Training remote employees: Six best practices to keep them engaged

There are plenty of ways to keep remote workers engaged, says Simki Dutta.

We can all agree that 2020 changed the way people work. From interviews and layoffs to employee onboarding, meetings, and holiday parties — every event at the workplace took place virtually. So why should learning and development programs be left behind?

With 95% of learning leaders saying that L&D will never be the same again as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s increasingly important for training professionals to pivot and adapt their strategy to this change.

How do we increase engagement while training remote employees?

Ensuring engagement has always been a challenge for employee training and development programs. And to add to it, the remote work environment doesn’t make it any easier.

But all is not lost. There are ways to keep your employees engaged despite the distractions and lack of face-to-face interaction.

Let’s take a look at the six best practices you can implement while training remote employees.

  1. Lay down some ground rules

Imagine developing a robust training schedule and watching the opposite happen during the session. Disappointing, isn’t it? This is why it’s important to lay down some ground rules before the training program begins. 

As a Forbes article puts it, ‘Most teams don’t take the time to develop ground rules, and they invariably pay the price down the road. Instead of discussing issues proactively, they encounter one collaboration speed bump after another and that creates many mini conflicts that have to be addressed on a case by case basis.’ 

Laying down ground rules boosts productivity, increases collaboration, and most importantly helps you meet your learning and development goals.

Here are a few ground rules you can consider for your training sessions:

  • Test the technology (speakers, camera, microphone, etc.) before joining the session
  • Do it over a video conference call
  • Keep phones away
  • Read the training agenda and come prepared with pre-training requirements
  • Mute the microphone when not speaking
  • Be patient and avoid talking over each other
  • Ensure the background is tidy and devoid of distractions

If everyone follows these rules diligently, you’re likely to have a more engaged team of learners.

  1. Create bite-sized content

If your virtual presentation entails endless text-heavy slides and a series of long monologues, there’s no way the team is going to remain engaged. Retaining the attention of your remote employees is tough and that’s something you need to keep in mind while designing your training content.

Create bite-sized content that focuses on a single objective, making it easier to consume. Bite-sized training content can come in the form of:

  • Templates
  • PDFs
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Animations

Another tip is to create bite-sized content that is mobile-friendly so that it can be accessed across devices.

Here’s an example of a bite-sized graphic. Notice how it only focuses on one objective.

Source: Venngage

  1. Use visual cues

There are certain gestures or cues you make while you’re conducting a training session in person. Most of them will not hold while training remote employees.

What do you do? You replace physical cues with visual cues. Visual cues reinforce your content, helping your audience make sense of the information and retain it for longer. Using visual cues strategically also guides the viewer’s gaze and points them in the right direction.

Some examples of visual cues include:

  • Icons
  • GIFs
  • Fonts
  • Arrows and lines
  • Contrasting colors

Source: Venngage

  1. Break up the training schedule

Let’s face it: those day-long training sessions are no longer a good idea. You need to create a training schedule that retains your employees’ attention and helps you meet your training goals. It’s a good idea to break the training program into smaller 90-minute sessions. Every session can begin with an icebreaker activity followed by the training material, group activity, and assessment.

This will help you keep the session interesting and far from monotonous.

  1. Encourage participants to interact

One-way communication is one of the biggest reasons behind a failed remote employee training program. As a trainer, you need to include interactive elements that encourage participants to interact and engage with the training material.

This is one of the most effective ways to ensure your learners derive value from the training program and leave enriched. Here are some ways to deliver a more interactive learning experience:

  • Include collaborative group activities
  • Add gamification elements such as maintaining a scoreboard, give out certificates, etc.
  • Include quizzes, polls, and assessments
  • Ask questions

Use real-life scenarios to make the session more relatable and memorable

Learning experience design consultant, Christy Tucker suggests, “Give learners challenges that make them think. If they have opportunities to apply knowledge in a relevant context, they’ll be more cognitively engaged (thinking more deeply, rather than just remembering).”

  1. Invest in the right tools and platforms

A huge aspect of achieving remote training program success is investing in the right remote work tools and platforms. 

In addition to learning management systems which serve as a platform for organising and tracking learning material, it’s also important to consider other tools that will help you enhance the training process. Some of these include:

  • Project management tools: to collaborate on group activities and track the progress of individual training tasks
  • Instant messaging apps: for quick communication and addressing concerns 
  • File-sharing tools: to share training materials and other information

Using the right tools will help you deliver a more cohesive training program, leaving little or no room for miscommunication.

The takeaway

You can’t afford to implement the traditional learning and development program strategies while training remote employees. Right from developing the training program and creating training materials to conducting the session, make sure you consider the medium and your audience’s attention spans.

These six best practices will help keep your learners more engaged and invested in the training program.


About the author

Simki Dutta is a content marketer at Venngage, a free infographic maker and design platform. 



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