I think it’s safe to say that every company had to make some changes and deal with a fair amount of uncertainty here in 2020. I can’t even count the number of emails and articles I’ve read that speaks about “the new standard.” Sometimes change — and the challenges that come with it — lead the way to new opportunities. That’s what I see when I look at the workplace training challenges today.
Training challenges Created by New Ways to Work
People in every organization are asking about the transition to a remote workforce. This move raises questions about more timeless challenges, such as motivation and engagement. Whereas creative solutions to these training challenges have always been a “healthy thing to have,” they have become a must-have in 2020.
At the same time, several companies have seen their training objectives derailed as a result of stay-at-home orders. Suspension of employee learning before things “go back to normal” is not feasible. Businesses need to find ways to reach the training benchmarks they have missed and to put in place new ideas for the future of their corporate training programs. Managers, for their part, will have to deal with employees who could end up working permanently from home, or even learn how to get new employees on board from afar.
We’ve always thought that traditional corporate training models had their disadvantages. Now, with the social distance required, in-person sessions are not even possible, let alone practical. It is not clear whether this is going to be a temporary or permanent move. In either way, organizations can benefit if they learn to “lean” to adapt.
Training Challenge 1: A Remote Workforce
The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the majority of workers into telecommunications. Employees and managers had to work together to set up workspaces and put in place processes to maintain their workflow intact. When it came to training, conferences, workshops, and instructor-led classes that grouped in one room were canceled indefinitely. Although virtual platforms like Zoom-work for a status meeting, they are not always successful for training.
Off-the-shelf learning content library has been a smart choice for corporate training long before 2020. Employees can view online videos on dozens of topics and pick up where they left off with their workplace education. The only difference is that instead of their desk at the office, it’s from their home workspace — whether it’s at the kitchen table or on the back deck.
For those who have never worked remotely before, we provide courses specifically on this challenge. Managers and employees will learn how to do this efficiently, including teamwork tips, time management, and ergonomic space for the best work-at-home results. There is also content that addresses the health issues of the current situation, including COVID, insomnia, and stress.
Training Challenge 2: Onboarding
A lot of what employees know about their roles is learned during the boarding season. Pre-COVID, the time included not only a lot of formal training, but also a lot of informal training: conversations with new colleagues, shadowing other employees, having a feel for the everyday workflow and speed, absorbing community, and so on.
Most of it is now gone between working from home (or social distancing for key employees). Many companies are trying to compensate by doing their onboarding online … but can we expect a recruit to sit in front of a computer screen for eight hours to get a “feel” for their new role? Some people are trying to do that, but let’s just say that Zoom fatigue is real, and a problem.
A good way to break up on-board training is to encourage new hires to self-direct their learning. Many of the things they would need to learn — what forms to fill out, how to use that software, company policy details — are clear and repeatable, so they don’t need a live presentation. They can be learned from a short online video. They can be learned from a short online video. Some of the clients use the authoring tool that comes with LMS to create their own courses for onboarding, adding in their own company branding and a good dose of company culture.
Training Challenge 3: Making Time for Training
Getting employees to make time for training was a difficult-enough job before everyone worked remotely. Remote work has changed the nature of many working days: the start time and the end of a typical working day have become flexible as people avoid switching around, but have to juggle other home-based responsibilities, such as home-schooling. Having a scheduled meeting or class time for training does not work, and many employees do feel free to skip scheduled sessions as home life oversteps on work life.
Does that sound like too little time to fit in with your training? It’s not, with microlearning. Microlearning separates information into videos that are about 7 to 9 minutes long. Research shows that this is short enough to keep people’s attention during a busy day, but still long enough to allow the related message to sink.
Some of the more traditional tips for getting employees to take the time to train in a work-at-home environment. For example, you can also promote a positive learning atmosphere, use engaging training materials, and recognize or reward employees who achieve training goals. When you have a combination of the right learning culture, the right materials, and the right rewards, employees would be inspired to “find a way” to work through their training schedules.
Training Challenge 4: Accountability
Ensuring accountability is a huge concern for managers who aren’t used to dealing with remote workers. The need to track accountability adds to the challenges in training and development, too. Luckily, many employees have proven to be just as productive while working from home. Some even more so.
First, because every employee is starting from their unique place based on prior learning and experience, doing an assessment is a good idea. A combination of existing data and testing can help your training department create (or choose) a curriculum that suits their current level and their goals.
Second, it’s wise to supplement training courses with other materials that help learners (and their managers) track their progress and understanding. These might include downloadable student materials and worksheets, evaluation tools, and quizzes.
Third, we suggest that you use the LMS to monitor employee development. For example, Teachr LMS, lets managers see which videos employees have accessed, how far they’ve come, which learning tracks they’re working on, and how well they’ve done on quizzes. This not only offers management a snapshot of everyone’s success, but it also helps them to recognize individuals who may be struggling and provide assistance.
Training Challenge 5: Staying Top of Mind
Even if employees are encouraged to make time for training, receive materials, and have access to tools to make all this possible, they will still be unable to complete training courses if they are not “top of mind” during their working hours.
Training, then, needs to be part of their daily workflow — though not in a way that is distracting or annoying. Luckily, several companies already have the kind of communication tools that can make this possible. I’m speaking of tools like Slack.
For example, we introduced Slackbot integration into LMS. The bot can help users find relevant content, locate course requirements, and keep course completion dates and quiz requirements in mind. The bot is capable of natural language processing, allowing users to communicate naturally with the bot within Slack. This kind of technology makes access to the LMS and its content easier, so employees can make at-home training part of their workflow.
Training Challenge 6: Staying on the Same Page
In an office environment, information flows more freely than we realize. People talk, in the halls, and at the water cooler. Memos are sent. Announcements are made. People message.
Informal, in-person communication is now largely gone, but this does not mean that information must stop flowing. Many of our clients are now using the eLearning authoring tools to create short videos that are basically “video newsletters” for their teams. This helps them to share relevant, timely information in a way that is a little more interesting than your average email.
Solutions To Today’s Training Challenges
Every challenge in business is also an opportunity. It just happens that many of the old, existing challenges — getting employees to make time for training, keeping them engaged, ensuring accountability — have come to the surface with a workforce spread in both time and space.
The tools created were designed to solve these challenges by providing employees access to just enough of the right information, just in time and just as required. It’s no wonder, though, that they’re also the right fit to meet today’s training challenges.