with what you’re saying.
“One way to ensure that the new employee fits into the new position is to make him or her feel part of the team. By pairing up the new employee with a seasoned team member, the management can accomplish two tasks. First, the new employee will receive clear guidelines, have someone to clarify specific expectations and tasks, and have an accountability person with whom to speak daily. Second, the new employee will feel much more included and integrated into the company's culture.”
- Natalya Bucuy, LiveHelpNow -
This technique falls in line with the much loved ‘buddy system’, which is often suggested to ensure neurodiverse employees know where to turn to if they experience challenges at work. It’s also beneficial, because some neurodiversities can impact on information processing, and some individuals might need some extra clarity and direction, to effectively carry out tasks. Having a dedicated person there to provide support is something that can benefit everyone.
“Appeal to all the types of learners you may have on your team within a training session. While some team members might get a lot out of simply discussing the process, try to have visual examples, role-playing exercises, and written steps outlined when teaching a new concept.”
- Candi Luciano, Y Scouts -
Every individual processes differently, and has their own preferred (or necessary) ways to communicate. People with disabilities may have limitations in how they can express themselves, whilst others may find certain formats more comfortable than others. Giving people the option in how they consume your training content, and demonstrate their learnings, helps to ensure every person gets the most out of the session.
“It's extremely tempting to multi-task during any remote training, especially if you're not particularly engaged. My team has a "no multitasking honor system" during our virtual meetings. That means that we all commit to giving our full attention and make sure our video and collaboration tools are the only things open. This makes it much easier to actually connect when you're giving each other your full attention.
We also encourage our teams to turn their cameras on - There is a different level of engagement and connection that happens when you can see everyone's face and they can see yours. The energy level gets ratcheted up a notch and it's easier to convey emotion.”
- Adam Sanders, Successful Release -
This type of system is a great way to minimize any distractions that employees may face, and that’s advantageous for helping those with ADHD to stay focused.
When it comes to video conferencing, it’s important to be aware that some may not feel comfortable with being on camera. The thought of being on camera may be a distraction to someone as the anxiety and stress this brings will be the focus of their attention. On the other hand, being able to visually see their colleagues is beneficial for employees with an Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). Often, they find it difficult to interpret both verbal and non-verbal language, so having both available could help. They also might find it hard to express their own emotions, so enabling the trainer to see them could help to highlight any issues. Whilst you can encourage your teams to turn on their cameras, it’s important to have empathy for those that don’t feel comfortable.
“Explain things even more thoroughly than you ever did before. Add more steps if necessary, and make your explanations broader and more detailed. If you can, add illustrative examples and check at every stage that everyone has understood exactly what you are trying to convey. Clear explanations are more important than ever before because a lot can get lost over a virtual connection, even with perfect internet. It is your responsibility to spell things out clearly and obviously, in order to correctly express intent.”
- Sean Nguyen, Internet Advisor -
Sometimes things can get ‘lost in translation’ and that happens all too often when it comes to digital communications. Following the advice outlined above will help to minimize this, and by asking trainees if they’ve understood, you’re giving them the time to address any areas they need you to delve into further.
“I love utilizing video for training purposes, even when most of the team were in-house, it was still one of my favorite methods of teaching as it brings together remote and in-house team members. I have a lot of marketing videos on YouTube and LinkedIn, and I regularly send them out to the team.
The rest of the team are also really good at sharing tips where they have the expertise to share, and sending out videos of their own. While this does also help from a marketing point of view, it also works really well for training and bridging the remote/in-house divide”.
- Yaniv Masjedi, Nextiva -
Providing training in different formats helps you to resonate with a wider audience. Some people are auditory processors and visual learners, whilst others prefer to read and scribble down notes. So offering videos as part of the training process helps to provide this variety. It also allows for self-paced learning - employees can listen to the content as much as they need to, helping them to process the information in their own time.
“Being familiar with the material and having presented it in person isn’t enough to make sure the training is effective with remote teams. Trainers need to improve their presentation skills to meet the expectations of an audience that’s grown accustomed to virtual meetings and presentations. This means trainers should be able to capture the attention of the audience in the first 30 seconds. Ask focused questions during the session to improve engagement and interaction and give verbal cues that tell the audience specific points to listen for. You can’t assume everyone has the same level of focus or attention as they would in person.”
- Jen Mueller, Talk Sporty to Me -
Ensuring trainers are aware of the diverse audience that they’re training is extremely important in ensuring a successful training experience for everyone. Everyone differs in terms of how long they take to process information and formulate their thoughts, and how long they can retain focus, and awareness and recognition of this is crucial.
“It's easy to lose your audience during virtual training, so keep sessions under 45-minutes whenever possible. During that time, bring in tools like virtual break-out rooms, polls, and direct Q&A to keep the engagement going. Finally, make sure the transfer of learning happens by having leadership follow-up afterward with their teams one-on-one. Via email, phone call, or chat, ask about what they learned, or how the new skill is being applied. And, finally, always determine if they would like any additional information or follow-up to be successful.”
- Nicole Spracale, Coaching & Consulting -
Follow up is a vital part of the training process. Some people may not feel comfortable to ask questions during the session, so offering them a chance to follow up with you is key. Providing some extra learning materials also enable self-paced learning, which is helpful for those with neurodiversities that need some additional time to process information.
“Prepare reference documents for new employees based on common questions or concerns employees have had previously. It's actually a form of supplemental training on the job. When working remotely employees might not always be able to get a hold of you when they have a question. If people have to stop working until they can reach you every time they're unsure of how to proceed it can cripple the efficiency of your business.”
- Tom Scarda, The Franchise Academy -
As previously mentioned, it’s advantageous to provide training content in various formats, and a written Q&A doc works well alongside virtual video training. It provides a reference source for trainees to refer back to. With the document being made up of common questions from previous trainees, it’s also content which has been informed by the right audience too!
“Between video calls, free online certifications, and webinars, you can effectively onboard new hires remotely. If you are in the digital marketing field, I highly recommend the courses offered by Google, Semrush, and Hubspot. If you are in a field that does not have many online courses, don’t be afraid to have your new hire on a Zoom call all day. Chances are, they will appreciate the (virtual) face-to-face interaction.”
- Nikitha Lokareddy, Startup SEO Company -
One thing’s for sure, the move to remote working for many has opened up opportunities and we should grasp these with both hands. There are a lot more online courses available to use than ever before. Give your employees the opportunity to choose courses which would help them to develop professionally and personally - whether job specific, or something that will help them to overcome barriers they may experience day-to-day.
We hope you have gained lots of ideas for keeping your remote teams engaged in remote training. It's important to be aware of the diversity of your teams, and create great training experiences for everyone. If you would like to discover more about neurodiversity in the workplace, check out our guide 'Unlocking neurodiversity in the workplace'.