It’s easy to put things off because you’re uncertain about your ability to do them effectively. You don’t want to waste time, after all. Due to this, businesses of all kinds can avoid investing in employee training. It’s undeniably easy for training sessions to be nearly useless, admittedly. Picture attendees sitting silent and sullen for an hour, repeating what they’re told without really taking it in, until they can finally get back to their regular workloads.
Further complicating matters, the conditions of the pandemic era have scattered teams both nationally and internationally, rendering the classic office almost obsolete (hybrid working doesn’t bring everyone together). Those who thought it was hard to provide a decent training session before have experienced immense frustration trying to communicate key concepts and keep people interested during Zoom meetings.
But that doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless. It is possible to deliver effective and engaging training sessions through the virtual world if you go about things in the right way, and in this post we’re going to set out five tips for doing just that.
1. Set worthwhile objectives
Many corporate training sessions have good intentions but little more. Their objectives are vague and questionably valuable. The thought is that giving people information is always a good thing, so why not do it more often? But there has to be a point to this process, or it won’t stick. Anyone who’s ever tried to learn a language or a musical instrument can attest to how quickly progress can disappear when you’re not actively using what you’ve picked up.
Due to this, every training session needs at least one worthwhile objective that will require the attendees to use what they glean from it. It could be to work on a new project using a tool discussed, or to create a report that could inform the company’s overall direction. It could even be to pursue and achieve an industry-standard certification. Without such objectives, you can never meaningfully gauge the long-term success of training, making it hard to improve.
2. Focus on independent study
How much information can someone remember during an hour-long training session? Far less than most people might guess, even when highly motivated to excel. Deciding that a training session should get into the minor details of a topic, then, is ill-advised. The goal of any given training session should be to answer some core questions. What is the topic? Why does it matter? What should the next steps be?
After all, the bulk of training-based learning should be achieved through independent study. Seminars and lectures in the academic world are more for discussion than anything else: the learning is done in libraries and at home. Self-directed learning is also more desirable. But since people will only pursue training in this way if they’ve suitably motivated, you need to give them reasons (and time) to train. And if you can’t offer a convincing case for committing to it, it might not actually be worth anyone’s time.
3. Create cohesive materials
Organization is key for virtual training, because you don’t get to take advantage of sharing a physical space. And while you can rely somewhat on training materials others have created, you shouldn’t lean on that option too much, because they’ll never sync perfectly with what you’re hoping to achieve. Additionally, a fantastic way to improve your understanding of a topic is to teach it, so tasking trainees with creating training materials for your brand is a strong idea.
How you collate these materials is up to you. You can simply let them linger in a Google Drive folder, referring to them on occasion and wheeling them out when onboarding new hires: there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But another option that some businesses are taking is creating fleshed-out courses for online course platforms. The e-learning industry is booming, with the demand for training materials skyrocketing. There are course creation platforms that can handle storage and distribution for you, so think about designing your own monetized courses. If you can train your employees and make some money on the side, so much the better.
4. Offer clear progression paths
We already touched upon motivation, but not in enough depth. What makes someone stick with a virtual training course when they know they’re not being closely observed? What’s to stop them from simply ticking off all the assigned steps and moving on? To keep them invested, you need to cater to their fundamental wants and needs — and perhaps the main need pertaining to professional development is a clear progression path.
Note, though, that progression needn’t involve a new title or even a changed role. The core concern is monetary. Will improving their skills lead to your employees making more money? If not, why should they care? You need to ensure that their diligent work is rewarded. If possible, give each employee a roadmap to advancement. At a bare minimum, though, offer them a roadmap to a salary bump so they know they’ll eventually benefit.
5. Seek and act on feedback
Lastly, an often-overlooked ingredient of running a strong training program is learning from feedback. You need to maintain a keen interest in how the sessions and materials are working. Are you framing things effectively? Are your sessions too long or too short? Are you allowing enough interactivity? And once you’ve gathered such feedback, you need to act on it.
This isn’t to say that you should action every suggestion passed your way, of course. That approach will only result in confusion, especially since trainees will inevitably disagree on some elements (everyone learns slightly differently). But you should take every suggestion seriously, think about it carefully, and make changes if they seem warranted.
If you can implement an effective virtual training program, you can earn an edge over your competitors and improve your employee retention. The tips we’ve set out here should help you reach that milestone. Make it a priority, and see how far you can get.