Best Practices For An Ideal Virtual Training Programme
Workplace training is an integral part of any company, regardless of industry or size. It ensures employees and business partners are always in line with the company’s goals and operations, as well as increase efficiency and lower the chance of mistakes.
Organisations of all sizes have swiftly found themselves having to transfer and deliver what was once live, in-person, training seemingly overnight into online formats. Training employees virtually mitigates the need for any travel or large financial expense while still delivering the required learning transfer in a fun, engaging way for all learners, regardless of their location.
Not only this, but it also helps employees practice, debate, share ideas and work on their soft skills; everything that can be achieved in a traditional classroom workshop, but instead, live and online.
However, just because virtual is possible doesn’t mean that all training has to be converted into virtual training. It is essential to assess the critical skill gaps and training needs that must be addressed for your organisation and choose the medium of training accordingly.
One other important consideration is the number of people to be trained. Are they going to be tens, hundreds or thousands? Is this process going to repeat over time? Maybe right now you only need to train 10 people, but if you’re going to be doing it monthly, it changes the whole scenario. Also, offline training is expensive, if your company requires saving then online is a better option.
Having trained hundreds of individuals via live and online training from the start of the pandemic, we have had our share of learning. Here we have compiled some things that organisations should keep in mind to implement a good virtual training programme:
1. Work in smaller groups.
We find that most online skills training are group activities. Because they started in a classroom and also learning from each other has always been a key objective of training. A common tendency is to think since its virtual larger group size is good, but this is in fact counterproductive. Groups could be anywhere from 15 to 30, 50 is a stretch. A large virtual group makes it difficult to address individual queries or to drive one-on-one interactions. Of course, the group size also depends on the goal of the training and also on the subject or topic. For instance, if team building is an important goal, the smaller the group size the better.
● Feedback is better and interaction is more personal.
● Activity is higher, and more people are dependent on each other.
● There is more opportunity to tailor the training depending on goals.
2. Opt for a trainer and co-facilitator approach.
A trainer is often a content expert, while a facilitator is a process expert. A trainer uses lectures, conducts demonstrations, supervises skill practice, and corrects the learners’ mistakes. A meeting facilitator leads discussions and helps participants learn from their own experiences and shared information. The ideal scenario is for the two facilitators to take turns leading and following. They should seamlessly switch back and forth, but it should always be clear who is the lead facilitator and who is the co-facilitator. Learning is key, so ensure that the trainer keeps in mind that they do not split the audiences attention – one presenter, one image, one set of content. Learners need to know clearly which facilitator to focus on.
● This approach helps better management, better observations and interaction.
● The trainer and co-facilitator act as a backup for each other should there be connectivity challenges.
● It ensures that the participants don’t experience monotony and retain their attention which can otherwise be very short-lived in a virtual training environment.
3. Frequent activities instead of a one-way format.
While briefing your training team or your external trainer, confirm that the training session is a back-and-forth exchange. Remember, the goal is not to make the training more engaging by itself; but to improve class participation, increase learning and retention, and ensure application on the job that improves performance. Increasing engagement does not have to be difficult. Talk with your learners not to them or at them. Suppor the trainer with insightful information well in advance. This will enable them to keep the conversation contextual and help them build a rapport with the participants quickly. While training salespeople, use selling lingo. While training operations managers, share challenges and/or office jokes that can be included in the session.
● It helps employees to become better at taking responsibility and decision making.
● Interactive learning offers instant feedback.
● It leads to greater retention rates and more motivated learners.
4. Set specific training expectations among participants.
Managing the expectations of participants effectively can be either very easy or a bit difficult, depending largely on how early on they become involved in your process for the design and content of the training. Oftentimes people just come online and they are not in their seats, this is counterproductive. Frequently, due to limited pre-training communications for varied reasons, or organisers acting as a go-between for trainers and participants for logistical reasons, trainers have little access to maximum participant input leading up to an event. But some ways to mitigate this is to let them know the topic in advance, ask them to keep their thoughts or questions ready for the next session by giving them a heads up on the topic.
Also, let them know the purpose of the session, what outcome the organisation expects and if there is an assessment involved, how the participants will be assessed. Having prior information helps the participants understand their role in the training session and drive commitment to learning.
● You’ll avoid devoting your time and energy to a workshop that won’t be useful for your participants.
● Setting expectations leads to a much better success rate as you will deliver above and beyond what you are looking for.
5. Get participants familiar with the platform of the training in advance.
It’s best not to assume that your participants are tech-savvy. The technical aspects of a course may seem intuitive to some but not to others, and in order for everyone to derive a benefit from the training, make sure that some sort of technical training or tutorial is available. You could conduct a short pre-training session of your delivery platform as a tutorial, also you could develop a creative quick-start guide and share it with the participants.
● This will make sure of smooth running and communication so the focus will remain on engagement and learning.
● This will save plenty of time.
6. Ensure employees are given a list of virtual training etiquettes.
The trainer definitely has some expectations of the participants to ensure that the learning environment is smooth. To ensure this, the organisation HR lead or HR personnel or Team leads must communicate virtual etiquettes ahead of time via email as a starting document or club it with the training platform briefing as mentioned in the point above. These could include background reading materials, the dressing, code of conduct, the use of ‘raise hand’ option before speaking, not causing a distraction to others by keyboarding or checking your email or Facebook etc.
● Organisation culture is built off the people who lead the organisation. So setting an example is good.
● This is a good way to reiterate the company culture to employees.
● The focus remains on learning rather than ensuring attendance and discipline.
Holding the attention of participants in training has never been easy and this is more so a challenge in the virtual environment. Two things that will help make the training successful for the organisation is making sure it is relevant to the participant’s role and progress in the company. Second, the key to driving engagement is interaction, activities, and application. These strategies are all easy to implement. Doing so will make all the difference between conducting a training session with real impact, compared to ones people will forget the minute it’s finished!
At YellowSpark we help tailor fit virtual training programmes. To know more write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.