With the shift to remote work, learning from colleagues and through in-office interactions has decreased significantly. The OECD estimates that informal learning has decreased by 25% during the pandemic due to shutdowns and working from home.
In order to compensate for this loss of informal learning opportunities, employers have to rethink and improve their learning and development offering to make it suitable for remote work. But what does learning and development look like in remote teams? What are possible pitfalls and, more importantly, how can they be avoided?
Learning and development, often referred to as L&D for short, is the generic term for all professional training initiatives offered by a company. The purpose of L&D is to equip employees with the skills and knowledge they need to carry out their tasks in the best possible way, keep advancing in their career and, ultimately, help the company grow.
It’s not just about onboarding and on-the-job training, but about providing a continuous learning experience for team members. Since L&D directly concerns employees, it’s part of any HR department’s core responsibilities. Usually, it is embedded in the company’s overall talent management strategy.
Employee training and development consists of different components which are traditionally classified in a 70-20-10 framework. According to this framework, 70% of learning comes from on-the-job learning, 20% is learning from others, and only 10% is down to formal training events.
Although formal training only makes up for a small part of the overall learning experience, L&D programs can take on many different forms. For instance, organizations can arrange in-person training sessions for their teams, develop a mentorship program or give their employees access to online classes. L&D initiatives can either be aimed at upskilling employees for better performance or at reskilling them to enable them to take on a new role within the organization.
The Deloitte 2019 Global Human Capital Trends survey found learning to be the top-rated human capital challenge, with 86% of respondents claiming that they considered learning and development as an important or even very important issue. So, where does this increased awareness and importance placed on learning in the workplace come from?
There are many reasons why L&D is important for organizations of any size. First and foremost, learning opportunities play a major role in attracting new talent. In a large-scale survey conducted via LinkedIn, 19% of respondents rated the opportunity to learn and grow as the most inspiring thing about work. Similarly, the inability to learn and grow constituted a major reason for 20% of respondents to leave their jobs.
Referring to the same survey results, Global Industry Analyst, Josh Bersin, states that “employees who spend time at work learning are 47% less likely to be stressed, 39% more likely to feel productive and successful, 23% more ready to take on additional responsibilities, and 21% more likely to feel confident and happy”.
In a nutshell, if managed properly, L&D opportunities can be a major contributor to:
Employee experience and engagement
Performance and quality of work
Employee happiness and motivation
What’s more, learning and development schemes can help bridge identified skills gaps in a business’s workforce and are therefore also part of strategic workforce planning. In this sense, L&D can even be seen as a crucial step for businesses to prepare themselves for the future.
Creating a remote employee learning and development program comes with a whole new set of challenges.
Different time zones
Distractions employees are exposed to when working remotely
Technical issues and poor connectivity
Difficulties to track employee learning progress
Effective management of the remote learning process
No possibilities for on-the-job learning through osmosis (i. e. picking things up through listening and being exposed to other workers)
Remote training and development programs can either be self-paced, live instructor-led (i. e. synchronous) or pre-recorded instructor-led (i. e. asynchronous). Within these categories, there are many different virtual learning methods and formats companies can implement for their remote teams. These include:
Live training sessions and webinars via a scheduled video call
MOOCs and other online learning courses
Recorded training sessions that are uploaded and stored on the company system for replay
In order to give employees the chance to recreate a virtual version of in-person learning, it’s further possible to set up:
Remote mentorship programs for leadership roles and succession planning
Buddy systems for new employees
Troubleshooting conversations with HR
Open forums and community pages for new hires
There are many different aspects companies need to consider if they want to succeed in setting up remote employee training programs. Here are some best practices regarding learning and development for remote workers.
One key ingredient for a successful L&D strategy for remote workers is variety, i. e. offering different programs and learning opportunities. People have different preferences when it comes to their learning methods and techniques and will therefore prefer different course formats.
Therefore, it’s important to offer both self-paced and instructor-led training so that people can choose the method that works best for them. For globally distributed teams, it’s vital to follow a blended learning approach and include both synchronous and asynchronous learning elements.
Having a mix of online classes, quizzes and other learning material will further ensure that employees have a great learning experience and prevent programs from becoming boring.
Providing a variety of different learning inputs is one thing, but making sure the material is interesting and engaging is a totally different story. A 2-hour recording of a training session which explains a new tool might be a big help for employees in their daily work. But unless the training session is captivating and interesting, it’s unlikely employees will absorb what’s being explained.
Remote employee training programs should give employees the chance to connect and converse with their colleagues. This could be done by introducing a forum or chat space especially dedicated to the company’s L&D initiatives.
Alternatively, L&D could also be integrated into the company’s virtual team building activities. Learning through osmosis may not be possible in remote work environments, but employees can still share their knowledge and learn collaboratively.
Keeping track of the team’s learning progress is important in several regards. First of all, well-developed L&D programs that will improve employee retention come at a certain cost, so businesses want to make sure that the money they invested isn’t wasted.
Second, knowing that their learning progress is being watched could be the motivation employees need to really get into the learning flow and achieve their goals. Third, the only way to find out where improvement is needed is by monitoring participation rates, outcomes and other key indicators.
Even the best remote training and development programs are useless if employees aren’t aware of what’s on offer. Providing employees with detailed information on what training, online classes and other learning options are available and informing them about career development opportunities is therefore crucial.
For instance, L&D could be included in the organization’s employee handbook or advertised through email campaigns or special posts on the company’s social media to make sure everyone knows about the available learning opportunities.
Employees who want to advance in their professional career need to learn new skills and, at the same time, a company needs its workforce to develop new skills so that future leadership roles can be filled. Not to forget that employees with higher and broader qualifications are essential for business growth.
L&D should not be just another HR project, but rather be seen as an integral part of the company culture. This can be achieved by incentivizing and rewarding learning and by emphasizing the importance of professional development on all levels and across all stages of the employee lifecycle.
The Lano Academy is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Lano Software GmbH disclaims any liability for any actions you take or refrain from taking based on the content contained in this article.
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