January 22, 2021

How to Train Employees Remotely

Travel remains restricted and your favorite restaurant may still only offer takeout, but companies continue to bring new employees on board during the pandemic, meaning that onboarding has become virtual for many. Upskilling existing employees has moved out of the office and gone online. With this shift comes new challenges—how do you make sure trainees are spending their time productively? How do you teach them efficiently when you can’t see what they’re doing in the office and they can’t easily shadow existing employees who will show them the ropes? Training remotely requires a somewhat different approach—some elements will be familiar, others will be new, so we’ve outlined some best practices to help.

Use the right mix of training modes

Find the right combination of group, one-on-one training sessions, and informal phone/video calls/web chats to check in and provide guidance as needed.

Group and one-on-one sessions can be conducted similarly to those done in-person. Use a group session to efficiently teach the same concepts to multiple people, then meet with employees one-on-one for tailored guidance depending on needs specific to the subject and/or the employee’s skill set.

Shadowing more experienced employees is a little trickier to coordinate when not sharing an office. Instead, consider assigning trainees tasks (e.g., reviewing training materials, testing out new platforms/tools, creating dummy deliverables) then check in with them regularly. Shoot to hold one check-in at the start of each day to align on the day’s plan, then another towards the end of the day to review progress, provide feedback, and leave room for questions. Keep the lines of communication open—the last thing you want is for your trainees to spend their day stuck on a problem, focused on the wrong tasks, or unsure whether they can reach out when they have questions.

Take advantage of the subject matter expertise and diverse perspectives that your team members have. Ensuring you have at least one other team member who can assist in training is valuable when you don’t have the bandwidth, minimizing the potential for new employees to be kept waiting when they need direction and support. Plus, having your teammates participate in training is an effective way to build camaraderie now that remote work has cut down on the informal interactions enjoyed in an office environment.

Come up with manageable case studies for “learning by doing” rather than “show and tell”

Start by providing employees with the general background and skills, then let them try to test it out on their own, setting expectations on what the learning will be and what outputs you expect each day. This gives both them and you time to focus, make progress, and provides a realistic example for what to expect when it comes to real project delivery. It also offers trainees an opportunity to discover a novel way to solve the same problem. Who knows, they might find an improvement over the standard approach you’ve always used.

After setting a reasonable deadline—taking into account that your trainee(s) will likely need additional time to pick up new skills—tag up to have your trainee explain and defend their work. This will encourage them to take ownership over their work and provide an opportunity to provide direct feedback and discuss alternative approaches.

Grow a training repository with your team

Having a training repository is a no-brainer, but make sure it is easily accessible to your employees now that it’s not quite as easy to ask a colleague in the office a quick question. Make this collaborative by starting a running list in your Microsoft Teams, Slack, or equivalent business communications platform of useful resources to which your team can turn.

To add to this, consider recording your training sessions, informal as they may be. This is an effective, easy way to capture valuable information that might be difficult to teach through just a deck or text document, thanks to the added voiceover and ability to bring the viewer along as you navigate a CRM or survey platform, for example.

Don’t forget to tap into publicly available resources. As the old adage puts it, “Don’t reinvent the wheel.” In other words, don’t spend your time regurgitating instructions when others have already done so. This is the case for widely used platforms and programs like Qualtrics, Excel, PowerPoint, and Word. Search any function in Excel and you will find endless videos and web tutorials offering guidance on how to use it. Curate a list of top articles, videos, and web pages to add to your training repository.

There you have it—some tips on how to get your workforce up and running effectively when they are working remotely.

Related team members

Craig Belanger
Senior Partner & Co-Founder Boston
Richard Crumb
Managing Partner & Co-Founder Menlo Park
Rachel Eschle
Partner & Co-Founder Boston
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