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People Management

How to Build a Successful Remote Learning and Development (L&D) Program

May 23, 2022
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9 mins

Building a remote learning and development program requires some key shifts. Learn how to set your remote L&D program up for success.

Tim Jordan
Building a remote learning and development program requires some key shifts. Learn how to set your remote L&D program up for success.

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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. 

Best practices for remote learning and development (L&D) programs

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.

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Display trust and vulnerability

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.

Be documentation-first

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:

  • Record all training sessions and create a summary document for them. This allows team members quick access to review material instead of needing to schedule refresher courses for the team.

  • Demonstrate your trust in your team by giving everyone the responsibility for updating documentation when things change. If documents aren’t updated, hold people accountable to reinforce the importance of documentation.

  • Set clear guidelines for documentation. Have simple and specific formatting for your key documents, along with specific processes for everyone to follow (e.g. if you update a training doc, tag person X so they can check related docs). 

Use synchronous and asynchronous learning

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:

  • Set clear expectations for each team member. This includes team OKRs and metrics as well as individual goals. A shared Google sheet or doc is a great place to start if you don’t already have goal-setting tools.

  • Provide accountability for your team. Build knowledge checks like quizzes and student presentations into your remote L&D program. This ensures information is being absorbed and that your L&D is effective.

  • Ask great questions in 1:1’s. Focus on asking open-ended questions to encourage more than just yes or no answers from your team. Regularly survey employees about what they’re learning and for any feedback on your L&D program. Even simple questions like “What did you learn this week?” or “How did you grow this week?” are effective in starting development conversations. 

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. 

What are the pros and cons of a remote learning and development program?

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. 

Advantages of remote L&D programs

Remote learning and development have some distinct advantages over in-person learning. Here are some key benefits:

  • Remote learning and development encourages a more intentional and robust program. In a remote environment, you can’t rely on in-person interactions to clear things up. It’s a forcing function that requires you to be thoughtful about how to minimize confusion and train effectively.

  • Inclusive learning. You can tailor your L&D program to the individual. Things like speed of learning and learning style can be adapted to each employee. They can also learn where they learn best—even if that’s at their desk one day, on the couch the next day, and at a coffee shop the day after that.

  • It’s easier to address skill gaps. If you use knowledge checks and track progress, it makes it easy to hold refresher classes on specific skills your team needs. Learning management systems—like Rise or Docebo—can provide you with data to create tailored training plans.

  • Learning accessibility. By having all your learnings recorded and placing them in an accessible database, all your employees have an opportunity to learn at any point in their careers. This fosters a culture of learning and helps retain employees

Disadvantages of remote L&D programs

While the benefits of remote L&D outweigh the challenges, remote learning is not without its disadvantages. Here are some to keep in mind:

  • Out of sight, out of mind. Since people are physically separated in a remote environment, it’s easy to feel like there is no need to improve training or forget about L&D altogether. Be intentional about keeping remote learning and development top of mind as a key priority for your employees.

  • Q&A and other real-time interactions can take a hit. Real-time interactions have an important role in developing employees. Live conversations can help employees connect the dots between topics.

  • Distractions. It may be tempting for remote employees to multitask while doing L&D activities (we’ve all been there, right?). Setting clear expectations for learning can help keep employees motivated and on task.

“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.”

What tools support remote L&D programs?

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 (to document everything)

We use Notion to document everything from a running list of key takeaways from conversations with direct reports to simple to-do lists that help us sleep better.

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 (to check in and understand how people approach their work)

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 (to support asynchronous learning)

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 (for recording meetings and taking notes)

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 learning and development isn’t the future—it’s already here

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.

Meet the Author

Tim Jordan

Tim is a Manager of Customer Support at 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.

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