19 Mar 2020

The unprecedented number of employees who are remote working provides employers the perfect opportunity to invest in training for these staff, from starting to learn new topics via online webinars to joining virtual expert led live training. The technologies are in place to engage these staff in high value, interactive training courses at a time when they are best placed to receive them.

With much of the workforce across the world heeding government instruction or advice and working remotely we are effectively seeing a mass proof of concept on remote working. There are many support articles appearing on how to be productive whilst working remotely and internet searches for ‘work from home’ are at an annual peak, and twice as popular this past month than is usual.

The opportunity for training applies to all staff to ensure variety in their work, which becomes vital when working remotely, but is particularly good for those that may be new to remote work because they work on internal and sensitive systems that require them to work on premise. This can include work with customer data, financial data and in Government, knowledge workers who deal with citizen information. These workers may be limited in what they can otherwise do from a remote location and are likely to have the bandwidth to gain extensive training.

As a digital company, AlphaZetta set out to embrace remote and flexible working from the outset and to support the expert ‘global warriors’ (yes, that’s a role within our team!) and those that simply wanted more flexibility.

But it can be tough. Not everyone is set up for it. Much has been written in the past days about organisational readiness, but more fundamentally, not all households are properly set up for remote work. Few homes have a dedicated space for prolonged home working, and fewer still have space for 2 or more members of the house working at home which could easily be the case at this time.

Many companies are new to remote working for anyone other than the sales or field operations teams and they are urgently reviewing how they can support a larger remote workforce and ensure they keep staff engaged, connected, productive and supported. Training is a great response to that challenge.

Working from home requires discipline. The office has routine and access to lots of information whereas home has distractions and this interview on CBS news highlights that working from home can quickly lead to a feeling of employee isolation. When this happens, those distractions become more attractive. Normal life takes over and both productivity and engagement fall.

I’m sure we all remember Prof. Robert Kelly ‘The BBC’s North Korea expert’ and his family providing one of the greatest TV moments of all time!

This is why, after ensuring you get out of bed, the second point in the article How to stay sane and productive when working from home, by Mercy Livingstone advises us to avoid working where you will be tempted or distracted. If you haven’t taken time, or your home doesn’t allow you to create such a space then you will again struggle to do your regular work.

Variety and engagement quickly become key when working remotely. The right training can provide both of these and different types of virtual training delivery can fit to any working profile: From those that need a short fix of something different; to those who can dedicate part or full days to learning.

We can classify competency and the types and styles of training to achieve them in a number of ways, one of the simplest is in these 3 categories:

  • Awareness of a domain. Knowing the key aspects and concepts.
  • Understanding, where the application of a domain is understood, and oversight is possible
  • Expertise. Where the domain is delivered and mastered.

The level of competency sought, and the complexity of the domain will determine the type of training that will be effective. When ‘Awareness’ is the aim, recorded webinars and short content are excellent scalable and economical ways to give staff an introduction to a new topic.

However, massive scale and recorded content can lack interactivity and engagement and thus have limitations when working toward a higher competency. They can be of little value to remote workers seeking interactivity and mentoring.

At AlphaZetta, we are therefore careful to provide some live, virtual courses at similar levels of attendees than their in-person version to ensure sufficient time for interaction with the expert mentor. These courses may run longer, as real interaction on digital channels needs more time. The social cues of when to talk are missing online so the conversations that are so valuable to learning can take a little longer. (for a fun example, see the link below!).

Having a real life, live, intimate course delivered by a domain expert through virtual channels will ensure staff working remotely are still engaged, productive and that both they and their employers are getting value.

AlphaZetta’s training is driven by a desire to provide mentoring and our experience is that face to face training continues to provide the highest impact and value. The good news is that the digital and virtual technological advances mean that face to face can get closer to home (or the beach!).

As they explore remote working, now is a great time for organisations and employees to invest in training and development, particularly in the dynamic and vital domain of digital, data and analytics. It’s the perfect time to think ahead to the changing economy and think about the domains in which you’d be most interested in increasing your competency: Analytics technologies? Analytic techniques? Data literacy? Critical thinking? Data governance? Data ethics? Find out more on our Academy pages or get in touch.

End note – for a reminder of how communication can take that little while longer and how far we have come with the technologies that will enable real interactive online training – see these classic clips of the ‘real life video conference’ and the ‘real life conference call’ … we’ve all been there!

— Update 24 Mar: See latest announcement: New Academy online training format retains crucial mentoring function