More employees are working remotely these days, at least part of the time. According to one recent survey, more than half of professionals (53 percent) work remotely for half the week or more, and nearly three-quarters (70 percent) work remotely a minimum of one day a week.
While remote working can result in greater productivity, largely because it avoids long commutes and workplace distractions, it does present challenges in managing people who are rarely in the office. One area of concern is ensuring that remote workers stay up-to-date with knowledge and skills.
The solution is adaptive learning, which combines the best of computer science and cognitive research to deliver exactly what each employee needs. Adaptive learning focuses on the knowledge and skills that employees do not possess or are less confident in. Its “teaching-by-asking” approach probes what people already know and uncovers and fixes knowledge and skill gaps as well as misconceptions. This interactive approach improves learners’ involvement, creating a more satisfying experience that is proven to be highly effective for learning.
By focusing only on those areas in which learners need development, while skipping over what they have already mastered, adaptive learning reduces the time it takes to reach proficiency. Among early adopters of adaptive learning, time savings of as much as 50 percent are common, compared to traditional e-learning and instructor-led training. Greater efficiency means less time spent on training and more time on the job. Moreover, as companies look for a mobile-first strategy, enabling learning and training to be accessed anytime, anywhere, adaptive learning is the ideal tool, especially for the most mobile of road-warriors: B2B sales teams.
Nearly everyone who works in an enterprise sales organization, almost by definition, is on the road constantly, meeting with clients or prospects. These professionals are often based from home and work largely on the road; only occasionally do they go into the office. Infrequent time in the office makes it harder to deliver training to them. In addition, the more time they spend in a classroom or seminar, the less time they have to do their jobs serving clients.
But B2B sales teams need ongoing training as much as anyone – and perhaps even more, since their product portfolios can change frequently. They need constant learning to stay current with the product line (e.g., new features and offerings) and to learn how best to serve client needs.
Despite its popularity, static online learning doesn’t fit the needs of remote employees, nor is it useful for many people who are in a traditional work environment. Programs that are essentially online workbooks, lectures, videos and e-learning “pages” offer no personalization; learners must sit through all the content whether or not they’ve already mastered it, and such approaches offer no help when the learner struggles. The result is often learner fatigue – and a recipe for “multitasking” while the e-learning runs in the background. L&D organizations have turned to chunking content into bite-sized pieces, and though this approach can make content more digestible, it does little to improve learning efficiency or effectiveness.
What we need is high-impact training that is optimized for time, can be used intermittently and leverages learning science rather than fads. This is especially true for remote workers who want (or are forced) to consume training intermittently – 15 minutes here, 10 minutes there. For those who are on the road, there may be several days between one learning session and the next.
Advanced adaptive learning platforms are particularly well-suited for intermittent use; the program remembers not only where the learner left off but also his or her performance. Based on this information, the adaptive platform will dynamically adjust the learner’s experience the next time he or she re-engages. If significant time has passed, increasing the risk of the learner’s forgetting the material, the adaptive learning platform will revisit content in a targeted way to bring the learner back up to speed quickly.
With the adaptive learning approach, learners not only improve their knowledge. They also gain confidence in what they know through a continuous self-assessment that asks learners to rate how well they know a given piece of content (i.e., how confident they are in their answer) before the correct answer is revealed or a task is performed. The data from the self-assessment is then used to further adapt and individualize the experience. As a result, learners become not only proficient but also confident in their knowledge. For B2B sales professionals, this is paramount for their ability to address customers’ problems and concerns.
Adaptive learning offers a proven solution for training remote workers, with a learning experience that fits well with the reality of the schedule and demands of those who are infrequently in the office and often on the road. It should be a key part of the learning ecosystem for any organization with remote workers.