Challenges in Training Remote Employees
Delivering training sessions to the remote employees can raise some challenges, especially because this activity is so much more than just using an online platform or creating a series of PowerPoint slides.
We present below a list of the main challenges faced by the organizers of online training sessions and the solutions we propose for solving those challenges.
1. Lack of face to face interaction and direct, live supervision of students
Lack of direct contact is one of the obstacles that people mention as affecting the success of any online activity. In the case of training sessions for remote employees, this can be the main concern, especially when both trainers and students lack the experience in teaching and learning online respectively.
On the one hand, trainers fear that without direct, face to face supervision the students will have a hard time focusing, and that the learning process will suffer. On the other hand, the students might experience frustration at the lack of personal, face to face communication, supervision and help from the trainer.
Proposed solution: create course content in different digital formats, including video, and try to organize sessions that are varied, that challenge the students to get involved in the proposed exercises, in team or individual games. This will stimulate the interest for the subject being taught, but at the same time will help students focus.
Also, if you are a trainer or an online course moderator, pay attention to the messages received in the chat box of the online training platform and make sure to answer all the questions of the participants. Encourage your students to overcome their shyness and to get involved in the course throughout the training session, and also to have the courage to intervene if they need to say something.
Make it a rule that the students should get involved and clearly state it at the beginning of each training sessions: knowing the rules from the beginning will ensure an optimal course delivery.
2. Difficulty in accessing information
New remote employees often find it very hard to obtain information from their colleagues and from third parties. They first have to find out to whom to address the question, then ask it and wait, sometimes a long time, before they receive an answer. When all communication is happening online, things can get even more complicated: it usually takes longer for people to respond to online communications than in the case of direct contact.
Proposed solution: when employees take part in online training sessions, it is crucial for them to know exactly „what”, „when”, „why” and „how” things are going to happen. Therefore, all this information should be communicated in advance to the people who will participate in the online training session.
Also, offer the participants detailed information and instructions on how to ask for help should they need it, not only before the training session but also during it, or after it is finished.
3. Social isolation
Working remotely can make people feel isolated and lead them to yearn for the informal social contact that used to be the norm when working in an office. The good news is that online training sessions, if managed correctly, can compensate at least in part for this feeling of isolation.
Proposed solution: for a group training session to be successful it needs to actively engage all participants, it has to encourage them to collaborate and work together, at the same time it must offer each participant the opportunity to express, and it must also include a Q&A session.
4. Technical glitches
Technical difficulties and interruptions can occur even during on-site training sessions, even if all equipment has been thoroughly checked before the start of the session.
Now think about all the things that can go wrong during an online training session: weak or unreliable internet connections, glitches in the functioning of the online learning platforms, power cuts, etc.
Proposed solution: even if there is no 100% guarantee that technical difficulties won’t happen during their online training session, trainers must take this possibility into account, be prepared, and not panic if it does happen.
By simply informing the participants that this might happen and by giving them specific instructions about what to do if it does (for example, you can ask them to resend you their e-mail addresses so that you can stay in contact, inform them about the estimated duration of the interruption and what to do once the problem is solved) you can convey the feeling that things are at least in part under control.
5. Lack of feedback
Another problem that has been raised about online courses is the difficulty of obtaining feedback from the course participants.
This is why it is important to find the right tool for gathering feedback from the course participants not only about the content of the training session but also about the technical aspects (the software and the equipment used in order to deliver the content) of the course, the learning management system that has been selected. It’s the only method that we as trainers have in order to see „where”, „what” and „how” we can improve the courses we deliver.
Proposed solution: use of online survey tools which have the advantage of eliminating the subjective factor from the research and which will ensure that participants (employees) feel free to give honest answers.
It is important that the tool offers the participants the possibility to freely express any suggestions or ideas that they might have about how to improve the course and, why not, the company.
Being able to freely and openly express their opinions and feelings towards the training sessions and the employer will allow the company to improve the training they offer to their employees, but also allows the employees to feel that they can better fit in and contribute to the culture of their organization.
Additional recommendations for remote trainers
If you are a trainer in your organization, don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the best results right from the first sessions of the online training program for the remote employees. You might need to put in a bit more effort, but with time, you will see that the results will start to show.
We are all going through a period where the way we work is changing drastically, but we can all improve our work style over time. What matters is that we keep our cool regardless of the role we have within our organization: trainer, course participant or manager.
In the last years, because we were all forced to transition from the traditional on-site learning system to ever more online courses, we had to adapt to the new system a lot quicker than we had planned. Often times, we will have to adapt on the go and as time goes by we will have to adapt to change in an ever more alert manner.