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7 Ways to Ensure You’re Designing Effective Learning Opportunities for Remote Teams
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Brenda Do
 | 
May 18, 2020
 | 
7 Min Read

7 Ways to Ensure You’re Designing Effective Learning Opportunities for Remote Teams

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(This article is part 2 of 3 in the “remote L&D strategy” series)

In part 1 of the remote learning and development strategy series, we covered why remote work is predicted to increase long after the crisis ends—and how it raises the importance and urgency for companies to have a remote learning strategy now. However, leaders can’t simply wing it by sending out a few content links or randomly seeing what sticks. As discussed in the previous article, remote teams have unique learning challenges.

In this article, you’ll learn how to overcome these challenges and develop your remote strategy with tips addressing:

  • 7 ways to build effective learning opportunities for remote teams
  • 4 considerations when choosing L&D technology for remote workers

7 tips for offering effective L&D to remote teams

When managing successful remote teams, leaders must communicate, communicate, communicate. The same type of consistent check-ins and feedback applies when developing and executing a successful remote L&D program, as you’ll see in the tips below:

  1. Assign a learning sponsor. This person works in partnership with L&D to evangelize the learning needs of the organization or team. They help identify competencies that can impact key business objectives when developed. They may also aid in improving the speed and quality of how such content is created.
  2. Refine soft skills. Aid people leaders in approaching situations with curiosity and like a coach. This challenges team members to uncover their potential and feel like they’re receiving growth and development opportunities even though it’s not direct training.
  3. Distribute relevant learning. Identify common remote team themes that run across functions. Consider developing an intake process for efficiency. Utilize data collected from performance reviews, employee voice surveys, questionnaires, and other tools to capture key insights about the organizational and team needs, feedback around different training modalities.
  4. Customize blended learning experiences. Blended learning can be a mixture of self-paced learning and face-to-face interactions. This may include courses from on-demand platforms like Skillshare and programs developed in-house from internal subject matter experts.  
  5. Identify objectives, then build out modalities. Build out each piece of the modality that provides the most effective experience. When choosing a learning option, ask if it’s satisfying each modality and reinforcing the learnings. For example, you may have in-person learning with a virtual follow up, or just self-paced e-learning.
  6. Verify training is required. Don’t always jump to, ”let’s do a training.” In some cases, they may need a clearer process or a resource. Or maybe it’s not team members who need training, but leaders who need to brush up on their coaching and performance management skills.
  7. Prioritize requests. Many companies create development programs by answering requests from business partners as they come in. But this approach may not satisfy current challenges. To figure out what to prioritize, consider looking at the company’s business objectives and determining how L&D can contribute to that success. When requests come in, ask:

    • What team is it supporting?
    • How many will it impact?
    • What goal is it tying back to?

Designing engaging content and making it convenient to access virtually is just a start. Like onsite training, you must also be able to track program effectiveness and identify what works and where people fall out. This may require adopting new technologies.

What to consider in learning technology

Many L&D tech tools exist to help you distribute and reinforce learnings, plus measure training effectiveness. When choosing technology, you may want to:

Look at remote-first platforms. Consider platforms that are designed as remote-first instead of platforms that were developed as in-person first with virtual capabilities.

Invest in an LMS. Adapting in-person offerings by sending content out as a series of links doesn’t work because you can track engagement. A learning management system (LMS) is critical to efficiently distribute learnings appropriately, track engagement, verify it’s being digested, and measure returns.

Build an L&D tech stack. Augment your LMS with tools that can support development efforts. Be sure to use all tools to their fullest capacity so that people feel like they’re having an in-person experience. For example, video conferencing tools like Zoom are great, but don’t limit yourself to the meeting function. Can you use the breakout rooms to promote conversations within smaller groups?  Can you use the platform’s annotation tools and whiteboards so people collaborate and feel like it’s personal?

Acknowledge people’s preferences. Pre-COVID-19, a survey of employees at Upwork showed they preferred self-paced eLearning but rated in-person learning higher. With everyone distributed at this time, the desire for in-person learning grows stronger. So, Upwork’s L&D team actively seeks ways to emulate an in-person experience as much as possible. That said, it’s also beneficial to vary experiences so people don’t grow tired of the same type of delivery for each training.

Balance practice and feedback
Many people are consuming content through e-learning platforms such as LinkedIn Learning, Udemy and Coursera. While on-demand platforms like those should be in most L&D tech stacks, be sure you’re also challenging people to apply that learning.

For example, some VR training platforms provide safe places to simulate situations with trained specialists on the other side. If you’re a manager dealing with a performance issue, you can use the simulation to reproduce the work environment and an avatar that resembles the employee, then practice having a conversation with them.

In this example, the simulation provides full-circle development. If you had performance management training, gone through feedback and coaching workshops, and you’ve had a coach on the side, now you can practice performing in that situation.

With all the learning that teams ingest, you can’t really tell how effective they are and whether they’re improving capabilities if you don’t balance the reinforcement and feedback side of it. If you’ve already used your training budget and didn’t plan to invest in such technologies, perhaps explore unused budgets that were previously set aside for offsites, culture-creating, and in-person team events.

The modern remote team: hybrid

Something we haven’t addressed yet is who may be on your remote teams. Increasingly, employees are working in hybrid teams made up of internal workers and independent talent working remotely. As the trend grows, it’s possible that nearly every worker, whether onsite or offsite, will collaborate with independent professionals.

So, if independent talent play such an important role in helping teams attain business goals, should your L&D strategy include them? We’ll address that question in the final part of the remote L&D strategy series.

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