This post has been updated on March 4, 2020.
Remote workers are becoming a major part of the staff of many companies, especially at high-level jobs or specialist positions. Nearly four million Americans now work mostly or entirely from home, and that’s to say nothing of the massive global workforce that works remotely. This development has allowed businesses to work with the best talent for the job and allow workers to have more flexibility, leading to better work-life balance.
Yet there are unique challenges posed by a remote workforce. Despite having a setup based entirely on connective technology, they can feel disconnected from the rest of the company. If left entirely alone, remote employees can feel unmotivated and unengaged with their work. Conversely, too much overbalance can constrain employees, leading to the need for managers to find a balance.
6 Strategies for including remote workers in your L&D plan
Even with these challenges, the need for training and development persists. Fortunately, with the right services and the right strategies listed below, inclusion will be easy.
This can seem like a simple suggestion, but consider using technology to the best of your company’s ability in order to make the remote workers feel like they are in the room while training is occurring. A simple video feed and a way for them to quickly ask questions can go a long way. As can a way for remote workers to communicate with office workers during training sessions. Screen capture tools might also prove useful during tutorials.
It should also be noted that in many circumstances simply having everyone, remote or not, using the same technology can be the most efficient training option overall. This can help everyone get the same experience, especially if employees have the time and opportunity to connect and discuss their findings.
Emphasize engagement and informal learning
Learning doesn’t happen just in courses or through videos. About 75 percent of employee learning happens informally, from peers and conversation. It would be foolish for your development plan to ignore that factor when it comes to remote workers. As best as you are able to within your company, seek to foster these opportunities for informal learning, however rare they might be. Chat channels or forums are likely the best place for remote workers in this regard.
Using similar efforts on a subject touched upon before, make sure to actively try to engage employees and keep them informed about what the company is doing. This is more about what management is doing as a whole than training in particular, but unengaged employees are unlikely to care about development very much.
Make working remotely easier through training
Look for courses and training options that teach things that a remote employee in particular might want to know, just as better networking use or advanced courses on the use of things such as Google Docs and Trello (as examples).
Consider doing this at the same time as looking for better programs and tools for remote workers. What should remote workers be using today? What saves time and makes tasks easier, so that remote workers can focus on the tasks they are best at (and as a result likely most engaged with)? Instead of simply a general collection of courses, focus on the answers to these questions.
Consider the skill sets that are in demand
It would also be wise to try and anticipate the skill sets that are going to be in demand in the near future, especially as many remote workers will be looking to develop cutting-edge skills to keep them up to date with the current working environment. This will vary based on industry, but a little research goes a long way.
For remote workers, consider other needs such as potential courses on self-management and work-life balance. These skills are essential for any remote worker and they yield great benefits if included as part of a development plan, both for your company and for the individual.
Keep the company culture and values part of the training
The identity of your company and its culture can simply exist at the office, but without reinforcement your remote employees can easily miss what your company is focusing on, through no fault of theirs. Remember to integrate those values and have them reflected by your learning and development plan in order to keep everyone on the same page. Whatever you plan, keep it rooted in clearly defined values.
Don’t include them in unnecessary sessions
Perhaps this should be taken as a given, but it would generally be best to include remote employees in sessions where they stand to learn something. Any elements of training revolving around the safety of the physical office or any physical systems they aren’t going to be involved with can be safely skipped and that time better spent elsewhere.
You might need to do some experimentation to see which methods are the most effective for your remote workers given your unique company culture. The main takeaways are that you need to keep your employee’s needs in mind and you need to make a dedicated effort that your remote employees are getting the same level of attention and focus that your office employees are getting. From those values, everything else will flow much more naturally.
How do you include employees in your learning and development plans? Are there any struggles you have or anticipate? What are you looking to focus on? We would love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment below.