It’s been a year of immeasurable change for the professional landscape. The modern workplace has evolved immensely as the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses in almost every industry to reevaluate their organizational structure, practices and policies in order to ensure the safety and well-being of their team members.

The number of remote employees before pandemic almost doubled last year, with an additional 42% of the U.S. labor force working from home full time as of June 2020. And while many organizations have since returned to the office to some extent, a new workplace model is likely here to stay.

Remote work presents unique challenges, including difficulties with motivation and structure, time management, and communication, not to mention loneliness and boredom. Keeping remote team members engaged amid unusual circumstances and structural changes — whether temporary or permanent — can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. One of the ways that organizations can improve the remote work experience and make it more sustainable for the long term is through their learning and development initiatives.

Why Learning and Development Is Essential to Remote Work

Learning and development (L&D) is a primary business function that can be highly engaging and effective when disseminated online. Remote learning helps connect employees across locations and department levels with two common goals: to improve business processes and performance and to gain knowledge and expertise related to the organization, the industry or an individual’s specific role.

Training through eLearning has proven to be valuable for practically any role, department or type of organization, regardless of the company’s size or complexity. L&D managers can save significant costs in terms of time, money and productivity by managing onboarding, compliance and other types of training in a flexible online format. And, as the eLearning market expands and the need for engaging remote learning grows, more tools and applications are emerging to enhance the experience even further.

Improving the eLearning Experience for the Long Term

In order to make remote learning sustainable and engaging over the long term, it’s important to employ a modernized approach to your online initiatives. Although your success will depend on the type, flexibility and functionality of the learning management system (LMS) or training platform you choose, there are a few guidelines that all L&D managers can take into consideration:

1. Use a Variety of Forms of eLearning Content Delivery

A dynamic experience is crucial for effective remote L&D. When selecting which tools and solutions to include in your learning ecosystem, consider a variety of content delivery methods to effectively diversify lessons, engage learners and encourage information retention. Incorporate various forms of training content, including video, audio, text, simulations, gamified content, microlearning, mobile applications or more, depending on your industry or learning goals.

2. Personalize the Learning Experience

Beyond diversifying eLearning content, personalize the experience for your learners. Use the tools that are optimal for your industry, and build coursework based on what’s relevant to a specific department, location or current learner status through a competency-based framework. Using a hybrid learning strategy for specific programs that might require more face-to-face instruction will ensure that time spent learning is efficient, valuable and impactful.

3. Encourage Collaborative and Social Learning

Humans are social beings, so it’s no surprise that lessons that stem from interaction and real-life experiences are more memorable and impactful than formal education. And, while implementing collaborative and social learning remotely might seem challenging, it can be effective in connecting team members and fostering engagement within your programs. With social learning initiatives in place, employees can view training and development as an ongoing process weaved into your company culture, instead of a barrier to overcome in order to advance in their role.

Peer interactions through forums and discussion boards allow for asynchronous collaboration, while web conferencing and virtual classrooms can help learners and instructors connect in real time and provide immediate feedback. Furthermore, through a gamified approach, you can give learners the opportunity to earn badges or rank in leadership boards, encouraging friendly competition among team members.

4. Use Reporting to Identify, Assess and Address Skill Gaps

In order to ensure the value of your learning programs, administrators must stay on top of employee progress and be able to identify if there are areas where learners might be struggling. Use LMS reporting tools to gain insight on formal and informal learning data in order to ensure optimal engagement and timely completion of goals.

As learner needs change and evolve, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve with optimized experiences and a best-of-breed training approach. Collecting regular reports can help you not only identify learner progress but also provide insights into which areas of your training program you can improve.

5. Leverage eLearning Support

Flexibility and the use of additional eLearning support has become an integral contributor to the success of many remote learning programs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and L&D professionals are now consulting with eLearning experts more frequently in order to find the most useful and cost-effective solution that addresses their specific learning goals and organizational needs.

In a time of unpredictability, when your information technology (IT) team might have its hands full supporting day-to-day operations conducted across various locations, partnering with an eLearning provider can help ease the burden of managing online learning and enable your team to focus more on supporting your users than on backend development and troubleshooting. With a knowledgeable and responsive eLearning partner, you can maximize learning initiatives, leverage cutting-edge tools, ensure an up-to-date and secure system, and more effectively support your remote teams with a dynamic and engaging digital L&D solution.

Whether used as part of your business continuity plans or for continuous professional development, the growing role of remote learning is paramount. By taking these five tips into consideration, you can keep your training program moving in the right direction: on the path to sustained performance and employee success.