How can L&D offer effective remote employee training during this global COVID19 pandemic?

Sumant Joshi

May 06, 2020


To say that we are experiencing an unprecedented disruption due to this COVID19 pandemic would be the understatement of the decade, or decades to come even, considering the toll this nuisance virus is taking on human lives, spanning geographies and unrelenting on its devastating effects on almost every known business on this planet. God, what a mess!

While the internet folk, the meme universe and the Twitterati call for ‘cancelling 2020’ altogether, let’s not forget the gravity of the situation and really focus on getting over this terrible nightmare, not only in terms of its cost to human life, but also to the economy and our livelihood as a whole.

We have always known that the business world is prone to disruptions, maybe not as drastic as the COVID19 pandemic, but disruptions nonetheless. Technological advancements have been bringing innovative challenges in the markets every day. And, global organizations know better to be prepared, agile and constantly evolve in sync with the market or the global situation.

However, how does one do that? Yes, preparedness is one thing, but how do you even get to that stage where you are in fact ‘prepared’.  This is a tough question to answer. Maybe it makes more sense then to improve the ability to adapt and adopt with the situation. And, this can only happen when all stakeholders, right from the leadership to upper management to new joinees have a general idea of what is expected from them, if not the entire picture, so that everyone can work in unison to achieve a common goal.

This is where HR and L&D functions step in, to offer the right kind of learning at the right time to help with the preparedness, while improving the organization’s ability to adapt and adopt. But, from the economic impact COVID19 is having on global businesses it’s clear that no business, function or team is immune to the crisis, including corporate HR and L&D functions, where the trends have shifted dramatically. With the entire organizational learning structure jeopardized by the pandemic, the real question to ask is ‘how to offer continuous training to the remote/ work-from-home employees effectively?

Remote Employee Skilling during COVID19 Crisis

It’s true that the pandemic has sent businesses scampering for online learning solutions, like online content libraries and learning management systems, with most workplaces moving to 100% remote work, making remote learning the new norm rather than an exception.

Even industries, including healthcare, manufacturing and retail, where staff still works on-site, the learning must still happen in an safe environment in order to minimize the time people spend outdoors, and avoid the risk of catching the deadly infection. It’s disappointing really that we need a situation such as this one to really realize the many benefits of online learning. While social platforms have ruled the laptops and smartphones of billions worldwide, it is only now that platforms like LinkedIn Learning, Udemy are starting to pop up. And, the benefits are only expected to continue beyond COVID-19 situation, making them an enterprise must-have.

Here’s a prime example from trainingIndustry.com that has seen an 8.6% rise in website visits in the past few weeks, while readership of content related to advantages of online learning have seen 88% increase. The Plethora website alone has seen an explosion of visitors since the world of work went remote.

Speaking of virtual training, some of the world’s titans are leading by example by resorting to remote learning. One such company is Microsoft, whose physical stores have been closed worldwide, but almost 2000 of Microsoft’s retail employees have ‘virtually trained’ over 65,000 staff across government, health care and finance sectors on how to use their remote meeting platform Microsoft Teams in just over a month. Isn’t that something! Now, not all businesses have the resources of the likes of Microsoft, but it sure does set a fine example. By the way, Microsoft is calling it the ‘Emergency Remote Operations plan’.

So, how can other enterprises and SMEs effectively training their remote employees? The answer is by ensuring the key learning challenges are met and employees are effectively engaged to perform at the highest level. But, let’s face it, working remotely brings some unique challenges and given that there is no escaping working from home, here are a few important tips to keep in mind-

  • Create a game-plan
    L&D pros will surely have their work cut out for them. But, they can certainly make things easier for them and the employees by creating a training game-plan by taking into consideration the immediate training needs and offering the right kinds of tools and content to address those needs.
  • Invest in a learning platform
    An LMS is the go-to tool during a crisis like this one. It can not only host all your learning content but also make it accessible to all your employees irrespective of the time, place or device. This ensures much needed flexibility, while allowing training managers the ability to track the learning and progress of employees.
  • Improve Engagement
    Engagement becomes a major factor when it comes to working remotely. While we’re all used to sitting at our office desks, seeing our colleagues, eating lunches together, we can no longer do that while social distancing, and that can lead to disengagement as we are suddenly thrown out of our usual work environment. But that’s okay. Online learning will not only provide the much needed engagement but also help employees battle isolation and stress of working remotely.
  • Offer emotional support 
    It is also important for L&D managers to acknowledge the challenges and the stress that comes with working remotely. Listening to employees’ concerns and unique challenges becomes a big part of the manager’s role. So, in order to avoid any health issues and the lack of productivity thereafter, it is advisable to communicate and address such issues timely. 

Everything said and done, it is not always possible to establish effective remote-working policies and remote training in advance. However, by adopting the right technology and engaging employees with the right learning at the right time, L&D can surely seize the day and conquer the challenges of remote employee training in no time.

Get in touch to know how Plethora can help you train your remote workforce.

Sumant Joshi

Sumant is a seasoned Marketing & Corporate Communications professional, with over 7 years of experience working for organizations in the services industry, primarily IT, real estate and hospitality. A creative bend of mind and with an innate passion for writing, Sumant has his work published across several platforms, including newspapers, magazines, and websites; and he presently plies his trade in UpsideLMS’ incredible Marketing department.