How to Train Remote Employees: 3 Ways to Increase Online Learning Engagement

Over the past year, the entire world has experienced learning in an entirely different way than ever before. Since the beginning of the pandemic, over 1.2 billion children were pushed out of the classroom, most universities transitioned to online learning, and the corporate sphere swapped their suits and cubicles for sweatpants and Zoom meetings, facing a challenge on how to train remote employees. 

Technology has revolutionized the way we understand learning, eliminating the need for colleagues to be in the same room, let alone the same country. While this shift has undeniably brought greater access, ease, and versatility to the way we learn; it has also resulted in widespread difficulty staying engaged through a computer screen. 

How to Train Remote Employees: 3 Ways to Increase Online Learning Engagement
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How to Train Remote Employees And Increase Their Online Learning Engagement

Companies were given the ultimate test of maintaining their efficiency and quality despite the monumental changes happening from the foundation up; truly highlighting the necessary qualities that make a business shine in a sea of darkness. Amidst health, financial, and mental concerns, employees were also tasked with a loss of community in their workplace: the key component that harms engagement levels. It seems almost paradoxical to create a work-life balance when work and life are shared in one place, but in reality, this past year has shown that companies need to shift the way they understand work-life balance. There can still be a strong focus on productivity and growth while also ensuring employees feel supported, engaged, and motivated about their tasks. So, we turn to action-based learning as a model to stimulate online-learning in the right direction.

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Common Challenges of Remote Training

With remote work, employees no longer feel the rush of getting up in the morning and having a fulfilling day in the office. There is no change in environment, interaction with coworkers, or a superior sitting down the hall from you. As a result, individuals worldwide are simply getting their work done, rather than being engaged with the work they are actually doing. 

Lack of Connection

While the connections individuals make with each other in person are difficult to match through a screen, there are certainly practices businesses can take to ensure communication is frequent and personal. An MIT survey evaluating the best practices for remote teams found that communication was the most critical key to success (Forbes). There is a false narrative in many businesses that employees should be responsible for knowing everything and asking nothing. Especially in a virtual sphere, there should be ample encouragement to communicate with superiors about a project and seek guidance when necessary. 

Lack of Focus

Group meetings should be held for targeted purposes, often, and for short periods of time to maintain employees’ attention. If there is anything all of us have learned in the past year, it is that Zoom fatigue is no joke. Employers should direct each meeting to the relevant audience that a particular task focuses on. In uncertainty and chaos, maintaining focus is frankly a difficult task. This should be addressed in a supportive measure so that employees understand their concerns are heard and wellbeing is prioritized.

Lack of Motivation

It has become evident that working remotely boosts overall productivity, however, there has been a certain decrease in employee motivation to work above and beyond. People focus their attention on tactical work, rather than seeking to solve bigger and more abstract problems their business could overcome. In a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review in 2020, it was found that people, regardless of voluntary remote work or forced remote work, were experiencing enormous declines in motivation.


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3 Ways to Train Remote Employees More Effectively

The problems identified above are not inevitable. There are methods that companies can use to effectively prevent disengagement, particularly with an action- based learning technique. Action-based learning encompasses an approach that focuses on the implementation of information, rather than just consuming it. Ample neuroscientific research shows that there is a natural connection between the brain and the body that learning takes on an entirely new role beyond the textbook. In the corporate context in particular, action-based learning is essential as it holds companies accountable for delivering content for the long-term.

1. Encourage Learners to Take Action

To make the learning experience more effective, make sure that learners not only absorb knowledge passively by watching videos or reading written content but also take action and experiment with what they have learned.

The ultimate factor that distinguishes action-based learning from a typical method is turning theory into practice, more specifically, continuous practice. From a young age, students are taught passively - bombarded with content, tested on it, then moving on to the next unit. While test scores might show which units are better understood than others, what these scores represent is incredibly misguided in reality. Action-based learning refutes passive learning because it focuses on reality.

myQuest has created a unique approach to action-based learning using a model that drives action into a habit. The beginning of this model focuses on learners taking action as a community in order to experience each lesson together. This lays the foundation of an effective learning experience as it goes beyond just absorbing content. 

Employers should deliver information in an interactive and achievable way, following each lesson with actionable items for learners to engage in. Learners will feel incentivized to truly grasp the information being taught as they will feel accountable for applying the knowledge. Furthermore, they will feel part of something greater than themselves, forming a community that will last far beyond the learning material itself.

2. Always Give Feedback

Each learning experience should be followed by feedback as it increases learners’ performance. Provided that it is constructive, it motivates employees to perform better and better. With action-based learning, the learners are given guidance from the start on each task and content. 

There is a two-way street of feedback between learners and coaches that is consistent and continuous. While this is more accessible in an in-person learning environment, it is certainly possible to accomplish effectively in a remote sphere. Once a community has been created, the well-thought-out and constructive feedback resonates more impactfully with the learners.

Coaches can utilize various online platforms to execute their training that gives participants the choice of where feedback is most accessible. With action-based learning, feedback is not only encouraged but it is intertwined with the learning process itself, making it a natural form of communication rather than an intimidating task. This only advances learners’ experiences and improves the training itself - ultimately yielding positive results for the entire company.

3. Use Triggers to Help Learners Make Progress

Keeping learners engaged and motivated, especially during the remote learning process, can be a challenge, therefore, using triggers such as messages, notifications or reminders is so significant. It keeps remote employees motivated and increases their performance.  

Triggers designed in the right way and constantly accessible from mobile devices are the most effective supporting learners in completing tasks at due time. As reminders help keep track of all activities, they reduce learners’ mental load, facilitate the learning process and boost remote employees’ performance and results.

Companies that have implemented action-based learning techniques for employees focus on creating changes in skills and behaviors, backed by important content. To trigger these behaviors, employers should deliver frequent reminders and messages to learners to continue their progress. These skills and behaviors turn into subconscious habits that learners can use to understand the content of each task, instilling long-term knowledge.  

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How Action-Based Learning Connects to Engagement

Action-based learning techniques can and should be implemented for students regardless of where they are being taught. Of course, the application of this method will differ depending on if it is in-person or online, but the end goal is the same: strengthen engagement.

myQuest has examined the impacts of content-based learning vs. action-based learning and the results are astonishing. In content-based learning, only 4% of learners engage with their content and community, whereas 87% of action-based learners engage with their content and community. Individuals that are inherently more shy to engage with their surroundings face significant challenges in the shift to online learning. 

The action-based learning method accounts for individuals more apprehensive to seek guidance, creating a universal approach to engage each employee or student regardless of their comfort levels. Remote learning gives a plethora of opportunities for employees to immerse themselves in their content and communities and has been proven to increase productivity levels and ease of access.

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Implementation of Successful Online Learning Engagement

When the shift to online learning began in full force, teachers around the globe were unprepared for the correct way to go about this transition. Many learners felt overwhelmed by the vast amount of information being thrown at them - simply completing each assignment to check it off the to-do list. 

As we now see that online learning is here to stay, teachers and coaches have the opportunity to adopt a sustainable method. In order to prevent overwhelming sentiments for learners, companies should focus on delivering content via micro-learning. 

Especially during onboarding and training, employees are responsible for learning about the entire company while also completing specific tasks. In order to make this process go by more smoothly, content and assignments should be delivered in smaller chunks. This will not only keep employees more focused on the content, but it will prevent burnout as what they are learning and how it is being taught is constantly changing. 

The Bottom Line

For a company to operate at its full potential, each employee no matter their position must also operate at its full potential. While it is undoubtedly a tedious task to remodel how employees are trained, it does not need to be done all at once. Enacting small changes from the bottom up will yield tangible results that build upon one another. 

If each employee is able to stay engaged with their role within the company they will be more connected, focused, and motivated to succeed. Whether you are managing a small start-up, a large team at a corporate firm, or running your own business; action-based learning techniques are proven to work. Even if these interactions are occurring through a computer screen, the results are transformative for everyone and accessible for anyone!

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Author: Becca Zeltsman is a Public Policy and Economics student at Duke University fascinated about the intersection of people and their workplace. Currently, Becca is a business development intern for myQuest, an action-based learning platform that delivers real, engaged learning. Combing her academic interests and professional experience, Becca produces content for myQuest's blog and social media platforms.