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Jun 21, 2016
This article is part of a series called Remote Work.

Whether employees are located just down the hall or across the country, training is a critical part of the overall development process, not just for new hires but at every point in the career lifecycle. As more companies embrace the idea of fully remote workforces, training becomes especially important as a way to achieve consistent results and reinforce the company culture.

Many of the same principles used to create training programs for onsite employees apply to remote workforces too, but offsite training typically requires a more methodical approach. Here are five highly effective practices for training remote employees:

  1. Make sure remote employees do their homework. One of the perks of being a home-based worker is a flexible schedule. On the employer side, the flexibility angle makes it all the more crucial to hire highly self-motivated people. Assigning remote team members training homework (reading, e-learning modules, etc.) to do at their own pace and then following up with reviews and evaluations makes the most of the remote worker’s time and helps the employer know the information is being reviewed.
  1. Use screen capture tools to conduct software training. Learning to use new applications like CRM software is typically a hands-on task — employees learn by seeing it done and then doing it themselves. If you can’t sit down next to a new hire and walk them through the software training, invest in technology that allows you to create a video of the screen and talk through what you’re doing. That way, employees can watch the steps unfold on their screen and replicate them.
  1. Leverage social media for peer-to-peer networking. While formal training programs are an essential part of onboarding and development, informal learning can comprise up to 75% of total learning, often taking the form of casual interactions among colleagues who pass along tips for handling specific challenges. Since these types of conversations won’t take place around the water cooler with a remote workforce, companies can foster a virtual environment that serves the same purpose. Create private groups where employees can seek out new information, share best practices, and share the kinds of conversations and encouragement that would typically happen in the hallway and around the break room.
  1. Thoroughly document all of your training processes. Too many companies make the mistake of relying on a single person to handle all aspects of their training program without sufficient documentation of processes. This can be a real problem if that person is suddenly no longer available. Find a technology solution that lets you document all of your training processes step-by-step, and make sure you update it frequently so you retain institutional knowledge.
  1. virtual employee virtual worker training meetingReinforce your company culture through ongoing training. Even though all or a significant part of your workforce may be offsite, you’ll still need to deliberately create and continuously reinforce a strong company culture that upholds your values. Training and development initiatives are a key part of this effort, so make sure you build the training program for your remote workforce on a framework of your values. That will keep your culture front and center for all employees

It’s definitely possible to create a strong, cohesive team that collaborates effectively and fully participates in all aspects of the company training program, even if a portion or all of the workforce is located offsite. But training remote employees takes a deliberate approach to ensure that the work is completed on schedule and that knowledge retention is truly happening.

This article is part of a series called Remote Work.
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