There is growing evidence that a workforce consisting of remote workers and contractors is here to stay. Managing the learning and development of a workforce that is globally distributed presents a challenge to traditional training practices, so what are the solutions?
A remote workforce is by no means more difficult to train if the right approach is taken. At GoodPractice we have a workforce fully committed to organising themselves remotely. We have found that this leads to an on-demand, bottom-up style of training, motivated by need.
Employees are taking control of their development
As more industries become disrupted through technological advancement, companies are evolving their business models to align with new customer demands – as a result, employees must evolve too.
AT&T, for example, notified 100,000 of their workforce that their job roles wouldn't be relevant in 10 years and then subsequently created the ‘Workforce 2020’ initiative, with over $1 billion invested, to help upskill their employee base.
Such a project not only requires an understanding of what employees must learn, but the changing ways in which they engage with learning resources.
With such pressure to keep up with innovation, workers are more committed than ever to their own development and want to engage in the way that is most effective for them.
Employees must adapt to survive, with almost half of all tasks at a risk of being automated, with a potential reduction in head count of between 12% and 50%.
Companies are evolving their business models to align with new customer demands – as a result, employees must evolve too.
When modern workers are met with a problem, they want the power to solve that to be in their own hands, with resources that they can dip in and out of, finding the content that is relevant to them and which provides meaningful benefit.
Irregular face to face training over a period of an hour or more is going out of fashion, with employees more likely to teach themselves while on the job than to seek out someone else to teach them.
More workers than ever before work remotely
In a 2018 survey of ‘nomadic workers’, “55% of the respondents said they worked remotely 100% of the time, 28% said they worked remotely and on-site, and another 15% stated they are mostly on-site working remotely only some of the time.”
To juggle such diverse team models, solutions such as Slack for team collaboration are gaining traction and workers are increasingly used to interacting with one another through video and instant messaging.
However, breaking down the mental barrier of video and other forms of online communication is a vital part of getting a remote workforce together ‘in the room' for engaging discussion.
A recent Economist report stated that although 55% say video conferencing is somewhat, or very effective, only 7% use it daily - highlighting the importance of building up familiarity with these technologies.
Learning resources must evolve
Across the sector we are seeing the democratisation of learning, with employees – distributed globally both within and between organisations – seeking to be agents in their own development.
Resources need to be capable of enabling employees to find the resources that they need exactly when they need them.
In bringing different perspectives, employees engage in an organic form of peer-coaching that helps break us out of our invisible, cultural silos.
To support this, resources need to be capable of enabling employees to find the resources that they need exactly when they need them, with a platform that discovers how they learn and then adapts to the challenge.
Three lessons on training remote workers
1. Provide training materials when and where employees need them
The answer to new ways of working and learning with employees as active participants is to empower them with resources and toolkits that are at their fingertips whenever they need them.
If an employee is about to have a difficult discussion with a client, isn’t it better that they are able to quickly bring up advice and strategies on the subject digitally than have to rely on formal training long in the past or planned for the future?
2. Make employees comfortable communicating through technology
At GoodPractice, we have found that engagement with online resources increases as teams become more used to engaging with each other online.
There is somewhat of a myth around face to face meetings being necessary or even beneficial across many collaborative tasks – software engineering around the globe and across time zones being a good example of where face to face is typically not applicable.
Encouraging employees to embrace the use of webcams can be a powerful step towards increasing engagement with video content.
3. Employ technology to adapt resources in real time
With so many employees now voluntarily logging on to access learning resources when and where they need it (immediately and in the palm of their hand), data is even more important.
We are learning every day about how individual employees, teams and companies learn differently.
Through the application of machine learning technology, we are able to augment and adapt our resources to the individual and to the group in real time.
This is a latent opportunity which is already bearing fruit, with algorithms now able to detect when and what a learner is likely to desire and delivering it straight to them.
With robust, practical and adaptable technology and solutions, nobody needs to be told from the top to use it.
From our experience, when something is truly helpful, it is the employees themselves who will seek it out and champion its use – and learning practitioners will need to become more inclusive of a diverse workforce.
About Jonny Anderson
As the Technical Director of GoodPractice, Jonny has harnessed the latest communications and collaboration technology to build a truly global, fully-distributed teach and support team. Being utterly committed to agile, fail-fast experimentation, and honesty in the face of hard evidence, it is his fervent hope that he can bring an efficient and enjoyable L&D experience to the greatest number of people.