For many organisations an almost overnight shift has flipped us into the world of home working, virtual meetings and whole host of new challenges to overcome.

With travel restrictions and working from home directives in place, you might be wondering how to make sure your teams are constantly learning, when faced with the prospect of cancelling face-to-face training programmes.

Fortunately you have technology on your side. Here are some top tips to help you minimise disruption to planned training and drive workplace development in a virtual space:

Start with a plan

Planning priorities and deadlines alongside your team will help everyone stay clear on what is required and what areas they may still need development on. Microsoft Teams and Planner can be really useful for checking progress and keeping up to date. Remember some team members (depending on how they like to work) may need regular video calls to talk through their learning and development –Teams or Slack are great ways of keeping in touch.

Use the right technology

Meeting software such as Zoom is a good option for bringing teams together for training. Whatever you use, make sure it meets your needs. Consider the extra challenge of keeping people engaged virtually – making use of virtual whiteboards, polls and chat can really help keep the energy up.

Don’t underestimate the need for people

To make your sessions virtual you need more than just a facilitator, as unlike in face-to-face training there are more moving parts. Allocate someone as a “producer”, whose job it will be to take care of the virtual side of things, manage the chat, help those struggling with connectivity and organise break-out rooms. This means the facilitator can focus on their core task – facilitating!

Maintain engagement and learning with available tools

Constant participation in virtual learning is key to helping your teams stay engaged and on track. It is easy to get sucked into emails or distracted by another screen. Encourage the use of webcams – you’re less likely to check your phone if you know you’re being watched! Using breakout rooms – available on a lot of leading tools – allows smaller groups to be formed, just as in face-to-face training. This is a great way to kick start interaction and discussion. 

Prepare for the unexpected

This is a new world for a lot of people, so giving them the training and tools they need to be successful will greatly aid your delivery. Work with your facilitators to create notes, tools, scripts and troubleshooting advice on issues that might arise. Constantly add to this as you learn. Find out what resources your teams need and work together to create them.

Invest in training for facilitators

While the purpose is to train your people, it is also important to consider the training of the facilitators. You might assume that because someone can facilitate face-to-face, they can easily switch to virtual, however that is not always the case. Spend time ensuring people know how to do their job after the shift to virtual. Understand that different people experience change in different ways and be patient with them as they navigate a new normal.

Consider individual preferences

When learning, those with a more introverted preference may like time to reflect. More extraverted team members on the other hand might need to speak in order to think. Incorporate this into your virtual training by sending information before sessions and plan time for reflective exercises. For more extraverted participants, encourage chat, open up the mic to the room and include interactive exercises.

Marcus Wylie is Head of Product and Innovation at Insights Learning and Development

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