In an ideal world, all development training would be face to face, in person. The trainer would have a clear sense of how the room as a whole and how each individual learner was responding to the content and be able to adjust accordingly. People would feel comfortable stopping the trainer whenever they had a question or a problem. And the personal bond among participants, arising from everyone being in the same physical location and sharing the same experience, would make it easier for them to discuss, reinforce, master and execute best practices in the period immediately following training.
But this is not an ideal world, and the expense and hassle of transporting employees to a single location, not to mention the desire to avoid lost productivity time, has led many companies to take advantage of remote training options. These sessions use communication platforms designed to support webinars and live-streaming meetings. This approach definitely produces cost savings and other advantages, but there are some challenges that organizations need to consider.
For instance, consider this scenario: In a live training program involving 10 or 20 participants, a trainer is proposing a new way of thinking or acting, something that is perhaps a little controversial or uncomfortable. In that face-to-face setting, it’s relatively difficult for participants to “tune out” of the training – and those who try are likely to find themselves working one-on-one with the trainer on how and why they can break out of a particular comfort zone. Put bluntly, it’s tough for “classroom vacationers” to disengage and hide when a good trainer is leading the program in person. But in a remote training session, when the trainer suggests that same new approach, participants can simply look away from the screen and start doing something else.
The communication dynamic is fundamentally different from face-to-face training if the trainer is working in one location and the participants are somewhere else. Therefore, the trainer’s engagement strategy should also be different. Here are three approaches that have proven successful in delivering developmental training remotely.
1. Before the training, lay the foundation.
Send participants a drip feed of brief articles, infographics and/or videos that are both relevant to them and easy to assimilate. Send one item at a time. What you send should not feel like homework and should not require a huge time investment. Videos can be particularly powerful – if you think in terms of one- to two-minute videos.
Whatever you choose to send, focus on big-picture topics and principles, rather than one-minute, detailed instructions. Make it clear that this content will be the starting point of the upcoming training. Follow up with each participant via phone, text or email, asking what he or she thought of the content you sent, before the training event begins.
2. During the training, follow through on what you did to prepare participants.
As your remote training session begins, engage with the participants on the content that you shared with them. And ask them to share their reaction to it and pose questions. Get participants involved and contributing to the discussion as quickly as possible.
3. After the training, send the playbook.
Send resources that clearly show participants how to put what they’ve learned into action. Again, videos can be a particularly powerful tool if they are focused, carefully targeted to the participants and under two minutes in length. The best post-training videos usually share role-plays and crystal-clear examples of people successfully using the tools and resources that you discussed during training. The idea is to send materials that mirror only what the company considers to be a success when implementing the concepts participants just learned and practiced. Give them the playbook that shows exactly how to do it right – so that there’s no room for someone to say after the training, “I’m doing the best I can, but nobody ever showed me how!”