someone taking origami lessons online
PHOTO: tabitha turner

Professional learning and development matter to employees. In fact, the majority of workers consider job training access to be a primary motivator when determining whether or not they’ll remain with an employer. LinkedIn’s 2019 “Workplace Learning Report” survey found that as many as “94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development.” 

Workplace training provides employees with benefits like greater job satisfaction and morale, improved skills and performance efficiencies, and stronger upward mobility and leadership investment options. But while employers are responsible for facilitating job training opportunities, knowing how to effectively implement them in the modern workplace — which is global, collaborative and flexible — can be challenging. 

Indeed, hosting a training seminar in the ballroom of a local hotel outfitted with a continental breakfast spread, “Hello, my name is …” badges, and topical breakout sessions attendees register for but skip to play golf or shop simply won’t suffice for meaningful professional development in this decade. Global Workplace Analytics estimates that approximately 75 million employees, or 56% of the American workforce not classified as self-employed professionals, work in jobs that are currently home-based or could open future avenues for working from home. 

And like their onsite counterparts, remote workers are hungry for learning and development opportunities. 

TalentLMS — the maker of a cloud-based learning platform geared toward remote teams — conducted a survey of remote professionals in 2019 — it found 67% desire more work-based training from their employers. Among remote workers who stated they receive employer-provided online training, the primary methods noted for tele-learning included online courses, phone-based training and webinars. And while e-learning in professional settings has been used since the 1990s, virtual training methods continue to evolve to fit the changing dynamics of the work landscape. 

Remote human resources and business leaders tasked with administering online training and development can improve the quality of their programs with these five suggestions:

1. Enable Single Sign-On Access for Training

A single sign-on (SSO) process for virtual learning will streamline the time it takes to access training sessions and materials. With SSO, remote workers only need to use one set of credentials to simultaneously authenticate multiple applications. Similar to using a digital ID card, the SSO process is not only more convenient for virtual trainees, but also more secure for remote-enabled businesses. Without the burden of storing so many passwords in their databases, companies hosting training for distributed teams will reduce their hacking vulnerabilities and lessen the burden of login troubleshooting.

Related Article: Virtual Training Dos and Don'ts

2. Make Training Materials Available Online and Offline

Remote work affords professionals the freedom to perform their jobs from locations that best suit their occupations and lifestyles. For some professionals, this means working from a telework setting such as a dedicated home office or a local coworking center. For others, working remotely may involve working while traveling around the world. 

In either scenario, making training materials available offline as well as online will maximize flexibility for remote workers to train at times convenient for their schedules and activities. This flexibility also facilitates training during remote workers’ most productive hours. Some remote professionals may be morning people who absorb new information better over a pre-dawn cup of coffee, while others may prefer to read a training PDF just before bed.

3. Utilize User-Generated Content When Training Remote Workers

One of the best training resources available to remote-enabled businesses is in-house expertise. Companies that hire remote employees do not incur talent deficiencies caused by geographical limitations. Remote-enabled businesses can, and do, recruit the best global talent to enhance their operations. Utilizing user-generated content, such as blog posts, reports, live streams or recorded videos, question and answer sessions, and case studies, for virtual training provides opportunities for experienced staff to share their knowledge, exchange ideas with their colleagues, and gain valuable leadership experience. It also bolsters team and inter-department engagement, as well as reinforces important company values like communication, trust, innovation and mutual respect across time zones, cultures and generations. 

Related Article: 6 Proven Business Benefits of Remote Work

4. Incorporate More Video-Based Learning Into Training Materials

With the average person projected to spend 100 minutes per day consuming video content in 2021, according to Zenith’s “Online Video Forecasts 2019” report, video content dominates online marketing strategies. However, using video to communicate information extends beyond commercialization. Video is an effective method for employers to distribute training content to remote workers, especially when comparing the success of information distributed via video and print. 

Forrester Research data shows 75% of people would rather watch a video than read printed material. Deloitte, a remote-enabled business, applied a similar philosophy to video-based learning within its business and achieved success. The company’s video portal, which was launched as an engagement motivator for internal communications among executives and employees, measurably increased employee engagement and achieved a 75% video play rate among staff. 

5. Create Self-Directed Training Resources 

The nature of remote work attracts professionals who are self-directed. When engineering virtual training strategies, remote leaders can capitalize on the independent personalities of remote employees by curating lists of online training resources useful in telework settings, then allow employees to learn based on their own interests and goals. 

Department heads could tailor training resource lists to their team objectives or specifically to certain types of remote jobs. Remote colleagues may also collaborate and provide feedback to their managers about the training styles and topics they would find most useful. Ideas for self-directed training topics for remote workers include online tutorials for how to use common remote team software like Slack, Basecamp and the Google suite of programs; guidance for improving soft skills necessary to succeeding in a telework environment; diagrams and how-tos for setting up an ergonomic home office; and company-specific policies for onboarding new hires or earning a promotion. 

Related Article: 4 Key Elements of an Impactful Workplace Digital Literacy Program

Final Thoughts

Training opportunities for remote workers are not only necessary for long-term organizational success, but also desired by the majority of professionals who telework. Meeting these learning and development needs of remote workers, while also maintaining effective management and engagement from the operational perspective, can be achieved through job training strategies that emphasize the unique environments and cultures of modern workplaces. 

Remote workers want the same flexibility in professional development as they do in their daily work functions. By incorporating virtual learning and development methods like enabling SSO access, making training materials available online and offline, utilizing user-generated content, incorporating more video-based learning, and creating self-directed training resources, remote leaders will increase employee retention among their telecommuting staff while also demonstrating that they value their employees’ growth in tandem with the company’s prosperity.