Work from home. Seems self-explanatory, doesn’t it? But it’s not.
Unfortunately, nearly 60% of HR professionals say they haven’t offered employees any training on how to work remotely, according to the MindEdge/HRCI study, HR in the Age of Workplace Uncertainty.
And employees actually need some help on how to work better from home.
When employees were sent home to work at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic they knew very well how do their jobs – and they still do. But very few were ever trained to do their job at home.
“HR executives are tasked with creating a seamless remote work experience for their employees,” says Dr. Amy Dufrane, SPHR, CAE, CEO of HRCI. “It is more important now for professionals to invest in individual learning and certification …”
And remember: Any efforts you put into training employees now will have long-term effects because most companies will face other times they’ll want or need to shift employees to remote work arrangements.
Here are nine critical factors to training employees to effectively work from home:
Include essential skills in training
It’s essential now to help employees do their jobs just as effectively – if not more – from their homes.
That’ll require a different set of skills, including:
- Time and distraction management. Not all employees can follow the same disciplines of onsite work at home. With no physical separation, they might not be able to focus when they need to, even if you create set work hours, share ideas and tools to avoid distractions and wasted time – such as using noise cancelling headphones, turning off device alerts and following deep work strategies.
- Communication etiquette. Most employees aren’t used to only communicating with colleagues virtually. Some people use technology and apps they’ve never touched before. So now the same old communication and social guidelines don’t hold true. In training for remote work, go over the basic operations of all your platforms. Create and post an etiquette guide with rules to cover video, chat, email and phone communication. Include guidelines on:
- acceptable hours to send messages and expect responses
- the right channels for exchanges (for example, use video conference to make final decisions, chat to share documents, email to send information before meeting, etc.)
- proper attire and surroundings for videoconferencing, and
- expectations for continued collegiality and professionalism on all channels.
- Resources and access. Employees on-site often turned to colleagues for help in a pinch. At home, they’ll need to help themselves through IT, research and execution issues. So train or re-train employees on how to access your available systems and troubleshoot basic IT problems. Give them tip sheets on what’s in your databases, and how to access and navigate them on their own.
Choose approach that best fits
Much like in-person training, remote training can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach. Some employees can soak it all in through reading and reviewing. Others will need real-time video instruction and interaction.
Here are the approaches you’ll want to use:
- Real-time learning. This is through your synchronous channels such as a Zoom meeting, conference call or a cloud-based, computer-linked session – perhaps with LogMeIn. Everyone (or just one) learns as the information is shared. It’s the closest you can get to classroom training. But you need to schedule well ahead of time so everyone is available to be “together” for the session.
- Self-directed learning. Employees can access learning content at their convenience, then make comments, participate in activities and/or take assessments based on necessary deadlines. But you need a regularly updated library of training material – from documents and assessments to video and tools – for employees to benefit.
- Blended learning. This is a combination of real-time and self-directed learning that allows flexibility for a variety of learners and learning circumstances. It works well for complex training needs, but it’s probably too involved for quick-hit, immediate training needs.
Deliver great training
Here are best practices and practical tips to deliver impactful training to help employees work better remotely:
Go in organized
Whether you train or you help front-line managers prepare training, know your technology, and prepare materials before you deliver.
Load materials – agendas, training manuals, visuals, etc. – into your platform to create the slide deck. Or add it to a library for self-directed learning after it’s been proofread for clarity and function.
Include surveys or polls in real-time video conference events to improve participation and engagement. Add assessments and guidelines for submitting and grading self-directed courses.
Practice delivering the training in front of the camera ahead of time whether you’re recording a video or doing a real-time video call.
You’ll want to set deadlines for finishing self-directed training. Scheduling real-time training will be more tricky. For one, remote employees likely won’t work at the exact same times. Plus, some can’t participate in training at certain times because of other demands.
So the key might be to offer the same session more than once. Invite employees to sign up in a shared document or calendar. Even better, create a master training schedule for three months at a time so employees can sign up and stay ahead of it.
Shortly before training, send employees a “kit” with these essentials:
- a checklist of the topic, key points that’ll be covered and what they can expect to gain
- agenda of who will speak and when
- IT tips on handling audio and visual, plus a contact if they have issues
- details on how to join the event (dial in instructions, pass codes, etc.), and
- pre-training material they need to read and know.
When you get everyone connected to the training session, cover the house rules with a screen in the first minute with reminders on:
- the agenda sequence and how to deal with IT problems
- how to use the chat feature for questions and clarifications
- etiquette such as muting mics when not speaking and raising a hand to speak, and
- putting aside other work and turning off electronic alerts.
Make training easy to access
For on-demand, self-directed training, it’s critical to make it easy to access. Ideally, put it all in one portal on your company intranet or within an app such as Workplace from Facebook.
Put all training related to working from home more effectively – the kind of training that can help remote employees regardless of their function – in one area.
Share tips via email or your internal social platform from the library at least weekly and include links back to the full content. Also send updates every time something is added or enhanced.
Jumpstart new employees
Nearly 40% of HR pros say onboarding and initial training is harder with a remote workforce, the MindEdge/HCRI study found.
So as your remote learning initiatives grow, build a program to onboard and train new employees exclusively through remote learning.
For instance, Facebook revamped onsite initiatives – such as the one where they pull together six new employees from across functions for general training to interact, share new employee experiences and make connections.
Now HR hosts an online program for new employees, who might not even set foot on a Facebook site. They still get a group together, but they do most of their interacting on video conferences. Still, they do the same training, experience-sharing and connecting.
“It’s an equalizer,” says Karen O’Neill, Director of People Growth at Facebook. “No one is at a disadvantage now.”
You can’t continue the success – or fix the failure – of training remote employees without tracking results.
Set goals you can measure before training – perhaps a passing rate for assessments or an improved performance metric by a certain date.
Get feedback on training helpfulness and effectiveness through quick online surveys. Measure goal attainment. Assess training success. And plan your next moves.