Is it a good idea, or even possible, to hire someone without ever meeting them? A year ago, this would have been unthinkable for many companies. However, things change, and businesses have to pivot to respond to market demands. Now we live in a world where interviews are conducted remotely, and for the most part, they are pretty successful. So, the next question is, how do you develop your remote employees?

Permanent Remote Employees

The coronavirus pandemic meant employees had to work from home, So businesses had to scramble to adjust to a “new normal.” Companies announced hiring freezes and layoffs, and many workers were furloughed. Throughout this time, there was a feeling that all of these changes were only temporary, that everything would work out, and things would revert to the way they were. We are still waiting.

Like interviewing, managers who never thought they would need to have the majority of their employees working away from the office have had to change their perspective. But companies adjusted and have found there are a lot of benefits to having employees work remotely. For example, when most of the workforce is not in the office, facility maintenance costs decrease by about $11,000 per employee per year. Employees are also more productive. In fact, over 85% of employers report that they observed higher productivity from their employees who were working remotely.

It is obvious that remote work is here to stay — even when the pandemic is over, because the benefits of having a remote workforce are too big for things to revert to the way they were. Now the question is: How do you continue to get the most benefit out of employees you never see?

Training Remote Workers

Employee development and training also changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. When employees worked at the office, it was easy to develop and deliver training programs and provide reminders where they were most likely to be seen, such as above the copier, on the water cooler or restroom doors, and in break and lunchrooms. It was also easy to see where employees were struggling with technology and with changes in policy and procedures, and to update training to better address problem areas. Now that employees are not physically working together, it is not as easy to keep up with employees’ progress on their training and development plans.

Testing Is the Answer

Skills testing — the answer to developing remote employees, has been right in front of us all along. Pre-hire skills tests are used to get a sense of the abilities and knowledge an applicant has, and once they have been hired, testing and training are used to strengthen areas that need to be developed. Changes in technology do not stop, and neither do changes in business policy and practices. So, why should skills testing stop?

There are many advantages to ongoing skills testing. Here are some ways that those advantages can work for remote employees:

  • Track employee development: Testing employees can give employers a better sense of where employees are making progress and opportunities, and identify knowledge “gaps.”
  • Provide better feedback: Ideally, the content of an annual review should not surprise anyone. Testing throughout the year can provide useful data to employees on areas where development is needed and document progress.
  • Reinforce understanding of updated policies and procedures: Whenever policies and procedures change, it is a good idea to test employees on their understanding of the changes — especially when the changes have been made to “the way things have ‘always’ been done.” The bigger the change, the greater the need for training and reinforcement.

You cannot deny that having a remote workforce is a big change to the way most companies do business. And although training is as important as ever before, you can see why changes need to be made to the way training is delivered.

  • Live sessions are no longer the best way to deliver training: Live training simply is not the best way to deliver training anymore. With remote training, employees are not required to be in training at the same time. This may seem like an inconvenience, but it is not because people learn best at different times of the day. Also, scheduling is no longer a nightmare as it was when it came to live training workshops. If you create and prerecord training, employees complete it at a time that works best for them. They can also manage their own schedules so they can meet work deadlines as well as required training, and refer training for a “refresher” as needed.
  • Low-tech reminders and prompts are no longer effective: Companies can no longer print training announcements and reminders and place them around the office in obvious locations because many employees are not in the office to them. It is better to email reminders to employees and post training updates on the corporate intranet home page, where both office and remote employees will see them.
  • Bring back study groups: Remember study groups from your school days, when students met to review new information and help each other learn and understand it? Employees can still work together in small groups via Zoom or other meeting software. In fact, this is an excellent way to remedy feelings of isolation remote employees often have.

Use Skills Tests for Training and Employee Development

Skills tests can be used to evaluate progress and improvement on job-related tasks, assess understanding of training that employees have completed, and ensure that the staff understands new policies and procedures.

Learn how skills testing can help you implement and manage training and development programs that work. Request a demo today.

Adina Miron

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