12/23/2020

How to Train Remote Employees During the Pandemic

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has affected and drastically changed many aspects of your everyday lives. Eating out, shopping, doctor appointments, and even how we work have all been affected by the pandemic. Millions of workers had to shift to remote work as the pandemic accelerated and still shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. We all might be working from home for the foreseeable future, and while remote work helps keep everyone safe from the virus, it does pose new problems for employers who must manage and train employees remotely. Managers are tasked with keeping their remote team focused and productive while training and adding in new team members from home. It is not an easy task, but keeping a remote team productive and training new employees remotely during the pandemic is entirely possible. These tips and tricks will be invaluable even after the pandemic comes to an end, as remote work is predicted to become a more popular option even after the pandemic is solidly behind us. 

Communication is and Will Always be Key

Working with a team requires communication, even when working in-person. Unless you tell employees what is expected of them and established procedures for completing their scheduled tasks, they have no idea how to measure their own activity. Since we can’t see coworkers directly, communication is even more important. Humans talk faster than we type, so it will take longer to convey the same instructions and training remotely than it would in an office. When communicating with coworkers, don’t treat it like a text chat with your friends; communicate in a clear and professional manner that mimics how you would talk in the office. Empower your team to ask questions if they don’t understand and foster an accepting atmosphere where not knowing the answer is not punished. Workers will have questions, and they may feel nervous to ask them while working from home, so encourage everyone to speak up if something is not clear or not working. Communication is a two-way street; managers must communicate to start the process, but employees must fulfill their side as well. 

Formal and Standardized Training

Onboarding and training a new remote employee is tricky, but being prepared ahead of time can save you a lot of headaches. Before you start hiring new remote workers, create standardized visual digital training materials that follow the best practices of instructional design. A digital training packet is not a perfect replacement for in-person training, but it is a great start. Create training materials for each new position, so new employees have something to start with that more remote training can build on top of. 

Physical and Digital Preparations

Part of onboarding a new employee is ensuring they have all the tools they need to do their job. When a new employee starts in an office, all the hardware and software they need will be in the building, but that may not be the case with remote work. When the new employee is remote, onboarding them includes checking that their workspace has everything they need that would typically be provided at an office. Not everyone has a computer or a strong internet connection at home, and if they do, they still need usernames and passwords to access work content. Beyond a computer, Internet, and access to critical content, new employees might also need a webcam if video meetings are part of the job requirements. All new remote employees should be sent all necessary login information along with security guidelines. Do not assume the new employee understands everything or rely on common sense rules; it is much better to explicitly spell out the rules rather than deal with a broken procedure due to unintentional ignorance later. 

Working from home is a change that everyone must adjust to, and training new employees remotely is one such adjustment we must find a way to navigate. Adding a new team member is always a detailed process, but doing it remotely makes it even harder. Establish clear training documentation that gets the baseline job duties and login information out of the way for new hires. Start with open and honest communication, so employees know where they stand and what is expected of them. Ensure that the new employee has all the tools they need to do their job that an office would typically provide, including hardware and software. These extra steps might not be part of regular onboarding or training, but they can make remote training much easier for everyone involved. 

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