Executive Education

Teach Your Missing Employees: Learning and the Remote Workforce

Jerry Cox is president at Brainier Solutions.

The modern workforce isn’t fixed. It’s fluid, full of flexible work opportunities and remote employees. People don’t have to sit at their desks from 9 to 5 anymore. A majority of employees prefer to work wherever, whenever. And learning has to adapt.

So, how do you teach an employee when you’re often not in control of their schedule? How do you train employees who are scattered across different teams, systems, and time zones? How do you give them one unified experience?

That’s the key word: experience. The promised land for digital organizations is the experience, whether customer experience (CX) or employee experience (EX). The goal of CX and EX is to unify all the various interactions with a company into one tailored, personalized experience throughout the entire employee or customer life cycle. That’s no easy task.

Yet it’s an important task. Research presented in a recent Accenture report shows that “companies with great EX outperform the S&P 500 by 122 percent,” creating engaged employees that are “21 percent more profitable than those with poor engagement.”

Learning companies, however, may have a hard time reaching the promised land. Let’s first talk about an employee’s experience today to frame our conversation on developing the technology needed for tomorrow.

The Current Experience

Imagine you’re a remote worker — one of the 43 percent of workers today — who’s been put on a new project on trends in machine learning, and you need to get your team up to speed and collaborating as soon as possible. Each member of your team needs relevant documents, research, and strategy behind the initiative, and then they need to apply their skill set to this particular project.

It’s more than likely that you’re left alone to Google it. Or YouTube it. Or type “machine learning” into Harvard Business Review’s search bar: “What did they say about this?” We’ve all done that.

In other words, you’re left on your own to figure things out, which is where learning comes in.

The Traditional Learning Experience

Now, let’s imagine you have a traditional LMS, and you need to learn more about this project. You go to your content library, which hasn’t been updated in three years, and search for “machine learning.” Nothing. You try typing “AI.” Nothing.

The problem is that the knowledge work environment — new trends and techniques, conversations about what’s important and what’s not — changes so frequently, you need relevant content published pretty frequently.

You also need the information presented in new and relevant ways, including mobile, video, and microlearning. This is how people learn today, and if your learning experience isn’t keeping up, your learners are getting lost.

The Next-generation Learning Experience

To learn skills that are relevant for this kind of remote working environment, wouldn’t it be nice if there were some kind of pop-up on your screen for “Recommended Training”? This is where the future is headed, a future that is often called “Netflix-like learning.” Josh Bersin calls it “learning in the flow of work,” where each employee is given personalized training regimens based on their role and their tasks.

This is the ideal, but let’s talk about reality. Most LMSs can’t give employees that kind of personalization. With the technology we do have, however, there are four big pieces to a modern learning environment: cloud-based learning, a content library, advanced analytics, and admin and communications tools.

Cloud-based Learning: Let Remote Workers Work Remotely

With all of your learning modules in the cloud, remote workers can access them anywhere, anytime. It’s almost like learning on demand. When someone is given a new project like the example above, they can access the library of content at a time that works for them.

Content Library: Curate Relevant Information

Speaking of content, what’s learning without content? I often like to say, “Training is for yesterday, learning is for today, and knowledge is forever.” The knowledge is the key: Every modern LMS needs a robust set of modules, articles, and especially video to round out a remote learner’s experience. As marketing has always known, content is king, and it’s time for the modern learning organization to get on board with content curation.

Advanced Analytics: Measure What’s Working (and What’s Not)

To get the most out of your remote team, you need to understand what’s going on. By using advanced analytics for reporting, measurement, and diagnosing KPIs in your learning strategy, you can find the pulse of whether your plan is paying off.

Admin and Communication Tools: Collaborate Effectively

No one likes admin work. We know that. But it’s critical to the success of your remote workers because they need to have the documents and tools to be set up for success. By bringing in a central, people-first admin tool and allowing remote workers to collaborate on what’s important when it’s important, they can do their job more effectively and efficiently.

Become What You Want to See in the World

If the goal is to create a seamless remote working experience for your distant and deskless employees, it all starts with your goals. For next-generation learning solutions, the goal has to be the learning experience, for remote workers and traditional workers.

Keep the vision for the experience front and center, and you’ll start to see your vision become reality.

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Jerry Cox
Jerry Cox is president at Brainier Solutions, a Minneapolis-based subsidiary of BI Worldwide. Jerry is a regular contributor to the CEOWORLD magazine.