Remote Workforce Development Challenges And Solutions
You’ll face many Remote Workforce Development challenges when planning for remote training, including financial, technical and logistical considerations. Emotional and psychological factors also play a fundamental role in the success of any training rollout. This guide will cover some of the main issues that could unwind a successful training strategy, as well as solutions that have, in our experience, really helped clients to overcome them.
Remote Workforce Development Challenge #1: Remote Training & Development Will Not Be Accepted
The issue of acceptance sits at the heart of remote training and development success. For your colleagues to realise the benefits of training and development, a certain amount of work will need to
be done before wide-scale implementation of your training projects. An inability to accept the training could be the result of a number of factors, including:
Company culture issues
The greatest culture within an organisation is the Culture of Accountability, which is always connected with positive business implications. It’s closely related to creativity, problem solving, collaboration and cross-functional joint effort toward achieving better results. These implications are relevant not only in terms of the revenue and profit, but also in other areas such as working atmosphere, employee retention and customer satisfaction. A lack of this culture will almost certainly lead to the failure of your training strategy, so it’s something that needs to be addressed at the outset of any strategic development review.
Perception of the value of remote training
It’s likely that many of your colleagues will be more familiar with training in more social environments. And it’s here where a good proportion of the benefit is derived from being able to interact with the instructor, meet with colleagues or network with acquaintances in shared training venues. Enforced remote training has removed this benefit and with it one of the best ways to maximise time away from core activities. Steps need to be taken ensuring that equal value can be gained through new methods of training delivery.
Methods of delivering remote training have improved dramatically, as we read earlier with the onward growth of technology. Unfortunately, many people’s online training experience was gained typically when the options were limited by technology. This meant that courses were one-dimensional and uninspiring, at best. Training was an arduous intrusion into other, core work activities. It was something that had to be endured before being quickly forgotten, together with any of the benefits.
Knowledge of the available options
A lack of dedicated learning resources or a culture that doesn’t prioritise training often leads to a lack of knowledge of what’s out there. This usually means that employees are either neglected or given basic learning options, which is harmful across the organisation. Luckily today the available options for consultation, free products trials as well as access to unlimited amounts of highly valuable, free information online, means that this should no longer be an issue.
Company culture – laying the foundations
Creating a Culture of Accountability is the basis for building a successful company with motivated and trainable employees. This culture is created by first defining what the company and the employees should be accountable for. An example could be the key results. Initial buy-in from employees is obtained by aligning their roles with the company objectives. Then, follow-up training will provide them with the tools they need to link this culture with those now-shared goals.
Accountability Culture – the basis for building the success of a company
Hiring the services of an expert in this field would be a good way of investigating this further. Selling the benefits of this culture within an organisation will also be key to ensuring the success of any future training developments. As a company’s culture is normally driven from the top, it will therefore be key to demonstrate these benefits to key stakeholders at Board level. Company performance should be the cornerstone of this demonstration, as budget approval for any company-wide programmes will depend on this being improved.
Once the buy-in has been secured at the top-level, there is also a high possibility that a company-wide rollout of a new curriculum, for example, will be more implemented more effectively
and with much greater acceptance. In addition to this, the appeal of a remote training curriculum can be increased with a scaled introduction of new training processes. This means that learners and key stakeholders will be gradually introduced to specific learning styles either through a strategic pilot programme, or by the introduction of elements that copy the features of the classroom-based sessions as closely as possible.
Research a range of training options
Online resources provide a wealth of information about all things related to online training and development. The main issue is that there is too much information, instead of a lack of data. Using specific search terms as preparation for follow-up calls10 with potential providers of LMS, content or consultancy services, is a good place to start. A good agency will decide on the correct type of training modality, content or overall solution for clients based first on a top-down approach that addresses the need for the training, together with the steps that need to be taken to address those needs. This is essentially a ‘big picture approach’11 which means that follow-up actions are congruent with your core mission.
Remote Workforce Development Challenge #2: Remote Training & Development Is Not Effective
Once the benefits of training for remote employees has been accepted within the organisation, you’ll need to find a training solution that will work for everyone. We have found that training & development plans often fail at this stage due to some specific reasons:
A lack of planning around the correct training approach
Many companies rush into the creation of training programmes for remote employees without considering all of the important elements to ensure success of the project. These elements might include:
- Who is the training for?
- What problem will it solve?
- Which company objectives does it align with?
- What are the expectations for the training?
- How should it be delivered?
- How can we ensure that it succeeds?
The failure to adopt a comprehensive review that includes all of the above elements means that any training output is likely to be produced in a reactionary manner, with little regard for the overall objectives of the company or the learners. This leads to wasted effort as, without a training strategy directed from the top-down, energy and investment is lost reacting to the needs of individual areas. Also, a lack of thought around company strategy, the industry or factors such as legislation means that there is little room to react when urgent training is needed in these areas.
The content does not engage the audience
A lack of planning and experience also ensures that the audience is not engaged. Therefore learning opportunities are missed and company objectives are not reached. This lack of engagement could be shown in a number of ways, including:
- Content that is seen as irrelevant
- Content that is seen as boring, with no interaction
- Courses that are too long
- Courses that fail to account for regional or cultural preferences
Learner engagement is one of the most important factors when creating courses to maximise the effectiveness of your training. This is especially important when learners work remotely.
The change from class-based learning to online remote training is too great
The delivery of a remote training curriculum that is wildly different from the class-based set-up can lead to a learner confusion and uncertainty. The project will fail to inspire the learners if steps aren’t taken to reassure them of the new approach benefits. A series of measures that allow for all parts of the organisation to buy in to the new ways of working will be needed to keep things rolling forward.
The key to creating training that is as effective as possible is to really understand all of the objectives of the training, or the problem that it’s trying to solve. As indicated earlier, the ‘big picture approach’ is the best place to start. A tried and tested approach to course or curriculum development is key to its success. This will allow you to:
- Look at the training from the top-down – the vision of what you’re trying to achieve
- Factor in company objectives – working down to departmental level, then learner goals
- Decide on the overall learner curriculum – broken down to individual courses
- Focus on the delivery methods for each course – to allow for maximum engagement
The structure of the approach
Here, we break the course development and curriculum approach down into a series of tried and tested steps:
Detailed Needs Analysis / Evaluation
Together with your Subject Matter Experts as well as other Key Stakeholders, a careful analysis should be conducted. This initial part of the process involves a detailed survey across a broad range of fronts. Together with your Subject Matter Experts as well as other Key Stakeholders, a careful analysis should be conducted. This would include finding out who the target audience is, the learning goals, learner context and characteristics, as well as options to include specific types of learning methodologies or ways to deliver the training content.
Deciding on how content should be delivered is key to the success of the training project. The methods chosen will help learners to fully embrace the training as each style of learning will have its own benefits. The most suitable approach will:
- Let the learners transition easily from classroom-based content to remote learning
- Allow learners to better engage with the content
- Consider different learning needs, as defined by the stakeholders
- Allow for specific delivery styles for certain types of content
The curriculum can be delivered in a number of ways, including:
- Self-paced – which allows the audience to learn wherever and whenever they want
- Virtual instructor-led – a great way to transition from class-based learning to online
- Pre-recorded presenter-led – to add to the human element to specific training parts
- Webinar – lower cost, but more limited in terms of engagement
- Blended approach – a powerful approach that includes the benefits of all approaches
The Needs Analysis acts as a foundation for the building of the Outline, which adds flow to the course as well as establishing a logical sequence to the information gathered during the client discussions. It’s like a chart of intent or the bones of the eLearning course that provide a frame for the richer details to come.
Storyboarding & Moodboarding
A Storyboard will be the next layer for your eLearning project. It’s the main part of the course development and breathes life into the project. Your course will be filled out with modules and lessons that can be organised according to your needs during the development process. The Storyboard timelines follow the outline structure and may either be linear or include branching scenarios, gamification or storytelling, for example, to add an extra element of user-participation and buy-in. This often leads to a far more engaging and memorable learning experience.
Moodboarding is something that you would include as an essential part of the creative process. It’s something that is rarely used in eLearning. However, it is a great addition to the mix, providing the client with the opportunity to see all of the visual aspects of the course. It also adds an exciting and inspiring dash of visual stimulus. It can be used to further lock-in agreed expectations, prevent unwanted surprises and spice up the design process.
Remote Workforce Development Challenge #3: Lack of Internal Resources to Transfer Materials to Online
Resource allocation for course development is one of the biggest challenges that also needs to be addressed. The two main options are to either manage the entire process in-house, or to trust in the services of third parties to deliver the training programme. The temptation of short-term cost savings means that the in-house option might seem attractive. However, this is not an
undertaking to be taken lightly. Creating and delivering an enterprise-wide project of this importance should only be considered this way if the company has all of the skills, experiences and time
to ensure its delivery to the highest standard.
This will be a difficult task for most organisations, especially without the guidance of outside expertise. These in-house eLearning projects often fail because it’s difficult to:
- Obtain the necessary decision-make approval for budget
- Demonstrate the value of a learning culture within the company
- Organise all of the key stakeholders and subject matter experts
- Understand the needs for learning across the organisation
- Know how to create engaging content that matches learning objectives
- Use the latest technologies such as authoring other creative tools
Recruiting the expertise of an external agency10 to help with the project is a step that will pay for itself many times over. eLearning agencies specialise in the design, creation and implementation of eLearning projects. Call on the experts to save you time and money. They will have expertise honed over years of working with clients across all industry sectors, geographies and demographics. This experience, together with a knowledge of current trends and pedagogical approaches, means that you can focus on your core activities and leave the details around curriculum and course design to the experts. The right agency will also:
- Sell the concept throughout the organisation, especially at Board level to obtain approval and budgetary sign-off
- Manage the key stakeholders to ensure that crucial information is gathered, determining priorities, deadlines and deliverables
- Qualify the wants and needs of your organisation to understand the reasons for the training
- Show how to create a learning environment and design the courses that are engaging, effective and relevant
- Transfer knowledge from existing courses and subject matter experts to the a new format
- Stay in line with current thinking to ensure that your team has the most up-to-date solutions available
The value of the initial financial cost is therefore something that will pay for itself many times over.
Remote Workforce Development Challenge #4: Lack of Communication, Isolation
The shift to homeworking was accelerated rapidly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Numbers of workers who, at the start of 2021 still work from home are reported14 to be around 25% in the majority of Western European countries, with numbers of those avoiding offices in the UK nearing the 50% mark. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has highlighted the health risks that are associated with loneliness and social isolation. These risks include:
- Increase risk of loneliness
- An increase in risk of premature death from all causes, enough to rival those of smoking, obesity and physical inactivity
- Poor social relationships, leading to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke
- Increased rates of depression, anxiety and suicide
It should therefore be a priority for companies to provide facilities to colleagues that ensure their health is protected first, as this is a precursor to maximising personal and company performance. Luckily there are now a whole host of options available which tackle the issue of workplace isolation, as we’ll now see.
Include mental health training in the curriculum
To many people, looking after their mental health may be as simple as creating an effective daily routine to include sufficient sleep, good food, regular exercise, meditation and breaks from work.
Mental health & social elements to the training improve its chances of success. There are thousands of apps and other resources offering practical advice and tips for each of these areas. Also, include material in the curriculum to inspire and motivate the learners, as well as building a foundation for calm and productivity that will help to create the best results. This type of information could be presented and regularly updated on the dashboard of the Learning Management System (LMS), so that the learner is encouraged to visit there frequently and incorporate it into a healthy routine.
Use social features that copy face-to-face interaction
As we covered earlier, social interaction is one of the most important benefits of face-to-face training. The chance to be inspired by others through the exchange of ideas, or to meet new colleagues and create new opportunities is integral to getting the best value out of the time spent away from core activities at work. While online learning will never truly replace these environments, there are many ways that learners can benefit from the introduction of social features in and around the training courses themselves.
Many LMS’s now have inbuilt chat functionality and forums to encourage dialogue. And within the training environment itself breakout rooms are now the norm during video conferencing. Learners are also encouraged to interact in a playful, yet competitive manner through the use of gamified elements such as leaderboards, prizes and incentives. A combination of the above benefits will encourage better engagement, mindset and ultimately performance and hopefully reduce the feelings of isolation that are so damaging for colleagues and companies alike.
Want to learn more about remote workforce development obstacles and how to overcome them cost effectively? Download the eBook Working From Home – How To Maximise The Remote Training And Development Of Your Colleagues to learn how to address your L&D challenges with online training solutions.