Robust professional learning and development (L&D) programs matter to employees—both onsite and remote.
LinkedIn's 2019 Workplace Learning Report found that:
- 94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development.
- 74% of employees who spend over five hours per week learning are more likely to know where they want to go in their careers, find greater purpose, and feel less stressed.
Yet, while employers are clear about the benefits of facilitating job training opportunities, knowing how to implement an L&D program in the modern workplace effectively—which is distributed, flexible, and collaborative—can be challenging.
Implementing and optimizing your L&D program across borders, tools, and time zones is crucial to the success of your remote team. We're about to tell you everything you need to know to make remote learning and development a total breeze. Let's dive in!
Why it's essential to invest in learning and development
For partially or fully distributed teams, it can feel like in-person L&D programs have all the fun—continental breakfast spreads, impromptu water cooler catch-ups, team lunches, and some cool training swag.
But investing in a remote L&D program does have its unmatched benefits, such as:
Remote L&D programs mean employees can digest information in environments where they deem "best" for learning—be it at home, while seated by the beach, or while taking care of the kids. Tell me about a better equality and inclusion game changer.
Reduced time-to-delivery of training programs
Sometimes, it can seem to take forever to schedule a course or training session because of clashing calendars. With remote learning, you don't need to align calendars before delivering a course program across the team.
Participants can choose to learn when it works for them. Plus, if the material is updated, you can send a quick update without the additional cost of bringing everyone together again into the same room.
Considerations that need to be taken
However, it's not all sunshine and rainbows.
Employees can find real-time interaction to be complicated in remote settings. The absence of visual cues and body language means it can be challenging to gauge employee participation and motivation. Managers and people leaders will need to find creative ways to make up for this gap.
Distractions are a point of concern for remote work. And they are even more of an issue with remote L&D programs.
A pet bouncing across the screen or a child bawling into the mic while a participant is in the middle of a live virtual session can be disruptive for everyone involved. Employers must balance enforcing a learning culture and allowing employees to choose when and how they participate in any L&D initiatives.
Finally, it can be tempting to "go with the flow" when implementing tools and a documentation process for a remote L&D program. But aside from the possibility of ending up with a program that is all over the place, learners risk being left behind due to technical problems, such as login, access, or software bug issues.
So, how do you work around these challenges while delivering a tremendous L&D experience for your distributed team?
Set up a blended learning experience: async and sync
In case you're new to the topic, we're going to clarify the two core types of remote learning:
1. Synchronous learning is described as every type of learning that occurs in real-time. Video calls and in-person workshops are perfect examples of some of the most common types of synchronous learning.
2. Asynchronous learning is, as you might expect, the opposite of that. Asynchronous learning is every type of learning that doesn't occur in real-time. Learning happens at the employee's pace, and they typically are not expected to learn alongside teammates. Think on-demand video courses, independent study, or email workshops.
Knowing the best L&D system for distributed teams can make all the difference between a successful or frustrating learning experience. Below are three blended learning models that ensure people leaders make the most of their L&D programs.
Real-time learning experiences
Here, managers can take advantage of instructor-led training with remote work tools. Live webinars and Q&A sessions are good examples of this blended learning model. The instructor leads the training via a scheduled video call and delivers supporting learning resources that complement the training after the live session.
Async style 1
Or, you could record live training sessions that can be repurposed into different formats and delivered to employees via email or any other virtual communication channel. This way, employees can learn the latest sales closing tactic–for example–while doing the dishes or babysitting.
Async style 2
Finally, you can explore fully asynchronous L&D programs such as interactive guides, courses, pre-recorded short videos, and quizzes. Learning experts design these programs for independent learning, and employees can access the learning material on a learning management system at their own time—provided it's within agreed completion timelines.
Make sure to track employee progress
While it’s not as obvious as budgeting for a remote learning tool, tracking employee progress throughout the remote L&D program is essential.
Doing so allows people leaders to see which of their team members need support and encouragement, and when. (Pro tip: Get a proper system set up sooner rather than later as tracking may become trickier the further your employees advance into the program.)
Internal wikis like Notion, Airtable, or Atlassian are great tools for tracking progress from start to finish. These tools also give updates in real-time. So, everyone has a clear picture of what’s going on, even if there’s a change in admin mid-way through the program.
Proportion a L&D budget
For companies looking to upskill their remote talent via external training, here are five essential actions to consider to maximize your training budget.
How much to offer
There's no hard and fast rule here. But you'll need to consider your employees' training needs and the long-term impact offering these programs may have to the business. Also, align learning value to business value before deciding on individual professional development stipends.
You can benchmark against similar-sized businesses, too. Yet, it's essential to consider the factors mentioned earlier before benchmarking. For example, you might discover that a senior manager possesses the right skills to train other team members. However, this isn't always possible—especially with industry-specific or professional skill sets.
How much guidance to give on types of courses to take
Finding a balance between being prescriptive and collaborative can be tricky but possible.
You’ll need to figure out which skill deficits most affect performance and productivity, and get buy-in from managers, people leaders, and employees. Do all this while building in guardrails that ensure employees aren’t using their learning budget to fund hobbies like cooking and art classes.
For example, employees can choose learning programs closely tied to their job role or career aspirations, but these choices must be approved by their manager. Encouraging these sorts of conversations not only helps with clarity about the company’s goals and expectations for everyone involved, but also spotlights the employee’s preferred career trajectory.
If an employee is currently in a product marketing role, but is looking to learn how to code, these conversations can identify the sort of courses and internal projects they could tackle to support this career path.
This way, the L&D program can solve the specific needs of the business and employees. And employees don't feel coerced.
How to get employees using their budget
The landscape of learning has changed. Working with leadership to build and encourage a learning culture is more important than before. Increasingly, employees need to own their development and should be encouraged by their managers and the leadership team to not only spend the money, but also take the time to do it.
This can happen at the organization level by creating a company-wide goal for employees to use X% of their L&D budget by the end of the quarter or year. There’s nothing more motivating than a team goal or assurance that this is a priority to the organization than creating learning and adoption specific goals.
As HR leaders, create opportunities for employees to apply their new skills, ask questions, and explore self-learning goals. This can encourage active learning and get individuals to value training.
Finally, embrace feedback, regularly survey employees to ensure they find the training program valuable, and spotlight those who reflect a growth mindset on internal communications and company social pages.
Where to apply the L&D budget
Don't be shy to implement training approaches you haven't tried out before in the wake of the pandemic. One benefit of a remote L&D program is flexibility in delivery methods. The most important consideration here is adapting to how your employees consume learning content.
Virtual instructor-led classrooms, online conferences, books, cross-training, or mentorship programs are examples of some of the many arrows in your quiver.
No matter what path you choose, ensure you meet the training needs of your employees and you tie the learning method to measurable outcomes that are linked to broader business goals.
A remote L&D program is more than a content repository
As you can see, a remote L&D program is more than simply cobbling together a series of videos and PDF templates.
How personal your training programs are, how quickly a new hire can get information, and making employees feel part of the learning process can positively impact the sustainability of your program.
And that's really where the key benefits of a well-thought-out strategy and picking the right tools come into play.
For more tips on picking the right tools for upskilling remote teams, check out What is upskilling and why does it matter for distributed teams?
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