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Building a remote learning and development program requires some key shifts. Learn how to set your remote L&D program up for success.
As companies transition from short-term remote work in response to the pandemic, to remote-first or hybrid work policies, processes for collaboration, communication, and training must be reworked to reflect a remote environment.
And that’s not an easy shift to make.
“Remote workforces necessitate new ways of thinking about development and the resources to train next-generation leaders, says Donald Thompson, CEO of The Diversity Movement: “There are fundamental changes in the way workforces are upskilled and reskilled in this new environment.”
Companies have relied on in-person training and onboarding techniques for decades. But many of these tactics—even something as simple as a new hire lunch with leadership—don’t have the same impact when held virtually.
You can’t afford to ignore L&D or settle for a mediocre employee development program. LinkedIn’s research found that 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development.
If you want your remote employees to stick around, then building a successful remote L&D program is an absolute must. We’ll dive into just how you can do that.
Your remote learning and development plan should be tailored to your employees and organization, so it will always look different from other programs. Even so, there are some best practices you’ll want to incorporate to help you overcome the challenges of remote L&D.
Trust from both sides is foundational in a remote work environment, and this is only amplified when it comes to learning and development. You trust your employees to do their jobs well, and they trust in you to teach them what they need to know to be successful.
There’s a give-and-take of sorts here. If you want to build the best remote L&D program possible, you’re reliant on your employees. They need to share feedback with you. But that can be scary because it requires a level of vulnerability from your team.
In her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brene Brown says, “Trust is a product of vulnerability that grows over time and requires work, attention, and full engagement.”
It takes work to foster a culture of trust and vulnerability. Joe Manna, Content Manager at Alyce, says, “Psychological safety is a vital factor in learning willingness, sharing ideas, and admitting faults.”
It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
You can’t build a successful remote L&D program if you don’t have this level of trust with your employees.
You can pass basic information on to them. You can explain the essentials of how they should do their jobs. But you’ll never unlock the true power of L&D to grow and transform your employees and your business.
Your documentation—whether that’s a wiki, a handbook, or a knowledge base—should be the “one source of truth” for your team.
To get that single source of truth, GitLab says, “Documentation should occur first, in a structured and organized way, before being disseminated. (e.g. Document the solution first, then announce via Slack or email.)”
In short, document everything—and let every document be viewable by everyone. This creates more efficiency because it empowers your team to find anything they need without being reliant on someone else. It eliminates the gatekeepers to information.
Here are some tips:
Synchronous learning refers to any live learning session. In a remote workplace, this often means training sessions via Zoom or whatever your preferred video conferencing software is.
Asynchronous learning is learning that isn’t live. It’s available for employees to take whenever they need it, on-demand. Prerecorded video courses and e-learning workshops are good examples of asynchronous learning.
For a remote L&D program, it’s typically best to default to asynchronous learning. Since your team likely exists across many different time zones, asynchronous learning eliminates the headache of trying to pull everyone together at the same time.
That being said, there are some topics where live learning is best. If you think your team will benefit from having a real-time back-and-forth conversation about something—like a complicated product release—then a live training session might be best.
And don’t be afraid to explore asynchronous learning for topics you may not feel it’s right for. Sometimes a hybrid approach can be a great fit. For example, create a training video via Loom as an asynchronous way to share information. After everyone’s watched it, schedule a short live Q&A session to fill in any gaps and make sure everyone is on the same page.
Communication needs to be a two-way street, especially in a remote learning and development program. To create a great two-way communication, you can:
When you and your company take an active interest in your team’s development, it creates trust for them to open up to you about what their goals are and what they’re doing to reach them.
There are upsides and downsides to remote L&D programs (just like most things in life). However, the advantages of remote learning far outweigh the disadvantages.
Remote learning and development have some distinct advantages over in-person learning. Here are some key benefits:
While the benefits of remote L&D outweigh the challenges, remote learning is not without its disadvantages. Here are some to keep in mind:
“One of the biggest negative changes [with remote L&D] is that engagement in non-facilitator-led training is extremely easy to lose,” says Dragos Badea, CEO of hybrid-work management software Yarooms. “There are too many distractions and the content is not as engaging when it's just a recording or something similar. Gaining engagement in digital training is possible but it means designing them to be digital from scratch, rather than trying to emulate an in-person program online.”
To support remote learning, find tools that support the best practices shared above. This is your foundation. Once you’ve got those, supplement them with tools unique to your team or business needs.
Here are some of the tools used by the fully remote team at Kona to help inspire you.
Notion is a documentation powerhouse and flexible to boot. It’s a great place to start collecting all the docs you’ll be creating to build a successful remote learning and development program.
Kona helps you understand how your team approaches work every day. Built right into Slack—another useful tool—Kona automatically checks in with your team to ask them how they’re feeling each morning.
Knowing how your team is feeling at the start of each workday enables you to support them better. When they’re feeling frustrated, you can provide support (whatever that looks like). When they’re celebrating wins, you can join in the fun.
It’s a great way to build morale and foster communication.
Loom is a great tool for recording everything from short explainer videos to full-blown training sessions. A tool like Loom will help you create training material so your employees can learn completely asynchronously.
You can also use Loom to have your team record short videos saying “hi” to new team members. Provide a template like “say your name, how long you’ve been with the company, and one fun fact about you” and have your team send it directly to the new hire. It’s a simple way to humanize your entire organization.
Fathom is a free tool that helps document and record important parts in Zoom calls. It also provides a complete transcription or a summary of Zoom meetings.
Fathom is a great way to record AMA’s (Ask Me Anythings) where you can easily separate out each question. You can create a quick video FAQ that can further address common questions your team might have in future training or onboarding sessions.
Remote and hybrid work environments are now the norm, not the exception. That means the future of remote learning and development is already here.
Follow these best practices and you’ll be setting up your remote L&D program—as well as your employees and business—for long-term success.
Tim is a Manager of Customer Support at Cars.com and a writer for Supported Content. When he’s not busy leading his team, you’ll find him spending time with his wife and two daughters, usually on some Disney-related activity. He also blogs about personal finance at Atypical Finance.