Growing your remote team’s skill set once they are on board can be challenging. Learn to provide effective learning and development programs for remote teams with these three critical components.
The U.S. unemployment rate is at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent. And as anyone who has recently looked to fill a vacancy in a finance department will know, this tight labor market makes finding and keeping the best people much more challenging. Therefore, workplaces need to be competitive in many areas to recruit and retain the best people, including offering remote work arrangements.
The challenge for financial professionals is this: how do you continue to improve upon your team’s skill set through continuous learning, but in a remote workplace atmosphere? I suggest you start with three critical components. Connection, teamwork, and support are the foundation of an effective learning and development program. But many times, they also represent significant hurdles in training a remote workforce. And while finance departments need to confront these issues in their own way, there are an assortment of processes and tools that can be used to bring about a successful outcome.
Connection is a critical part in every learning environment and has a large impact on a finance department’s motivation and effort. However, this connection becomes more difficult through distance learning for remote finance employees, as compared to live, instructor-led training. You will need to review the current condition of your distance learning program, because we find a great majority of distance learning to be passive: readings, videos, lectures, and presentations. Think about ways to improve remote learning with more active tools such as discussion, debate, problem solving, and role-playing. Incorporating more active learning events is a great way in engaging distance learners.
One successful strategy is to mix participatory activities between learning events. Examples would include a web conference, chat room, or forum. This not only builds dialog but also can increase knowledge, clarify concepts, and encourage a shared understanding.
Teamwork is an indispensable characteristic, and a desired state for every finance department. Workplace cultures that promote collaborative behaviors with individuals, teams, and cross-functions greatly improve their chances in seeing better communication, alignment, and overall success. Training, in many cases, continues to be delivered in ways that emphasize individual learning activities, performance, and achievement.
Normal isolating effects can be magnified for remote employees. Therefore, it is very important to review your learning plan and identify outcomes that, for your remote employees in real situations, would benefit from teamwork. Utilize virtual learning events to bring your remote and onsite employees together. Develop a learning plan that uses team-based learning goals and, at the same time, encourages and rewards teamwork.
I would encourage you to use all the tools that are readily available: web conferencing, chat rooms, social platforms, or other virtual shared spaces. It may be out of habit that you would separate remote and onsite employee training events—as it may seem to make sense from an operations perspective—but you need to rethink and consider the impact on remote workers who would greatly benefit from more direct interaction.
Job training in finance is not radically different from any other healthy organization, consisting of a series of live formal training events not existing or happening at the same time. But it is very rare that someone can build expertise solely through instruction. Over time, practice, remediation, and coaching are components that deliver the support needed to achieve success. Many times, support manifests itself not through intentional design, but through natural interaction with peers and supervisors. This is due to proximity, because this represents an ongoing area of risk as remote staffing increases.
It is essential that finance departments put into place systems for support that are designed and integrated in training plans. For remote workers, make sure there are structured, timely touch-points and coaching sessions built into the training plan. Similar to any other form of training or instruction, you will ensure greater success if these events are designed with a specific, measurable outcome in mind.
Finance department leaders and coaches also need to be visible, easily available, and highly responsive to remote workers. Online live chat tools are easily available and can effectively support real-time feedback and guidance. For those leaders with difficult schedules, allocate structured office hours each week and invite your team for feedback and coaching.
So take a deep dive and review your current finance department training and development plan. Does it account for the unique needs of your remote workers? If not, now is the time to communicate with this audience. Carefully hear their needs and concerns, and think how to better address those issues in the framework of connection, teamwork, and support.
Yes, the world is changing. But one constant remains: organizations are about people, and success lies in the effectiveness and connection of these people. You will need to adapt in order to attract and keep the best people…and to help them grow in their capabilities.