Upskilling a remote workforce

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Illustration of a virtual teacher

William Ip recently spoke to IT Pro about how organisations might need to think about delivering effective training in the current remote environment, or in the future when there is a likelihood of a hybrid model continuing. 

In your opinion, and in general are workforces that have now been working from home maybe for the better part of a year, retaining, keeping stable or falling behind on training and skills development? 

The majority of employee training programmes will have temporarily been put on pause because of lockdown, but that’s not to say that they haven’t learnt new skills. When companies initially transitioned to working remotely, there was a massive learning curve for everyone to undertake. From learning new virtual meeting etiquette to how to use new virtual team management systems, there were a whole host of new skills that needed to be learnt, and fast. Now employees have learnt working from home culture, it’s time to revisit training plans, and ensure they are aligned to today’s working environment.

What do you see as the key challenges organisations face in terms of training and skills development for people that are largely working from home?

When it comes to training, there are some things that are better learnt in person, and it’s important that firms recognise what these are and decide if they can wait until face to face interaction is possible. For example, manual or technical tasks are easier are more difficult to learn in a virtual environment.

More junior employees and new recruits are at a disadvantage when it comes to working from home as it’s hard to communicate a company’s culture virtually. Without being surrounded by colleagues, who live and breathe the corporate culture, it’s difficult to get under the skin of the organisation and learn ‘how things are done’ in that business. While steps can be taken to help ease new recruits in and onboard virtually, there are certain social skills that can’t be taught online.

Is the video meeting new normal able to adequately provide the kinds of settings that allow for informal learning from co-workers? If yes do firms realise that, and do they allocate time to it? If they don’t allocate time, should they?

Whether it’s understanding when someone may want to speak due to the changes in their body language or understanding their mood due to the change in tone of their voice, there are a lot of skills that are picked up in face to face meetings. The ability to read the room is an important skill, and can only be learnt by doing, and firms recognise that this is the case.

Organisations are adapting to video meetings and have revamped training programmes to ensure employees get access to the skills they need to run meetings well. Whilst skills can still be learnt informally on a video conference, given how difficult it can be to concentrate on the many different faces at once, it can take longer to pick these up. Companies have therefore been expanding their training programmes to include virtual presentation and pitch training, and in some cases setting up guidelines on etiquette for Teams.

View the original article at IT Pro here.

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