The Remote Workforce is Here to Stay
The COVID-19 crisis has made a dispersed workforce increasingly more common. A PricewaterhouseCoopers June 2020 survey of executives and office workers showed wide support for a permanent, flexible work week – with a flexible workday finding a broad base of support, too. The PwC study reported that 83% of office employees want to work from home at least one day a week, and 55% of employers anticipate that most of their workers will do so long after the COVID-19 crisis is over.
Just like office-based employees, these remote employees need training, too. Fortunately, virtual business and leadership online training courses provide organizations with a way to reach a geographically dispersed audience. However, the organizational benefit is so much greater than that.
For instance, virtual training creates unique collaboration opportunities among remote workers who might be joining the program from their homes in the same city – or from their homes from around the world. A highly social learning experience can be created through a virtual training program that takes advantage of live polling, chat, whiteboarding, and breakouts. Even though remote staff are physically separated by distance, relationships can still be built among remote employees by using collaboration tools for discussion and conversation. The more a virtual facilitator can build relationships during an online business and leadership training course, the more that participants will connect to one another and to the learning content.
Although the overarching trend among business and leadership learning and development executives is to rapidly move from face-to-face training to online, self-paced, virtual, instructor-led training courses that can be consumed remotely, there are microtrends that are also on the rise. At Shawn Doyle Training, we see nine microtrends impacting virtual business and leadership online training courses that are of note.
- Enhanced Soft Skills Training
- Virtual Mentorship Programs
- Individualized and Personalized Training
- Mobile Learning
- Social Learning
- Video-Based Learning
- Scenario Based Learning
Let’s explore each one of these nine trends shaping virtual business and leadership online training courses.
1. Enhanced Soft Skills Training
If you’re not a believer in using virtual online training courses to address the soft skills of you business and leadership team – which include things such as communication, creative thinking, teamwork, motivation, problem solving, critical thinking, and conflict resolution – it might be time to reconsider their benefits in a remote work environment, as soft skills often make the difference between employee success and employee failure.
We’re not the only ones who feel this way. In fact, research conducted prior to the coronavirus pandemic by Stanford Research Institute International and the Carnegie Mellon Foundation found that 75% of long-term job success depends upon soft skills mastery and only 25% on technical knowledge.
What’s more, a survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council found that recently minted MBA graduates, while strong in analytical aptitude, quantitative expertise, and information-gathering ability, were sorely lacking in strategic thinking, written and oral communication, leadership, and adaptability – qualities most employers find very attractive. These are business and leadership areas that an organization’s virtual online training courses can address.
If that weren’t enough to convince you, then consider this: The LinkedIn 2019 Global Talent Trends Report found that 92% of hiring managers believed that strong soft skills are increasingly important, while 89% felt that “bad hires” typically have poor soft skills. And this was before the pandemic.
2. Virtual Mentorship Programs
College enrollment is at its highest peak since 2011. More students entering college equates to more students graduating and entering the job market. This, coupled with Baby Boomers staying in the labor force at unprecedented rates, Millennials and Gen Zs are finding the job market difficult to navigate – which has only been exacerbated by COVID-19. More and more, these new graduates are taking employment outside their chosen profession while they continue to job hunt, which delays their entry in a professional position.
The result? College graduates have great technical skills, but little understanding of how to apply them. This has created a trend in online mentorship programs as organizations seek to help coach these inexperienced workers – many who are accepting a work-from-home position that is largely unsupervised – to increase their productivity, longevity, and chances of success. This represents an ever-expanding opportunity to include virtual mentorship programs as part of online business and leadership training courses.
3. Individualized and Personalized Training
As the locations where employees are now working are changing, so, too, are their training needs. In-person, classroom-based corporate training courses are giving way to learning programs that cater to the individual and personal needs of an organization’s workforce.
Allowing employees a choice in how they approach their own learning is becoming more important in today’s work-from-home environment. Personalized, virtual online training courses that offer relevant, custom business and leadership content based on each employee’s current knowledge, future job requirements, and interests does more than provide learning flexibility; it also helps keep the remote learner engaged.
Virtual online courses that offer individualized and personalized business and leadership training also have three important benefits that can help organizations foster long-term success – at both the corporate and staff levels.
- Workers have complete control over what they want to learn, how they want to learn, and the pace at which they want to learn. This enhances individual achievement and accountability.
- Staff training – including reskilling and upskilling employees – can be better aligned with the business goals of the organization.
- Continuous and self-directed learning becomes woven into the fabric of the organization.
Microlearning stems from the idea that employees can more easily digest small bites of information or instruction, which can be immediately applied to a task or project, than gorging themselves at the equivalent of the corporate training buffet line. So impactful is microlearning that Forbes called it, “the future of professional development.”
As such, microlearning is becoming more embedded into virtual business and leadership online training courses. These small bites of instruction feature short, action-oriented information – usually in the form of videos, infographics, games, and quizzes – that can be easily consumed by the remote worker.
Microlearning is known for its short seat time and high efficacy. So, ultimately, it’s about training your employees without taking them out of their workflow. Benefits of microlearning as part of any virtual business and leadership online training course include:
- Training is more engaging
- Employees learn faster
- It’s easier for employees to remember what they’ve learned
- Employees can immediately apply their new skills on the job
- It’s easier for employees to invest their time
- Employees can access resources at their point of need
- It enables learning on the go
Mobile devices are ubiquitous. According to a Pew Research Center study, 96% of Americans own a cell phone, and 81% of those are smart phone devices. If Facebook is an indication, then clearly users prefer mobile over desktop. As of October 2020, 98.3% of Facebook accounts were accessed with a mobile device, and 79.9% of Facebook accounts were accessed ONLY with a mobile device, according to a report from Statista.
The impact of all this mobile usage is that workers are becoming more likely to use their mobile devices to connect to a virtual online business and leadership training course. Mobile allows employees to attend a training session whether at home, sitting in a coffee shop, or while taking a walk through their neighborhood park. Mobile learning is also an enabler for both individualized training and microlearning.
According to Psychology Today, social learning is based on the theory that people learn by watching other people, whether those other people are mentors, co-workers, peers, family, social media influencers, athletes – or anyone else, for that matter.
In other words, social learning is nothing but learning with and from others, and it can happen through:
- Interaction with others
While organizations have historically viewed social learning as a face-to-face business and leadership training strategy, the fact is that social learning can easily be applied to virtual online courses, too.
So effective is social learning that, according to Accenture, 82% of businesses that use social learning tools plan to increase their reliance on them in the future. Harvard Business School data underscores the impact social learning can have on results, as course completion of its online education initiative – HBX – increased to 85% once social learning was introduced.
Tapping into social learning as an adjunct to your virtual business and leadership online training courses requires the inclusion of various social media elements, such as blogs, podcasts, wikis, video links, and more. It also means fostering collaboration and creating engaged teams that share, promote, and contribute information to continuously enrich the organization’s knowledge bank.
Social learning helps create communities of practice, and social learning can be used as a great lever for change and continuous learning. With so many of an organization’s business and leadership staff now working remotely – even if only one or two days per week – virtual online training courses that incorporate elements of social learning can help staff not only stay connected, but also learn together.
As microlearning strengthens its foothold on an organization’s virtual business and leadership online training courses, so, too, will video-based learning become the norm, rather than the exception. The cost of producing videos is cheap nowadays, as high-quality videos can be recorded on a desktop or smart phone and published to the Internet in a matter of minutes – not weeks or months.
The versatility and ease of creating on-demand training videos:
- Create buzz and awareness,
- Establish the context of the concepts that will be taught,
- Offer learning followed by practice and application,
- Create progress and knowledge-acquisition checkpoints,
- Reinforce concepts and reduces the “forgetting curve,”
- Enable mobile learning and social learning, and
- Enhance microlearning.
8. Scenario-Based Learning
Scenario-based learning has largely been used to train for compliance, soft skills, professional skills, product application, and sales efficacy. Scenario-based training offers employees the opportunity to learn in a safe environment, develop insights on the impact of their choices, and learn from their mistakes. Once thought to be the domain of face-to-face, instructor-led learning, scenario-based learning is easily adaptable to virtual business and leadership online training courses.
The primary benefit of scenario-based learning is that it creates higher retention and recall, leading to a memorable and sticky learning experience. In a virtual environment, scenarios can be used to drive attitudinal change and sensitize employees on specific issues. But that’s not all. Scenarios can simplify complex subjects and convert abstract concepts into relatable ideas that are easy to assimilate for remote workers.
Gamification – which features rewards and recognition – makes learning fun, which is why learners are drawn to this style of training. Virtual business and leadership online training courses that incorporate well-crafted gamification techniques achieve better completion rates, higher engagement quotients, proficiency gains, higher recall and retention rates, quicker application of the acquired learning on the job, and behavioral change.
According to a report from H.R. consulting giant Korn Ferry, “perhaps most important, games appeal to the fastest-growing segment of the working-age population – millennials, who grew up on a steady diet of video games.
The Need for Virtual Business and Leadership Online Training Courses Today
As the shift to remote workers becomes more pronounced, the one thing to remember is that virtual business and leadership online training courses are less about the technology and more about providing a timely response to what your employees want and need for learning. Successful organizations will be the ones that encourage discussion, conversation, and engagement in the virtual classroom, so that remote workers can learn and apply their new knowledge to their jobs.