A year ago, comparatively few organisations consisted of virtual teams. Now, every business in the world likely has some sort of remote team culture.
For Human Resources and L&D professionals, this has brought with it the challenge of remote team training. Like it or loathe it, virtual team training is here for the foreseeable, so we need to embrace it. In this article, we’re going to discuss and debunk three of the common misconceptions around it.
Why virtual training is so important for businesses
The Coronavirus pandemic has forced the global workforce to rely more on online and virtual media than ever before. There were nearly 560 million Microsoft Teams meetings on March 12 2020. By March 31, that number had risen to 2.7 billion.
Add to this the vital importance of training, especially in times of change, when employees are forced to transition to new systems and procedures; in fact, 80% of people are joining virtual events for educational purposes. This creates a “perfect storm” that is leading organisations the world over to switch to virtual training methods.
However, we’ve heard of uncertainty and reluctance from stakeholders to make investments in longer-term virtual solutions because of previous poor experiences with low-value virtual training. These concerns are holding back organisations from acting quickly and maintaining their agreed training agendas. Which could prove to be a costly mistake in the future…
A Northstar Meetings Group survey showed that event organisers are seeing increasing demand for all things virtual for the next 12-months as a bare minimum, while many experts are expecting at least some elements of remote working, online and virtual learning to remain permanent fixtures in the post-COVID world. With the tech-savvy and socially conscious Generation Z due to dominate the workforce in coming years, prioritising cost-effective, carbon-neutral and scalable remote training agendas that retain human touchpoints has never been more important.
Now we know the requirement to train virtual teams is not going anywhere in a hurry… it’s time to quickly debunk these myths within organisations. Allowing L&D teams to focus on crafting groundbreaking training strategies to upskill their virtual teams, rather than waiting for the storm to blow over to get back to ‘normal’.
3 myths about training virtual teams
1. Engagement will never be high due to delivery
Audience engagement is the biggest challenge when it comes to virtual events, but it can be overcome. Step 1 is understanding what distractions you’re likely to be competing with as a trainer or facilitator. The digital landscape loves multi-taskers. With emails, social media and other attention-grabbers just a click away, your trainers need to be well-versed in holding attention in this format.
There are several tactics you can use to up the engagement factor and keep distractions to a minimum. One is to address the issue upfront. Bringing people’s attention to the behaviour you’re looking to discourage in an open and honest way allows you to set expectations early on. It also provides a narrative you can refer back to if engagement slips.
Well-planned training and prior practice of the delivery is also crucial. This is your opportunity to trial and eliminate any activities that don’t translate well to the virtual environment and monitor energy levels in relation to pace, structure and agenda. Great facilitators know how to read the energy of the room and adjust their delivery accordingly – even in a virtual environment.
2. Training virtual teams only delivers conceptual knowledge, not practical skills
After engagement, the biggest challenge in virtual training is the lack of face-to-face interaction. Because of this, many people believe that it’s not possible for practical skills to be taught virtually. This is a myth. But training does have to be redesigned to focus on the ‘how’.
The majority of corporate training focuses on ‘what you’re doing’ and maybe even ‘why you need to do it’. But it’s the ‘how you do it’ that is the final piece of the puzzle and gives us that “aha” moment and the confidence to step outside of our comfort zone to try it ourselves.
To bridge this gap between theory and application, trainers must frame the content so that’s contextualised in real-world examples and scenarios. The closer the training material resembles the participants’ real lives, the more successful they will be at applying their newly acquired knowledge and skills.
Breakout room capabilities are perfect for small groups to test out these newly acquired skills during the session and receive feedback from the facilitator and their peers. Guaranteeing the “aha” moments are still present for all attendees and confidence is built immediately with the new techniques.
3. Technical issues will ruin the experience
We all dread that moment, the “why isn’t it working?” moment. Your training material could be the best, most engaging, interactive content ever to have graced the virtual world; but if you haven’t prepared on a technical level, it could all be for nothing. But the idea that technology will always make for an awkward experience is a falsehood.
Tech issues can never be 100% ruled out – but a prepared trainer is a successful trainer. It is critical when training a virtual team that you have backups, technical checks, plan B’s, maybe even plan C’s in place.
Again, be human about it. Acknowledge the challenge upfront and have alternative ways of doing things should a technical component fail.
If you want to learn more and really delve into how to reignite training for your remote teams, convince management to invest and provoke contemplation around the future of virtual training within your organisation, download our free virtual training eBook. Designed to ignite you and your teams thinking and allowing corporations to plan for the reimagined remote workforce of the future.
The Colin James Method® Facilitators train corporate executives to improve their professional communication skills with a proven methodology. Our highly trained Facilitators and Coaches are recognised for their experience in their fields and have worked with many individuals and organisations around the world to master the art of communication.