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How to Train Your Remote Employees: A Guide for Remote Managers

As a growing company, there inevitably comes a time when you have to bring someone new onto the team. No matter how much experience this person has in their field, there’s always a learning curve when it comes to a new role. Whether it’s merely learning about internal policies or a whole new program — you’re going to have to give them some level of training. 

But what does this look like in a remote setting? 

To help walk you through some of the central tenets of a successful remote training strategy, we talked with Shield’s Global Mobility Team Lead, Katrina Philbin, and Remote Work Skills Educator at The Technological University of Dublin, Rowena Hennigan.

Make your training material accessible 

One of the first things teams need when working remotely is a centralized platform to store and host information. With different time zones, schedules, and workloads, you can’t make any one person the bottleneck of information. Instead, having a place where everyone can access what they need at any time makes getting your work done that much easier. 

When you’re bringing someone new onto the team — this is even more important. 

Documenting step by step processes, recordings of past training sessions and crucial company information all in one place makes the daunting task of onboarding and learning the ropes of a new role all too easy.

“We have all our training manuals on Notion,” says Katrina.

“As the team’s grown, and we have more and more associates, the documents in Notion have evolved. The team is meant to be updating them as they go along if they notice something that hasn’t been added yet.”

These training manuals feature quite heavily throughout the entire Shield Associate Program (our on-the-job Global Mobility training) and are designed to be a resource while training and beyond.

“When we train, we say to them, ‘Before I come on, and actually sit with you, can you read through the instructions?'” Katrina says. “Just to get an idea, and then I’ll physically show them exactly what to do. Then we normally switch, and they’ll do it, and I’ll watch what they do so I can give them pointers or help.”

Karla Olivero, one of Shield’s recent Associates, found this step in the training helpful for getting her head around sometimes complex processes.

“It’s really good because you can read everything before reaching out to ask a question,” she says. “We have our own segment in Notion for the Global Mobility team. But we can also look at any documents for the IT team or the Finance team, and we don’t have to wait for an answer to fix something that is not working at the moment.”

Katrina even finds this documentation helpful for the trainers too. 

“You then have a list of all the things you need to cover because there’s bound to be some that you forget,” she says. “We have some live documents on Google docs too. It has a list of everything and is a place for the trainer’s comments, the trainee’s comments, and some of the key dates.”

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Design your training content and processes for a virtual space

Last year saw many offices become deserted as WFH became the norm amidst social distancing mandates. The same thing happened across universities, colleges, and schools with virtual learning taking its place.

Rowena recalls the struggle of the first semester as educators tried to translate coursework online. 

“If you switch [models] halfway through you can see how many challenges there are,” she says. “That’s been shown by many universities. March was halfway through a semester when suddenly they had to totally change their model. And a lot of the experiences were bad because the design of the courses was for one type of delivery.”

She says the following semester, when educators had time to design their offering for a virtual class, has been better. 

Similarly, the workplace needs to rework previous training manuals and processes for the new remote world. What worked in offices may not work now, and trying to replicate the environment will likely result in disappointment (not to mention Zoom fatigue!). While the content may not shift, the delivery, tools, and method of training should.  

Utilize asynchronous communication and explore tools besides Zoom

While you’ll still likely spend a good portion of your training on a video call, Rowena encourages trainers and educators to look at other asynchronous modes of communication and tools to support these sessions. 

“There’s a lot of free tools or very low-cost tools that you can easily adopt and use if you were doing informal training,” she says. 

“If you explain things really well, asynchronously, maybe put some visuals in, maybe even record a video explainer, you may not have to spend countless hours on Zoom.”

With everything virtual, creating a training module doesn’t have to focus solely on in-person lectures or PowerPoint slides. Instead, you’re free to create using whichever method or tools fit best for the topic and individual learner. You may choose to develop audio learning via a podcast, which Rowena says has been gaining traction in education, or even try text message training

These support tools not only make learning more dynamic and interesting for the trainee but also help the trainer avoid burnout. 

“Staring at a screen all day can be really hard,” Katrina says. “It’s not like you’re in a room and it’s airy as you can get up or move around. Hours on Zoom can be really draining for everyone.”

She encourages trainers to set limits around what they’ll get through each day and to incorporate breaks into the day. 

“I think when people are training remotely they think they’ve got to give all the information all at once. But no one can take it in that quickly,” she says. “So just break it down into smaller parts and take breaks.”

Rely on team support to fill the gaps 

One of the challenges of training a new recruit remotely is that they won’t automatically have the same access to others in the team as they would in an office environment. There’s no leaning over to their deskmate to double-check something or chatting with the other recruit in the hall about what they learned that morning.

In a virtual setting, these connection points have to be created for your teams. 

At Shield, we have a number of different ways to integrate our new recruits into the team and create an ongoing connection. From onboarding steps like our infamous scavenger hunt and buddy program to group chats, Slack channels, regional happy hours, and monthly Donut calls. We also have monthly All-Hands meetings that act as team-building sessions in addition to our regular team meetings and 1:1s with direct reports.

While we think these connection points are essential for employee wellbeing and make work-life much more fun, they also act as a way to support each other too. 

“If you’re not in the same timezone, training could be a bit tricky,” Karla adds. “But at the same time, I can reach out to anyone at any time because we have people everywhere. And everyone is really welcoming and supportive. I’ve never felt that I’ve been left alone while working at Shield.”

Ultimately this leads to a more well-rounded education with various inputs and means the burden isn’t solely placed on one person. As they say — it takes a village! 

“At the moment we have Karolina [a new associate] in the Philippines,” Katrina says. “I start my day at seven [UK time], so I only get four hours with her. So we’ve had to rope in the team in the Philippines to be with her in her morning so that she can shadow them, or she’ll ask them questions about what they’re doing and stuff like that.”

Rowena adds that this kind of peer support is becoming popular in online learning spaces too. One of the benefits of being a public record that others can refer back to. 

“So someone can go back and look through maybe what’s been shared about other groups, or look back to the top groups to understand what they did better,” she says. “Whereas all of that might have taken place quite separately, previously, and all that information lost.”

Challenges of virtual remote training

Training a new remote recruit poses some of the same challenges as working remotely always has. Virtual connection requires more intention, and time zones can interrupt workflow when information isn’t made accessible, and work-life separation can erode when sharing the same space. 

But something that becomes even more apparent in the training stage is the potential for digital inequality. 

“Not having access to devices or no proper Wi-Fi connection,” Rowena says. “It happens, I’ve encountered it. And [with digital inequality], learning inequality may be happening.” 

At Shield, we provide all our employees with their necessary equipment to work, including a laptop, second monitor, and other accessories as well as a desk, chair, lamp, and headset. We also cover phone and internet costs up to 80USD. We do this because we think it’s only right to provide the means to get the job done, but also partly to equalize our employees’ experience. Despite these efforts, we can’t account for different internet speeds in different countries, power outages, or weather interference which can all impact internet access. 

In these cases, it’s important to remain flexible, communicate and pivot where necessary. Fall back on written manuals when a video is taking too long to buffer, opt for a chat communication over a Zoom call, or work on live documents like Google docs together. 

“Shield is a company that lets you grow. So you don’t need to rush to get to where your teammates are,” Karla says. “You’ll get there whenever it’s time for you to get there.”

 

— Bree Caggiati

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