Delivering Effective Employee Training in the Digital Age

Written by Zac Johnson
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The possibility of remote work used to be little more than a curious novelty offered by a handful of enterprising startups who dared to be different. However, the modern reality of the situation is that remote working is becoming much more of a mainstream option for a number of businesses, regardless of size and scale. Indeed, some of the largest organizations can benefit from the most, gaining access to global talent by way of distributed teams.

But, when your workers are spread out from Lisbon to Los Angeles, Montreal to Melbourne, how can you handle new employee onboarding to the same level of effectiveness as when you have the new hire actually in your physical office. It’s not like you can all gather around the same conference room table, nor can you linger over their shoulder to check in throughout the training process… can you?

However, to solely look at the concept of working and connecting with others through remote technology and opportunities as a business for only businesses, it would be a mistake. Now, more than ever, with the Coronavirus changing the way everyone in the world works, communicates and networks with others, the opportunity for remote working is no longer a nice little advantage and feature to have, it’s now simply a requirement.

With world conferences and events cancelling left and right, connecting audiences globally isn’t just for business anymore. Cancelling an event and postponing it for a later date is not a wise business decision. Instead, we are seeing many of these events focus on virtual events, hosting the same speakers and attendees… but not accessible from anywhere.

With all of this in mind, no matter if it’s for employee training through remote locations or holding conferences and business meetings virtually, it’s a new means  and opportunity for everyone to connect online in this new digital age.

The Importance of Effective Employee Training

It’s undeniable that one of the greatest strengths of any successful company is its people. You want to attract the right kind of talent that will align with the company culture you hope to foster, but the relationship you forge with workers at all levels of the company will begin with the process of training new employees in the first place.

It is absolutely true that new employee training can be costly, because it takes time and resources to get new hires up to speed on what needs to be done and how it should be done. That being said, ineffective training or a complete lack of training entirely can end up costing your company a lot more.

When an employee is trained effectively, not only will this result in fewer complications and conflicts down the line, but the employee is more likely to engage with the company in a positive way based on this initial experience. This helps with employee retention, as well as with long-term boosts in productivity.

A Personalized Approach from Anywhere in the World

What will it take, then, to develop an effective employee training program? It starts with having the right plan and template in place. And while this may sound like you are trying to create a standardized path for every new hire, it’s really much more about having the right initial framework and then adapting it accordingly.

  1. Start with your core objectives.
    It would be impossible (and prohibitively expensive) to train every new employee on every possible protocol, scenario, and system. Instead, it starts with having your priorities in the right place. What is the main goal of the training for this particular employee in this particular role at this particular time?
  2. Develop a plan and a timeline. After you’ve determined what is the most important thing the new hire should learn as part of their onboarding process, you need to determine how you can ensure they’ve actually learned it. Establish a realistic timeline with clearly defined milestones. Remember that training is not just a day or two of digital boot camp. It’s an ongoing process.
  3. Play to their strengths.
    Offer solutions for their weaknesses. Presumably, you’ve hired the new employee because their skill set is a good match for what your company needs. This extends to the type of learning that they may prefer and/or excel at. By leveraging digital tools that can offer contextual learning and instruction using different modalities, you maximize their potential.
  4. Encourage engagement and interaction.
    One of the bigger challenges you may encounter with distributed teams is that remote workers can feel disconnected from the company at large. They’re not gathering around in the same lunch room with their colleagues to talk about last night’s football game. Part of the employee training process involves developing a culture of connection. Casual Slack channels or regular video conferences with the team are great. Training can also take on the form of live video.
  5. Leverage technology.
    Mentoring can be great, but mentors should not be the main source of learning. An automated platform is preferable, with mentors offering clarification and encouragement along the way. Similarly, textbooks are too rote and routine, while contextual learning with proactive support is much more engaging and lends itself to greater retention too.
  6. Streamline the process.
    Technology has come a long way in recent years, particularly when it comes to employee training for remote workers. Digital platforms can leverage an increasingly advanced level of machine learning and artificial intelligence so that the training programs can be both efficient and effective. To minimize cost while maximizing benefit, training should be focused and direct.
  7. Stay organized.
    While you may be following a general template for onboarding, the very nature of personalization means that every employee training experience is going to be slightly different. From an HR perspective, it means that both the HR professional and the new hire — as well as any managers or supervisors who will be working with the new hire — are all suitably apprised of what training has been done, what objectives have been set, and what additional learning is yet to come. Trello boards are a good option, but always choose a tool that everyone will actually use (and appreciate), not one that feels more like a chore.
  8. Keep going.
    The nature of work is just like the nature of technology: it’s constantly evolving. What this means is that employee training is not a one-time process. Encourage continuous learning among all your employees. By working toward more contextual learning and by making digital adoption a priority, all workers are empowered to perform at their highest possible level and feel like they are being recognized for their efforts.

A Digital Solution for a Digital World

Simply relying on digital tools to power your online employee training process isn’t enough. The tools can indeed be very robust, but they need to be used to their fullest extent and embraced by everyone involved in the process. That’s what digital adoption is all about and it is positively critical to developing an effective, efficient, streamlined process for employee training. That’s how employees, both new and old, will feel like they can tackle any challenge and succeed.

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