Helping your employees develop new skills and build fluency in your internal tools is a great way to get more out of your team, but training thousands of people is a logistical challenge for any enterprise. Add in a pandemic and you need to train thousands of employees on internal tools — all while they’re working remotely.
It sounds daunting, but it’s possible.
With the right system, enterprises can implement work-from-home training at scale to teach every employee the skills they need to succeed in their role. Here’s how to do it.
A successful remote training system works with each individual’s schedule instead of fighting against it. Instead of dictating when training happens, design your system to be flexible and asynchronous. Your training program should be available whenever an employee is ready to learn, yet also capable of providing real-time guidance for each individual’s needs.
One employee might be in the ideal headspace for a training video on a Tuesday morning. They’re at their desk, their house is quiet, and their headphones are plugged in. Another might have meetings all day, so they’ll prioritise training later in the week. Training is usually the first priority for an L&D professional, but for employees, it’s lower on the list. Sometimes, learning a new tool can feel like the least important thing on an employee’s to-do list, even if that training might help them do better and faster work.
Working from home exacerbates that problem. When your team works from home instead of in an office, their life and work will overlap more than it does in the office. It doesn’t make sense to fight against that reality when you’re building a training program you hope will scale.
Asynchronous training allows room for life to happen. In the United States, working parents are struggling to balance their kids’ online school schedules in addition to their careers, even causing parents to abandon the workforce as schools continue to operate online. A working parent might have to make time for training at 9 p.m., when their child is asleep, not 10 a.m., when they’re helping with math class. A parent might watch training videos while they’re washing dishes, a computer propped on the kitchen counter so they can multitask.
When everyone’s in the office at the same time, real-time training makes sense. But if they aren’t, synchronicity doesn’t scale. While traditional training through an LMS is technically asynchronous, it still requires employees to dedicate specific times to learning new features and processes. True asynchronous training—the kind that happens in the flow of work when an individual is ready—supports all of your work-from-home employees’ workflows, not just some of them.
Synchronous, real-time communication is appropriate for a work-from-home training program, too — it just requires a thoughtful approach with a distributed team.
If someone has questions after watching a training video, it’s hard to beat the value of a synchronous conversation. Real-time conversations should not be used to introduce new material; instead, they should build on what an employee learned asynchronously to contextualise and deepen their understanding.
Communicate straightforward, instructional information asynchronously first so you make the most of synchronous time.
Leverage chat for moments that require synchronous communication, set up office hours with relevant team members to address questions that come up during the asynchronous training process, or prompt employees to schedule a video call for in-depth conversations.
Asynchronous training systems require a lot of planning. When you have thousands of employees who need varying types of information, it’s not effective to make things up as you go.
Think of your work-from-home training plan like a course. What should be on the syllabus? What requires in-app context, which skills might someone need to practice multiple times, and what might be confusing without an explanation from an expert?
Consider different scenarios, as well. Onboarding new hires might call for a curriculum — or style of learning — different from implementing operational changes with existing employees. That challenge is exacerbated during a pandemic, when a new hire doesn’t get face time with their team. A new employee needs a lot of hand-holding, and research by O’Reilly suggests they’d benefit from structured content. An existing employee has more expertise in your company operations, so an unstructured approach might be more appropriate.
Use your digital adoption platform to personalise the learning experience for each scenario.
For example, a new employee learning Salesforce needs context about how the sales process works at your company, not just how to use the tool. They might benefit from a highly structured onboarding course that incorporates operational context with tool-specific guidance.
An existing employee who is learning a Salesforce-related operational change doesn’t need to learn your sales funnel — they already know it. Existing employees need to understand why an operational change is happening, how new tool features impact their workflows, and the best ways overcome challenges during the transition.
If you’re using a digital adoption platform like Whatfix for remote training, customize your messaging and task lists to support different circumstances. A dedicated place to ask questions adds an engaging element to your program and helps you see where people are getting stuck.
If your training program doesn’t have a deadline or the process isn’t clear, you’ll have to spend more time and energy asking people to complete it. Before announcing your remote training program to the team, set clear expectations for success and completion.
You’ll need to communicate deadlines from the outset so employees understand how to prioritise their training. Try breaking your training program into smaller pieces and assign deadlines for each section. Work from home training should foster a sense of achievement on your team, and achievable mini deadlines help everyone feel like they’re constantly finding small wins.
Keep employee workloads in mind when setting deadlines, not just how long the course takes to complete. Training is a priority, but it’s rarely the only thing on an employee’s to-do list. In the 2020 Workplace Learning Report, LinkedIn said that 49% of employees felt they didn’t have time to learn at work. To lessen the obstacle of busyness, work with team leads to appropriately prioritise training within the context of their other initiatives.
Clarify what completion looks like, and create a clear path to success. Your team shouldn’t get to the end of training and wonder whether they’ve done everything they’re supposed to do.
Work-from-home training should evolve with your company, so make sure to measure how it’s going. The best part about using a digital adoption platform: it’s easy to see where people get stuck, how long your course takes to complete, and which questions are most common.
Getting that kind of aggregate data from an in-person, real-time training program? Much tougher, or potentially impossible.
Leverage that data to improve your training processes. In Whatfix, you can see which trainings employees have completed, which ones they didn’t finish, and what they’re searching for. Use that information to improve training videos that a lot of people start but don’t finish, or add more help content to address common questions.
Look for trends, not outliers. If one person is struggling to complete their training, address that outlier individually. If a lot of people are struggling to complete training, that might mean you need to iterate.
Use surveys to uncover qualitative insights from quantitative trends. LinkedIn estimates that 43% of learning and development professionals measure the impact of learning through qualitative feedback from employees. If you can’t figure out why, for example, 60% of people aren’t completing a specific part of your training, send out a survey. Your employees will probably have great insight into ways to improve the experience for future hires.
Creating a work-from-home training program is no small feat. It requires a lot of planning, iteration, and intentional execution to get the right information to the right people.
But here’s the good news: once you’ve built a system that works no matter where in the world your team happens to be, it’s future-proof. If everyone comes back into the office next year, your remote-friendly system will still make sense. Someone will be able to complete the asynchronous sections of training from their desk, then walk over to a manager with a question. Or, they’ll be able to set up a time to chat with an expert who works in a different building, different office, or different country.
It’s time for a brand-new system that’s ideal for the current context of your company and your future: one that’s remote, asynchronous, and scalable.