Training in a virtual world: Top tips for successEmma Johnson
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and “the Great Resignation”, organisations have been faced with onboarding and upskilling more people remotely than could have ever been anticipated. Learning has had to be revolutionised from traditional classroom settings to a largely virtual environment.
With virtual training courses now the norm, how do you foster the same or better levels of engagement and learning as you would find in in-person sessions?
Based on our experience working with international clients, global Agile enablement programmes, and modern marketing transformation programmes, we have collated our eight top tips on how to virtually equip individuals with the right knowledge, skills, and behaviours to succeed in their roles.1. Set and communicate clear learning objectives and expectations
Key to any training courses’ success will be setting clear expectations for what attendees can expect during and as a result of the training. Before the session, make sure to reiterate learning objectives and expectations for the training.
Learning objectives are outcome-based statements that articulate the knowledge, skills, or behaviours that attendees should have after the session. A common piece of advice is to make it clear how the learning objective is relevant to their current or future roles.
For a virtual course, it is even more important to set clear expectations for classroom etiquette during the training. A top tip is to discuss aspects such as putting on out-of-offices, staying on or off mute, and avoiding working during the course, at the start of the session.
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2. Facilitate two-way feedback during the delivery of training
A major difference between virtual and in-person training is the challenge of receiving two-way feedback from the participants. Feedback comes in many forms, including spoken, written, and non-verbal body language. Your session should look to optimise opportunity to be able to encourage participation and feedback to help the facilitator adapt the session in the moment.
We recommend encouraging any meeting attendees to have their cameras on during the session as much as possible. This will help you look out for any non-verbal cues that someone has not understood a part of the session or could be further engaged.
Check-ins throughout the session are useful in gauging how people are finding the session and as a way of receiving feedback in the moment. You can do this via Microsoft Team reactions, virtual whiteboard exercises, or simply asking. This is especially useful if your delegates are camera shy.
Question the format of any presentation-style training and think about how it could be updated to facilitate more two-way feedback. We recommend using virtual whiteboard software such as Miro to enable participative exercises that you can see live.
3. Facilitating virtual interaction during the delivery of training
Group interaction and conversation is one of the most effective ways to cement new skills and behaviours - encouraging this should be a key part of your role as a facilitator or someone designing training. Virtual training presents a new challenge to facilitating interaction, due to the challenge of individuals being on mute or everyone trying to speak at the same time.
When faced with a screen of faces on mute, acknowledging people by name can help to break up awkward silences and contribute to healthy discussion.
Leaving space for responses and further questions can help to involve and engage participants. More reflective learners may need more time to consider the questions and comments, which no doubt will add to the quality of your training session.
For longer virtual training sessions or larger groups, you will have seen the use of breakout groups for smaller learner-led discussion. Our top tip here would be to continue switching around the participants within these groups to facilitate interaction.
4. Creating a safe space for questions
Virtual training sessions, where attendees have to see themselves on screen and questions may interrupt a conversation, can impact the psychological safety of attendees. Psychological safety is the belief that you won’t be embarrassed or have any ramifications for contributing ideas, questions, or for making any mistakes during a training session.
For a virtual training session, consider carefully whether you want to record a training session to use as a future self-serve resource. This can impact the psychological safety of attendees in knowing that their questions and comments will be saved for others to see.
At the start of a session, set a clear culture in which questions are expected and encouraged. This can help to support psychological safety and a positive learning environment. Detail how you would like attendees to ask questions; whether this be during the session, in the chat box, or during a specific time.
5. Welcome wellbeing and schedule frequent breaks
Wellbeing is a rising concern within the virtual world, and it’s vital that you schedule frequent breaks within your training delivery to avoid ‘virtual fatigue’. Research from Microsoft shows that allowing for interim breaks between meetings allows the brain to operate more efficiently, with less stress and increased engagement.
We recommend that your training delivery schedule factors in frequent breaks over a variety of formats without the need for constant screen time - particularly for longer training sessions.
Our top tip is to incorporate wellbeing into your breaks such as ‘hydration pit stops’ to allow your participants to maintain their water intake. Offering ‘walking training’ also enables your participants to step away from their laptops and get physical exercise whilst learning.
6. Put personality into your training
Facilitating engaging training is half the battle to unlocking the learning of your participants. We all know that when we’ve taken part in disengaging training sessions, concentration becomes a challenge, and the material can easily go in one ear and out of the other. This reduces the likelihood of delegates retaining information and weakens the chances of processing new information.
Putting personality into your training is key to maintaining engagement and ensuring that your participants listen to your content and retain the information. We would advise injecting some personality into your content through the use of visuals, videos, analogies, and icebreakers to encourage team-based activities.
A key consideration to bear in mind is the time zone of your participants and their location and how this will impact the tone of your personality. For example, training will need to take a different tact for those joining an evening session vs a morning session.7. Set up a platform for self-service and scalability
Learner journeys are a critical component of your training strategy to enable employees to understand ‘what it means for me’ and how the training methods and materials relate to their roles and responsibilities. A top tip for forming learner journeys both for in person and virtual training is to focus on role-based outcomes and form a learner journey that illustrates how the training delivery unlocks these outcomes for each type of role.
Based on our experience across global clients, the accessibility of learner journeys and training resources is a key aspect to consider for virtual learning. A single source of truth is needed to house your training material and this source needs to be accessible across your organisation to drive self-service and support scalability of your virtual training, regardless of geographical location.
A top tip is to set up metrics and measures of the learning platform to assess how frequently your platform is accessed, by who, and when.
8. Facilitate feedback and enable iterative development of your training delivery
Many organisations deliver training without gathering feedback. This limits the ability of organisations to assess the effectiveness of training and understand the return on investment. Without feedback, it is difficult to know the extent to which training has developed knowledge, skills, and behaviours across your organisation.
We recommend that your evaluation methods dig deep into the awareness and understanding of how training has unlocked new behaviours and ways of working. One model we recommend is the Kirkpatrick Evaluation model to assess ‘reaction, learning, behaviour, and results’.
Based on our experience, many organisations forget to conduct feedback methods pre-and post-training taking place. Collecting feedback in a timely manner pre- and post-training is fundamental to assessing the impact of your training.
Our top tip for complex delivery programme consisting of multiple delivery schedules across the globe is to plan for evaluation of feedback and allow for iterative development of your training at key points throughout your training plan. Iterative development needs to be supported by organisational communication to illustrate how training has been improved and optimised from participant feedback.
In a nutshell
To foster the same or better levels of engagement and learning in comparison to in-person sessions, your training delivery should incorporate our eight top tips.
To maximise the success of virtual training, a comprehensive change strategy should be delivered in tandem with a compelling communication plan to drive awareness, adoption, and embedding of new behaviours.
Many organisations believe that conducting training is enough. Based on our experience, the constant reinforcement and recognition of new ways of working is critical to creating lasting change.
To learn more about how you can make your training and change strategy more effective, please get in touch.
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