With the world increasingly shifting towards remote and hybrid work, it is clear that businesses need new ways to teach their distributed workforce the skills needed to succeed. And while live online training has proven to be more cost-effective, scalable, inclusive, and effective than e-learning (and, for that matter, traditional classroom training), switching to it is not without its own challenges.
At Hone, we focus on live online training for leadership development and management skills. Over the years, we’ve learned a ton about what to do – and what not to do. Whether you are adapting an in-person training curriculum into a virtual team training format or building a live online training program from scratch, in this article, we’ll break down common virtual learning challenges and share how you can build a truly engaging, efficient, and effective virtual team training program:
1. Define your L&D Goals
Before you start building your virtual team training curriculum, you need to know what your L&D goals are. This will not only guide how you format your training program, but it will also help you measure and report on success – which is a crucial step towards helping you justify any additional budget, resources, or headcount down the road, as well as to recognize the progress of your efforts.
To define your program goals:
- Clarify behavior expectations and KPIs: This will help you measure the effectiveness of your L&D initiatives. For example, if you are trying to encourage more managers to have regular 1-on-1 meetings with employees, your KPI might be “80% of our people report consistent 1-on-1 meetings every week by X date.”
- Tie training to moments of need: People are more motivated to learn during moments of need (e.g., teaching your people how to give feedback right before annual performance reviews). Some key moments of need include becoming a manager, performing annual performance reviews, learning how to interview job candidates, or dealing with organizational changes.
- Focus on the behavioral change you are aiming for: It’s a lot easier to get buy-in when you’re focused on what behavioral or cultural changes you’re looking to achieve, rather than launching the program itself.
2. Opt for live online training
While many businesses choose e-learning to scale their L&D efforts, this self-paced, video or slide deck-based learning method often fails to give employees the ability to ask questions and clarify course material. Live online training, on the other hand, combines the scalability of e-learning with the social connection of traditional classroom learning. Employees can ask questions in real-time, benefit from other participants’ questions, and learn from a subject matter expert.
Live online training also allows learners to connect with colleagues in different countries, opening them up to diverse perspectives and new approaches to everyday problems. Additionally, live online training opens up access to the best instructors for the topic and audience, unconstrained by geography.
3. Make It Engaging
Virtual team training is only valuable to your organization if it inspires behavioral change. Unfortunately, hosting an informational, one-off training session is often not enough to convince your workforce to switch up deeply rooted behaviors. In order to inspire change, you need material that can keep your employees’ attention and focus.
To create engaging online learning training sessions:
- Break up long sessions into 3-4 session sprints: If training is too long, people lose focus, rendering your training sessions ineffective. If you have a lot of material to cover, teach it over 3-4 separate 60-minute sessions over the course of a few weeks. At Hone, we have designed our curated Learning Tracks around this principle to improve knowledge retention.
- Keep sessions short: Aim to limit sessions to 60 minutes or less so you keep everyone’s full attention.
- Interact with attendees every 3-5 minutes: Don’t let your facilitator drone on. Use polls, questions, and breakout rooms to help keep everyone engaged.
- Ask questions before presenting material: Inviting people to speak up and share their thoughts makes the class more interactive.
- Present material in bite-sized steps: This will keep you from overwhelming your student’s working memory.
- Target behaviors, not topics: Behavior is not a one-off task or action – it’s the way somebody acts in response to a stimulus. Skills like giving feedback, having coaching conversations, and leading one-on-ones with your direct reports are behaviors that are relevant to any employee in a managerial or leadership role.
4. Reduce Distractions
Unfortunately, when your employees are at their computers, they can be easily distracted. All it takes is one email, text, or instant message to break their focus, distract them from your class, and make your training program effectively useless. In order to keep them on-task, encourage your participants to put their devices on “Do Not Disturb” mode to silence any notifications and help keep them present.
At Hone, we include a slide of “House Agreements” before every one of our virtual team training classes. This slide reminds participants to:
- Keep your video on
- Be present and resist multi-tasking
- Be an active participant
- Maintain a judgment-free space
By establishing these rules, we create a safe environment for learning and growth.
5. Hold Learners Accountable
A good way to motivate your employees to pay attention and use what they’ve learned in class is by holding them accountable. Instead of wrapping up class and sending your employees out into the world without a second thought, ask them to write down and share a commitment they want to make based on what material you covered that day.
At Hone, we ask learners to make commitments at the end of every class in order to hold them accountable and think of ways to apply learning directly to their personal or professional life. You can even go a step further: at the start of the next class, ask your employees to share these commitments, the degree to which they fulfilled them that week, and anything they learned from applying them in real life.
Other ways to hold employees accountable during virtual team training sessions:
- Make sure everyone participates: Encourage everyone to participate, and don’t be afraid to call on people by name.
- Pop into breakout rooms to see how conversations are going: Don’t feel like you need to police participation, but hop into breakout rooms to answer questions and get a pulse for what students are discussing.
- Split learners into accountability groups of 2-4: Periodically split up into small group breakout sessions so students can discuss course material and practice applying the skills you’ve discussed.
6. Appeal to All Learning Styles
Everyone learns differently and at their own pace. When building a live online learning program, you’ll want to ensure your course design helps learners of all types understand your material. For example, having one person talk for 45 minutes without any visual aids might work for some people, but visual learners might be quickly left behind. Instead, that same speaker might consider using a slide deck covering some of their main points, split the group up to practice what they’ve learned, and send out a worksheet to assess retention of material covered in class. This new approach can not only create a more engaging training program, but it can also appeal to auditory, visual, kinesthetic, and reading/writing learners.
Here are a few elements to include in your L&D training to help you appeal to all four types of learning styles:
- Slide decks
- Breakout Sessions
- Handouts / Learner guides
- Post-Class Recordings
7. Leverage Technology
One of the biggest strengths of live online learning is that you can leverage everything technology has to offer. In order to create truly memorable and engaging classes, you can try incorporating some of the following elements into your virtual team training courses:
- Interactive real-time quizzes your employees can take to assess their skills
- Online exercises (like this implicit bias test from Harvard)
- Share interesting videos
- Ask learners to type questions into the chat so as not to interrupt class
- Leverage breakout sessions to allow employees to pair up and practice what they’ve learned
8. Have Learners Practice Skills
Learning skills is one thing, but actually having the time to practice them in class, make mistakes, learn from others, and ask questions as you go provides a much richer educational experience for your employees and is the key to creating lasting behavioral change within your organization.
In every Hone class, we host breakout sessions for learners to discuss their personal experiences, roleplay a scenario, and connect with a partner or small group. Once the group reconvenes, employees can ask specific questions on what they learned or struggled with so they can receive real-time feedback that can help them improve these skills before they try them for real in the workplace.
While the switch from in-person professional development to virtual team training can seem intimidating, it can be done, and, with some effort, your workplace training can be more effective than in-person training. You can also turn to a live online training solution like Hone that already has hundreds of online classes proven to teach managers the skills they need to succeed in the modern workplace.
Ready to see more? We’d love to show you how Hone works and how live training can be scaled, delivered, and measured for remote and hybrid teams of all sizes.