A version of this post was origianlly published on February 13, 2019 in TrainingZone.
With geographical distance becoming more of an inconvenience rather than an insurmountable obstacle, companies everywhere are able to hire people in different countries, regions or continents. Especially those that operate in the knowledge-based economy, where employees only need a computer with an internet connection to do their job.
HR professionals seem to have the world in their backyards. They can find the best talent to help their companies for clients grow. But having access to an unlimited pool of candidates also comes with challenges. We’ll get to that later on.
4 Things to consider when upskilling remote workers
Considering the fast-paced business environment, one thing is certain: upskilling employees is the base of progress. No matter what they do — nor where they are located — companies need to ensure the best talent management and talent development programs are put into place for all of their employees. This brings on even more challenges for HR and L&D professionals, as managing and upskilling employees who work in remote locations require the application of specific strategies and tactics. Here are a few things to consider before setting out on that journey.
There are currently 38 time zones around the globe. If a company is based in the UK and only expanded throughout Europe there is at most a three hour difference to work with. But if a UK company has people working from Southeast Asia and anywhere in the Americas the differences in local times get harder to manage; but not impossible.
It's easy to forget about time zones when scheduling interviews, meetings or training sessions but this is usually a mistake only made once. After an important virtual get-together has to suffer because someone mixed up the time, everyone will make sure that won't happen again.
There is a cornucopia of options when it comes to tech tools that help companies deal with time differences and employees working in remote locations. Technology is actually the driver behind remote jobs, after all.
After ensuring each employee has a personal computer or a laptop and an internet connection they can use to get their job done there are three main types of software that should be taken into consideration:
An LMS with features that enable asynchronous learning. All great learning management systems for businesses do that, but there are still plenty of training solutions that don't.
Asynchronous learning allows employees to access training courses, engage in learning activities, collaborate with their peers and communicate with instructors — when the time is most convenient for them. Take that, time zones!
Chat tools that are always on. These can be an integral part of the above-mentioned LMS or stand-alone solutions. For the training part it may be better to encourage the use of the LMS chat tool, as all learning will happen in the same place — courses, questions, answers and all.
But since people are social beings and they learn from one another even more than from formal training materials and discussions, opting for a stand-alone chat tools is also a good idea. Learning can happen in even in the most casual of conversations between employees.
Tech that supports video calls. Again, this can be an integral part of the LMS or a stand-alone solution. Whatever it is, it's crucial for video calls — especially long-distance ones — to happen smoothly.
It’s not only an annoyance for remote employees to get a frozen screen of an instructor or to have to cover their ears because of screechy sounds when video calls have poor quality; they can lose valuable information during the learning process and also valuable working time.
Professional development of employees (remote or not) is the basis of company growth, as skillful workers put their organisation on the right track for success: onward and upward. That's why training programs need to meet employees learning needs.
When creating training courses for remote workers instructional designers need to make them not only engaging, but also culturally appropriate. Having a full understanding of someone's culture will help L&D professionals avoid any mishap. Doing research on what's fit and what's not in different situations and corroborating that data and various ideas with people belonging to that culture will help them do just that.
Also, instructors need to keep in mind to enroll workers in courses that are relevant to them. Courses that are mandatory in one location can become optional in another and completely irrelevant in another.
Last but by no means least, training programs for employees in remote locations need to allow informal learning to happen. The chat tools mentioned before are a first step in supporting this, and there are also other solutions that do that as well. What's important is to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable in sharing knowledge and aware of that happening.
Translated learning materials
I've touched upon this subject before — on how to make multilingual training courses relevant for a global workforce. The main idea is that, if you're a company operating in various geographical areas, many of your employees will speak different languages; that’s inevitable. So in order to avoid any work related risks, translating training courses or creating new ones from scratch in the native language of those employees might be really worth the struggle.
After you decide on which target language(s) you should translate or create training courses into, you need to answer the How? part: opt for translation technology such as Google Translate, turn to professional translation services or both. Here is a balanced list of pros and cons for each option, which might help taking a decision.
Translating training materials can be a costly endeavour but it can also make a huge difference on knowledge transfer.
All in all
Thanks to the spread of the internet and that of technology that supports and enhances remote work, more and more companies have access to a wider pool of possible talent. But no matter where they are based, all employees need to constantly get their skills set updated.
HR and L&D professionals need to overcome plenty of challenges to help and support remote workers do that. If they learn to work around time zones, pick the right tech tools and translate training materials when needed, they have higher chances of success.