How to bring your remote workforce up to speed with the digital skills they need to navigate through this unprecedented situation
The Coronavirus pandemic has forced many charities to introduce remote working practices with little or no time to train their staff to use the tools they need to work from home. Remote working also makes it hard to provide staff and volunteers with the new digital skills they need as their jobs evolve or they switch to new roles.
All of this begs an important question: how can charities best provide staff training to a workforce which is working remotely and may be spread all over the country - or perhaps even internationally?
Remote training is more difficult to organise than a training session held in a meeting room in the office, but one of the most common remote training mistakes digital leadership can make is not providing remote training at all. Without training, new project possibilities are limited, staff career progressions grind to a halt, onboarding is virtually impossible, and it becomes difficult to find staff with the right digital skills to cover for colleagues when they are unable to work.
So what are the best ways to digitally upskill workers?
Consider informal remote training
For smaller charities where an employee may need bringing up to speed on a new process or job responsibility, it may be possible for a colleague to provide informal training over the phone. If an employee needs to be trained on a new software application then screen sharing software, like TeamViewer or Screenleap, may be useful to allow the trainer to demonstrate to the trainee how to use the software.
Use specific training tools
Remote working can provide specific challenges to staff who have never worked from home before, and a common one is how to manage their time more effectively from an operations and efficiency perspective when freed from the discipline imposed by an office environment.
A good solution to this problem is a simple time management tool such as RescueTime, Pomadone, or Toggl which can help remote workers stay on track and train them how to stay productive at home. RescueTime, for example, allows users to block distracting websites like Facebook while they are meant to be working, or to allow themselves a limited time (perhaps 15 minutes during work hours) when they can visit these websites.
Investigate a Learning Management System
For charities that need to carry out more formal remote training programs (perhaps to replace training sessions that were previously held in the office), the best solution may be a learning management system (LMS).
An LMS is a software system which provides tools for the delivery of online training, together with the administration, documentation, tracking, and reporting that effective training requires. This enables charities to track which staff are taking which training modules, monitor their progress and view the results of any end-of-module tests.
The software allows training to be delivered using videos, written material, and other resources, assignments can be given, and feedback can be provided. Where there is a live trainer, interactions can be made with trainees using blog posts or private messages.
An LMS can also be used for onboarding of new remote staff, which may be particularly useful to charities when there is no opportunity for new staff to come into the charity office for onboarding and basic training in person.
Learning management systems are delivered as products and services: cloud-based services such as Skillcast and Talent LMS, and products such as iSpring and Moodle which are installed and run in-house.
The benefit of cloud-based systems is that they require no installation and are easy for remote workers to access. Some cloud-based LMS services also offer mobile apps so that employees can access them from their phones.
In-house systems need to be installed by IT staff (which may not be possible during the current pandemic) but one benefit is that charities can take advantage of open-source LMS products, such as Moodle, Totara Learn and Forma, which are free to use, as well as free versions of proprietary software, such as iSpring Free.
Repurpose existing tools
As an alternative to an LMS, charities can also consider repurposing existing digital technology for training delivery.
Use these remote training strategies
Pre-training: Remote training sessions work best if trainees know what to expect. So make sure they know what they need to do to prepare (such as installing a particular piece of software and setting up an account), and what they will need to have to hand, for the training session.
During training: Online training sessions can come to be seen as a disruption or intrusion into the work day, especially when they are arranged on an ad-hoc basis. So be sure to arrange online training sessions well in advance and to stick to a regular schedule (such as twice a week) so that it becomes part of a flexible working routine.
Post-training: For remote training to be effective it is important that it is not quickly forgotten. Ways to avoid this include follow up communications with trainees, making other relevant resources (such as "further reading") available, or simply providing the opportunity to watch training sessions again.