On average, U.S. companies spend 24 days and $4,000 on each new hire. Yet, 31% of employees quit within six months of starting a new job. Talk about a sunk cost. To rein in these numbers and retain employees, immediately engage them in remote learning with an effective plan to train new hires.

Since the pandemic, 75% of companies have worked remotely, and 58% of businesses plan to keep remote work even now that the pandemic is over. That means many companies need to improve their hiring and onboarding of remote employees.

In this article, we’ll highlight the challenges to be aware of when building remote employee trainings. We also introduce some strategies for training remote employees to help you position your team for success in the virtual workplace.

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How is remote employee training different?

A traditional training program will typically address:

  • Teaching new hires the practical skills they’ll need to do their jobs
  • Connecting people to their job’s purpose
  • Creating a sense of community
  • Recognizing early accomplishments and providing timely feedback
  • Introducing new people to your company culture

In a physical office, some of these happen organically with face-to-face interactions. However, you’ll need a different approach for effective remote training.

Remote training technology

On a remote team, technology is everything. You’ll use it to manage projects, communicate with teammates, complete tasks, and more. Technology will be your new “office,” so everyone must know how to properly utilize your tech stack.

Distributed teams use a lot of different tools to stay in touch. At the very least, you should share user guides for everything. This includes tools for:

  • Communication and video conferencing
  • Workforce management
  • Collaboration
  • Password sharing
  • File sharing
  • Other job-specific tasks

Train new hires on all digital tools so they feel comfortable and competent. Things that seem intuitive to you can be difficult for people from different industries.

It’s hard to be productive when you struggle with tools and processes. However, if you train your most tech-savvy new hires to use your tools wisely, they will get up to speed faster and work more efficiently.


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Communication

There will be no taps on the shoulder, water cooler chats, or team huddles — at least not physically. In the remote workplace, silence is a lot louder. Team leaders need to intentionally overcommunicate.

Establish a process for feedback. Plan for both synchronous and asynchronous communication. Get in the habit of recording video meetings and following up on calls with written notes, too.

At Hubstaff, our Communication Manifesto defines how we collaborate and the tools we use to stay connected. We’ll share more about our Communication Manifesto later in this article.

Scheduling

Flexibility is crucial — especially for distributed teams working across different time zones. You may need to offer more asynchronous training. To avoid being unfair, establish norms and stick to them.

For example, you can select a time window for remote employee training and require all new hires to attend. You can also build a library of training resources for asynchronous onboarding activities.

If you work asynchronously, specify a few hours each day when the entire team should be online and available. You can then schedule live training during those overlapping hours.

Keep live sessions organized by sharing the agenda and necessary resources in advance. It also helps you establish rules for participation. For example, each person may present for five minutes with two minutes for questions.

Interactions

Employees miss social interaction when working from home. When we studied the impacts of the pandemic on remote work, leaders told us that it was one of their teams’ most common complaints. Even these days, remote loneliness is still an issue that flies under the radar.

Employee engagement

Lead by example. Participate in fun activities and connect with people on a more personal level. Here are some remote employee engagement ideas to get you started:

  • Theme/meme chat channels
  • Virtual coffee meetings or happy hours
  • Weekly blog updates on topics of interest
  • Friday show and tells for what you’re working on (yes, kindergarten style)
  • Other non-work-related sharing

Here at Hubstaff, we encourage our teams to propose activities they are interested in. When remote workers feel connected, they perform better and stay with your company longer.Now, let’s drill down into some strategies for effective remote training.

How to train new hires in a remote environment

New hires constantly ask themselves, “How do I do my job?” As a team leader overseeing training, it’s your job to ensure they have the answers.

Here at Hubstaff, we’ve been a 100% remote team since our inception in 2012. Over the years, our team has gained a fair amount of knowledge in remote employee training and onboarding.

1. Document everything

For remote teams, documentation is non-negotiable. Think about this:

When a team member has a question about where to find information, how to tackle a problem, or how to manage a new project, how do they find that answer? If they need to ask you, your team can’t be productive unless you’re available.

Instead of teaching new hires how to do everything, you only need to teach them how to find the process documentation that tells them how to do things.

At Hubstaff, we use onboarding checklists for processes that new hires can go through independently. These checklists show them how to:

  • Create usernames and passwords for important systems
  • Go over workflows and project boards with their ambassador
  • Schedule video calls with teammates so they can start getting to know other people in the company
  • Create an introduction video and post it in Slack


Include training resources for the tools that compose your digital office. Most of these tools will have their own tutorials, but your documents can at least point people in the right direction.

Put together a master list with links to the user guides of all of your most commonly used tools. After a couple of remote onboarding cycles, you should know how effective your documentation is.

If you lack documentation, start with the most mission-critical processes. Then, tackle the questions your team asks most often. You can build your document library gradually.

2. Use training videos

You shouldn’t have to spend hours conducting an in-depth remote training program with every new hire. That’s not scalable. Instead of constantly repeating the same lessons with each new person, make training videos.

Use videos when a written explanation may not be enough. This is a great way to handle software training since it’s more visual. To streamline this process, use a text-to-video AI tool to automatically convert written content into dynamic training videos, saving time and enhancing learning experiences.

Modern tools like realistic AI voice generators simplify video creation for people uncomfortable recording their voices.

Videos are also an excellent way to walk through complex workflows that require more initial hand-holding. Pair a good video with a thorough process document to give team members a quick reference option.

How to Create a Successful Employee Training Video

(Template by Antler)

As mentioned above, write down the most common questions you always seem to answer for new hires. Use that list to create a video FAQ.

Video editing software for beginners like Movavi Video Editor, SRecorder, Monosnap, or SoapBox makes, it easy to create and share training videos even if you don’t have video editing experience. Training videos don’t have to be professionally produced — they just need to be clear.

Videos work well for ongoing training, too. Let’s take a look at Springworks, an HR tech company specializing in recruiting and engagement. Their CEO, Kartik, says:

“At Springworks, we take an asynchronous approach to up-skilling. Each team member has access to learning content of their own choice, so they can take up what works best for them, whether that’s access to paid communities, newsletters, cohort-based courses, or self-paced video courses.”

3. Customize onboarding lessons

If that’s your style, you can create more traditional online lessons and remote training programs for new hires. Zapier, a remote company with more than 300 employees, uses Kallidus and Seismic Learning for its onboarding processes.

Onboarding Process Flow Chart

(Source: Seismic [Formerly Lessonly])

Zapier uses the Kallidus onboarding platform to deliver job-specific content, auto-assign tasks, and provide managers with onboarding updates. They use Lessonly to customize self-paced lessons for each hire.

These courses are more labor-intensive to create but easier for new hires to grasp. Consider using a tool like this if you’re scaling quickly and don’t have time to offer each employee their own one-on-one training session during onboarding.

Gary Stringer from HowNow, an intelligent workplace learning platform, shares this excellent piece of advice:

“We use our intelligent learning platform for two key things, which every business can apply: connecting new starters with the people they need to meet and the information they need to know. That starts with personalization! If you use the exact same onboarding course for every person, you end up with this one-size-fits-nobody situation. Does someone need to know about all 300 employees on day one or just the five or six in their team? It’s a similar situation when it comes to what they need to know. If you’re building an onboarding course, ask yourself two simple questions to start with: what does every employee need to know? What does this individual need to know?”

Always supplement asynchronous training videos and lessons with live sessions. This helps to confirm employee understanding and build a sense of community in the virtual workplace.

4. Build an internal knowledge base

Organize documents, training videos, and lessons, and build an internal knowledge base. A good knowledge base reduces the time employees waste searching for information.

An internal knowledge base can contain the following:

  • Company information: Contact lists, annual reports, and organizational charts
  • Process documentation: Standard operating procedures, checklists, and templates
  • Training materials: Lessons, videos, third app links, and health and safety guidelines
  • Legal documents: Policies, regulatory documents, contracts, and release forms
  • Customer service and support documents: Email/call scripts and FAQs
  • Vendor information: Vendor contracts, contacts, and POs
Employee Onboarding Checklist

(Source: Canva Designs by Darowan)

An internal knowledge base takes time and planning. If you don’t have one yet, assign a dedicated project champion to help bring your knowledge base to life. That might be you, but if time is an issue, delegate it to a trusted teammate.

Consider a knowledge management tool like SharePoint or Confluence. Apps like these help streamline the document migration process and improve interoperability with the other digital tools you use.

5. Formalize feedback

Feedback is how team members learn what they’re doing well and what they need to improve. It should be frequent, timely, and specific — especially in the first few weeks.

Giving feedback alone isn’t difficult, but there’s an emotional component. It can be uncomfortable for everyone involved. Some team leaders may struggle to provide good constructive feedback because they’re worried about hurting feelings.

On the other hand, they might be fine speaking their minds but still find it challenging to give helpful feedback.

That’s why you should create a formalized structure for feedback.

Some teams do this with one-on-one weekly sit-downs. Zapier, for instance, has employees meet with their team lead to answer four simple questions:

  • What’s one thing you are excited about?
  • What’s one thing you are worried about?
  • What’s one thing I can do better to help you with your job?
  • What’s one thing you can do to improve?

Remember, feedback isn’t always criticism.

Recognizing achievements and giving kudos for a job well done is equally important. Boost team morale by publicly recognizing accomplishments in chat channels, via email, or on a dedicated board in your internal knowledge base.

At Hubstaff, we recognize great work in our #hubstars channel.

A screenshot of our #hubstars Slack channel

6. Create a communications manifesto

A communications manifesto lays the ground rules. It covers everything from channels for different questions to respecting deep work time by avoiding interruptions.



Here at Hubstaff, our manifesto covers general communication expectations, the tools we use, guidelines for focus time, and the rules of engagement for Slack and group meetings. Get a copy here to use as a template for your team.

Create your manifesto according to your culture and workflows. Here are a few of the clauses we recommend from our policy:

  • From Monday to Friday, you are expected to respond to teammates within 24 hours (or one business day if it’s Friday).
  • No one is expected to respond to any communications on Saturdays or Sundays or while away for planned time off. Answer those messages when you get back.
  • Focus time is encouraged. You may turn notifications and shut down email for 4-hour increments while in deep work. Use a Slack status to let your teammates know you’re using your focus time.

You can also cover meeting scheduling guidelines and break policies, which are essential for remote teams. If you don’t have a way to unplug, it can start to feel like you’re living at work rather than working from home.

7. Create or update a remote work policy

A remote work policy explains everything about how your company handles remote work. It must be thorough enough to answer most employee questions but simple enough to read in a few minutes.

For an effective policy, keep these questions in mind when writing out your document:

  • Which departments and positions are allowed to work from home?
  • What criteria must be met for employees to be approved for remote work?
  • Under what circumstances, if any, are employees not allowed to work remotely?
  • What will management do to keep communication flowing?
  • What equipment do you need when working from home, and who provides it?
  • Is asynchronous work acceptable?
  • How will you handle cybersecurity?

Remote work is here to stay

Even as the world returns to its pre-pandemic state, remote work is here to stay.

In our 2020 study, we found that 44% of companies expect remote work scenarios to improve profitability. More than 63% expect it to increase employee happiness.

And again, in our 2024 study, we found that remote employees spend more time each day on focused tasks.

Remote work enables deeper focus

If remote work is here to stay, so is remote employee training. To build a workforce for the future, retain employees, and create productive teams, establish your remote employee training and onboarding practices today.

This post was originally published in December 2015 and updated in March 2021, July 2023, and April 2024. 


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Category: Workforce Management