Computers at a desk during an employee training exercise.
February 9th, 2021 Tips & Tricks

You’re building a training course for remote workers. What skills should you include?

Over the past year, workforces around the globe have transitioned to remote environments in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Although the vaccine rollout indicates that the new, post-pandemic normal is coming, one thing that seems clear to many is that this new normal won’t mean a return to office environments as they once were. Instead, it seems almost guaranteed that many workforces will continue some form of fully remote or hybrid arrangement to offer workers greater flexibility.

However, with remote work a growing part of office cultures around the world, employers have to think about the training needs of their employees. That means either developing their own internal employee training, or turning to outside consultants and third-party providers for assistance. And to meet this growing need, online educators should think about what skills might need the most support as businesses make remote work a key part of their office culture moving forward.

Here are our top eight training needs for remote workforces in 2021.

1. Project management.

Keeping projects on track when no one shares a working environment can be a complicated task. It takes organization, thoroughness, and strong people skills to guide a team from start to finish. And, while there are apps and software that can help move things along, they can’t replace training, especially on larger projects that may involve the cooperation of multiple departments.

Educators developing courses in this area could discuss various software solutions available for remote workforces, share strategies for keeping projects on task, and create scenarios for helping a manager respond to situations when the project is falling behind schedule.

2. Time management.

The traditional work environment offers structure to an employee’s workday, with regular breaks for coffee, lunch, and interactions with coworkers. In a remote environment, days can seem to blend together, with fewer natural rhythms and more unexpected interruptions. All this can make it more difficult for individuals to manage their time effectively.

Training courses on time management could discuss strategies for building effective habits, including taking regular breaks to keep the mind fresh. They could even offer employees specific guidelines on when to reach out to their team leader for support.

3. Team leadership.

Management has changed drastically for many workforces, with many leaders struggling to know when they are checking in too much or not enough. Furthermore, without in-person interactions, employees may struggle to form the kind of close working relationships that can keep a team functioning. These can lead to challenges all the way up the organizational ladder.

Leadership training is already a high priority in many corporate environments, but remote work is going to add a new layer to the existing material. Instructional designers for this kind of training may want to spend extra time looking at interactive scenarios to coach leaders through difficult problems.

4. Cybersecurity.

The more employees move online, the more they will be targeted by online threats. Digital information is valuable, and far too many employees practice poor security hygiene simply because they don’t understand the risks. With security threats on the rise, it’s more important than every for organizations to have strong protocols in place.

Online educators focusing on cybersecurity have a wide range of material to cover. From understanding threats (phishing attacks, password breaches, and software vulnerabilities) to creating a crisis response plan (identifying and responding to a security breach, assessing the damage, and preventing future incidents), instructors should have no end of course ideas on this front.

5. Software skills.

Many workers have had to rapidly learn new pieces of technology over the past year, and while this has closed a skills gap in basic software literacy for many, it’s also increased the average worker’s dependency on software to accomplish their job.

Each organization will have its own software needs. However, there are some constants in the software field, such as the Microsoft Office suite of products, that may merit more in-depth training so that employees can learn about their more advanced functions.

6. Communication.

The softest of all soft skills, effective communication is nevertheless something which most employees can learn. Moreover, it’s one that is increasingly important in the world of digital communication, where tones of voice are absent, misunderstandings are common, and norms of behavior are constantly changing.

Communications training might be a good idea for young hires as they first enter the workforce to help them learn professional etiquette. They may also be important for global businesses as they communicate with partners abroad, so that they can respect cultural differences in communication as well.

7. Customer service.

Customer service has operated remotely at least since the first customer help hotline was installed. However, every new technology brings along new possibilities for support. Moreover, remote work often means that more individuals are acting in a support role, even if it’s not their primary job.

Employee training for customer service should address both new technologies (how to handle customer support over social media or live chat), and the soft skills necessary to work with demanding clients.

8. Stress management.

Finally, the pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of many workers. But even when these extraordinary conditions subside, working from home comes with its own stressors that may be harder for leaders to see. Creating a stress management course can help employers look to the mental health needs of their workforce, in order to prevent employees from burning out.

Course material might cover meditation exercises, techniques for deescalating tense situations, or awareness of mental health issues and identifying when it’s time to take a mental health day.

Businesses need to be proactive in supporting their remote workers.

Remote work has many benefits, but it’s still an adjustment for many in the workforce. Businesses who recognize the need for training—and seek out educators who are qualified to deliver it—will be better positioned to thrive in the new normal, once it arrives.

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