In 2016, a growing number of organizations, both large and small, are comprised of workers spread out across the nation and even around the world. With the recent take off of work platforms, such as Upwork, even small business owners now frequently rely on the skilled labor of workers based in other cities, nations and even on other continents. While there is much to gain from working with a remote workforce, it also raises new training challenges. After all, how does one train a remote workforce and with what tools?
When it comes to training remote workers, eLearning and mLearning are evidently critical tools. They enable organizations to deliver unified training to workers, regardless of their location, and to keep track of workers’ progress—even workers one has never met face-to-face. Best of all, by adopting a learning management system, it is possible to not only train but also enhance the dynamics of one’s remote work team. This post examines how small businesses in particular can make the most of online learning tools.
Training Workers in Different Cities, Nations and Time Zones
Like many small business owners today, Keith Stewart has managed to assemble a talented work team by moving beyond his local community. Stewart runs a small consulting firm that specializes in helping other small business owners—primarily construction companies—purchase new heavy equipment, such as forklifts and excavation equipment. But Stewart’s product isn’t machinery—it’s information. He knows what equipment is on the market, at what price point, and with what return on investment for small business owners. In short, he helps other small business owners broker the best deals with suppliers. In Stewart’s local community (a small town in Iowa with a population just under 4000), however, he found few people with the statistical training, writing skills or design background needed to support his business. For this reason, he went online to search for talent. In the end, he hired a statistician based in Bangladesh, a writer based in San Francisco, and a designer based in Calgary. He hired three workers in three countries and three different time zones.
While all the workers Stewart hired were great talents on their own, there was one challenge—they were struggling to coordinate with each other. In many respects, this was understandable. As freelancers, they were accustomed to working on their own and to make matters more complex, they were all working from different locations. At times, Stewart needed his team to work together more closely (without his constant supervision). To help train and promote collaboration among this remote workforce, Stewart adopted a learning management system. What he discovered was that in addition to ensuring that all his employees were on the same page and up-to-date on the latest issues in the field, his online training program greatly enhanced their ability to collaborate too.
Three Ways eLearning Enhances the Cohesiveness of Remote Work Teams
A major obstacle in remote workplaces is collaboration. While workers may be adept at carrying out tasks on their own, collaboration can be a challenge. In part, this reflects the fact that workers are often working across time zones and across linguistic and cultural differences. By putting collaborative learning activities at the center of your training agenda, remote workers can get to know each other and develop strategies for future collaborative endeavors.
Simulates Real-Life Work Scenarios
As virtual reality and augmented reality technologies continue to transform how we learn, train and work, there are growing opportunities to use simulations in workplace training scenarios too. Today, a network of workers in locations around the world can come together to engage in realistic simulations (e.g., simulations of security breaches or natural disasters).
Offers Access to a Library of Online Resources
With employees based in different time zones around the globe, it is sometimes simply impossible for supervisors to respond to workers’ questions in real time (e.g., workers in China may be on a reverse schedule from their North American counterparts). For this reason, in remote workplaces, it is especially essential to offer workers an online library of resources where they can access key training modules and trouble shoot problems on their own at any time of day. Adopting a learning management system is one way to ensure that workers have access to critical training tools and resources 24/7 wherever they are based.