How to Train Remote Employees


Perhaps you are starting a new remote company, or hiring new remote employees.  Maybe you have an established company, and need to train remote workers on a new software, system, or process.  Either way, you need a way to train your employees effectively.

To train remote employees, decide on the learning objectives and develop the training.  Next, find a way to deliver the training to your workers.  Then, ask for feedback to improve the training.  Finally, maintain the material for future hires.

Develop the Material

To develop training materials for employees, there are a few things to consider.  Think about your company profile, the areas of training for your workers, and company specific knowledge.  You can also ask current employees for input, since they will remember what helped them to learn when they started.

Company Profile

Before your jump into creating training materials, think about your company profile.  This includes answering questions such as:

  • What is the size of your company? (number of employees)
  • What is your company revenue & profit?
  • What is the time frame for the training?

If you have a small company, you might be able to hire a trainer to work one-on-one with employees.  You might even be able to work with new hires yourself!

For a larger company, it might make sense to outsource the creation of training materials.  For some topics, you can use existing external materials, such as generic online courses.

If your company has healthy profits, you can afford to invest in training.

If your company is struggling financially, you will need to develop the training yourself to save money.

Also, think about how long you want to spend on training.  A month might be too long, but a day might not be enough.  You will need to pay your employees while you train them, but the investment will be worthwhile if the training is good.  Decide on a timeline, and then create the training accordingly.

In addition, think about the time it will take to develop the training, both now and in the future.  If you develop the training in smaller chunks, or modules, you can update it more easily in the future.

Areas of Training

Think about the areas of training that your employees will need.  There could be more than one, and there could be overlap between different departments.  A few possibilities are:

  • customer service/call center
  • sales
  • engineering
  • human resources
  • accounting
  • information technology (company software and hardware)
  • information security
  • industry or company specific (best practices, processes)

Some of the training areas, such as information security and company specific, will overlap for all employees.  So, they should be developed for a more general audience.  Since much of the information depends on your company, you will need to develop this training yourself.

Other areas will have generic information, covered by many online courses.  This includes human resources (current laws), accounting (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), and information technology (software training).

Ask Current Employees for Input

Ask current employees for help when you develop company specific training.  First, they have a good sense of what new hires will need to learn.  They can also anticipate frequently asked questions (FAQs) and provide answers for them.

Second, if the training is for current employees, they can tell you what they need to learn.  They can also offer input in terms of the training methods you will use.

As an added incentive, you can offer an extra day off, a cash bonus, or some other perk in exchange for help with developing training materials.

Deliver the Training

Now, you have a better of how to develop the training.  Next, you will need to decide on how to deliver the training.

Training Kit

The training kit will provide your employee with an overview of what he needs to complete.  For a new hire, this will include some type of orientation, along with introduction to company policies and procedures (a manual or guidebook).

For both new hires and existing employees, the training will include links to resources, such as online courses, videos, files, FAQs, and assessments.  It should be easy to follow, and have a checklist to track progress through the modules.

Files

You should store your training files online, using services like Google Drive or DropBox.  This allows everyone in the company to access them in the same place.

It also allows you to update the training files as needed, or to grant permission for others to do so.  If any files are sensitive or proprietary, you will need to take extra precautions (VPN or other encryption software).

Training files can include Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides (similar to Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint).  FAQs are a good candidate for Google Docs.  Flowcharts for processes are a good candidate for Google Sheets.  Any training that you develop yourself is a good candidate for Google slides.

Video

There are many possibilities for video training, including software demos, process walk-throughs, live screen sharing, and lecture-style videos.

For software demos, you can record your screen while you show off the features of the software.  You can also ask for help from employees who know the software.  They can record their screens to create how-to videos.

These videos can answer FAQs about processes and troubleshooting for the software.  The software company itself might also have video training available, either on a free or paid basis.

You can also use screen-sharing to create tutorials for company-specific processes.  For example, you might have a specific procedure for conducting online research and summarizing your findings.

You can record a video of how you go through the process, and then include this training for any employees who conduct research for you.

In addition, if you use Skype, you can conduct a one-on-one or group call and share your screen.  That way, anyone on the call can follow along in as you walk through a process or software.  They can also ask questions in real-time, clearing up any confusion.

If you record these Skype calls, then you can use them for future training.  If any questions come up in the future, you can create an addition video to answer these questions.

Finally, you can record a lecture-style video and post it on YouTube.

You can create different playlists according to the training that the employee needs, and direct him to the right playlist.  You can always edit the playlists or create new ones later as your training needs adapt.

A prerecorded video does not allow for questions in real-time.  However, a simple fix is to use a YouTube live stream.  As with a Skype call, this will allow employees to ask questions in real time, to clear up any confusion.

Again, these videos can be stored for later use, and you can answer future questions with additional videos.

Keep in mind that it is a good idea to break the training videos into smaller chunks, so that you can replace outdated videos more easily.

Online Courses

You can create online courses of your own that include the various media mentioned above: documents, spreadsheets, slides, and videos.  This is best for company-specific information, since no one else knows your company like you and your employees.

For more general training, you can use courses that someone else has already created.  Go through the course and make sure it covers what you want to teach your workers!

You may need to pay per employee to access the courses.  However, this is likely more cost-efficient than developing courses on your own.

You should decide on “core” courses that every employee must complete.  Some ideas are:

  • Microsoft: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, SQL (many people have a basic understanding of these, but most are not expert-level)
  • Google: email, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, and others
  • productivity software
  • project management (PM) software

You should also decide on role-specific courses that will help employees in their jobs.  Some ideas are:

  • Java, C++, or other programming languages (software engineers)
  • writing cleaner, more efficient code (software engineers)
  • customer relationship management (CRM) software (salespeople)
  • accounting and bookkeeping courses (accountants)

If you want a course that does not exist, create it yourself, and then put it on the marketplace to sell to others.  You are probably not the only person looking for that course!

Podcast

Podcasts have really taken off lately.  Many people with a blog are creating podcasts to share what they know with people who can listen, but not read.  This includes people driving in a car, or public transportation users who get motion sickness if they read while moving.

If you want to share ideas with your employees on a weekly or monthly basis, you can record a podcast.  They can then listen on their own time, such as when driving to the store or exercising at the gym.  You can also have managers record a weekly podcast as a summary of ideas and goings-on for all employees.

You can host the podcast on your company website, and include specific episodes for new hires so that they can become acquainted with the company more quickly.

Skype

As mentioned before, Skype is a good option for live video training.  Employees can watch you or a trainer go through a process.  They can ask questions for clarification, and you can ask questions to make sure they understand.

Afterwards, you can turn the tables and have them walk you through a process.  You can coach them in real-time and make sure they don’t miss any steps.

Record these videos so that employees can go back, watch them again, and learn from their mistakes.  You can also use them for future training, at least until they are outdated!

Specialized Software and Hosting Platforms

You can also use specialized software to host your online tutorials, lessons, and courses.  A couple of options include the following:

Again, if you produce a course that no one has created before, you can sell it to others and recoup your training costs.  It might even bring your company some profit!

For more information, check out my article about how to create online courses.

Peer Training

As mentioned before, you can ask current employees to help you in your training efforts.  More experienced employees can train newer workers and new hires.  If you hire a subject matter expert, he can train your other employees in his area of expertise.

To sweeten the deal, offer a training stipend to workers who train others.  You can also offer other benefits, like a half-day of training followed by the afternoon off.  Use your imagination, and your employees will be happy to help you train your workforce!

Ask for and Use Feedback

Now that you have developed and delivered the training, it is time to see how it is working.  There are a few ways to do this.

First, you can use assessments (quizzes, walkthroughs, etc.) to see if an employee has learned a skill.

You can also schedule check-ins with employees and ask them directly what they think of the training, and how you can improve it.

Finally, you can create a forum for Q&A so that an employee who understands a concept can help another who is stuck.

Check Assessments

By including quizzes in your training materials, you can gauge how much employees are learning during the training.  It is best to also include activities that require an employee to apply the information from the training.

One possibility is to have your employee write a summary of each lesson.  This forces him to put the ideas into his own words, and reveals weaknesses in understanding.

Another possibility is to have him walk you or a trainer through a process, or to create a video tutorial of how to go through the process.  This allows you to offer feedback on what to improve.  It also gives the employee something to refer back to if the process is only used once per quarter or year.

Employee Check-ins

One of the best ways to see if training is working is to simply talk to your employees.  Schedule a meeting, and ask about what they learned in the training.  You can questions like:

  • What was the most interesting topic in the training?
  • What was something you learned that surprised you?
  • What did you learn that you have already applied on the job?
  • Have you been able to answer questions for others because of your training?
  • Is there anything that the training did not prepare you for?
  • What else should be included in the training?

It might be difficult to get honest answers to these questions.  Sometimes, an employee is embarrassed to admit that he doesn’t know something.  If that is the case, ask anonymously!

Have your employee send you a snail-mail letter (old-school!) with no return address.  That way, you can hear about his ideas without him being embarrassed.

Forum for Q & A

One more idea is to have an online forum for Q & A.  This could be done in a Google Doc or other file stored on the cloud.  It could also be done in the comments of a private YouTube training video that you produce.

Employees can ask questions during the training, and also see FAQs and their answers to supplement the training.  They can also make suggestions about what to include in future training updates.

They might even include a “wish list” of things that are not necessary for the job, but that they would love to learn about.  A nice benefit would be to pay for an employee to undergo this type of training.

Then, he can come back and share what he learned with others on the team.  This is another benefit that some employees will really appreciate.  Also, you never know when that information might actually help your company!

Improve the Training

After receiving feedback from employees in the form of assessments, evaluations, and suggestions, you should have some ideas for improvements.

You don’t necessarily need to scrap what you already have.  You can add new training material, including files and videos, to supplement existing training.  You can also revise or re-shoot one file or video to include a concept or clear up a point that someone brought up.

As you develop and improve your training, keep one eye to the future.  This will make it easier to maintain your training materials in the future.

Maintain Your Material

Let’s say that the training answers any questions your employees might ask, and teaches them what they need to know.  Even then, it won’t last forever.

Your company may update policies, procedures, and processes.

New software and hardware might hit the market.

Your industry might shift in a way that requires you to “pivot” quickly.

In any case, continuing education is a good idea for all employees.  This will keep them sharp and up to date on skills.  It will also keep them in constant “learning mode”, so that they can learn quickly when the business landscape changes.

Conclusion

There are many things to consider when creating training for remote employees.  However, you have many options for delivery of the training.  You can also rely on your employees to help you to develop and improve the training.

I hope this gives you some ideas for remote worker training.  If you have any ideas you would like to share, please comment below.

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