Training The Dispersed and Remote Workforce: The Challenges of the Next Normal

Despite a number of high-profile figures in the media claiming that employees should ‘return to the office’ as soon as possible, the reality is that many employees – and many businesses – are refusing to heed the call.

You can see why. Talent Acquisition professionals are reporting back that candidates are preferring remote or hybrid roles, increasingly the former. Office-based roles are remaining unfilled, because they’re no longer as attractive, no matter how many pool tables or fruit baskets you have. There never was a ‘lure of the commute’ as such, but the lure of commuting less or not at all is clearly A. Thing. What’s more, many businesses have discovered that the dispersed workforce has its benefits too – a happier, more engaged workforce without the overhead of an expensive office.

But without the traditional office and with a more geographically diverse workforce, how do you continue to upskill your people? The next normal comes with its benefits, but the challenges of this dispersed environment have to be met now.

On-boarding and training through video

Many organisations have taken to on-boarding new hires through video. This is hardly new, with many IT departments on-boarding the company’s cyber security policy, for instance, using video.

Does this actually work? Feedback usually suggests not. As classroom trainers would know, the only way for people to learn is to interact and repeat elements of the training. Often, these videos created by internal departments are long streams of consciousness designed to get across as much information as possible, often in order to tick the box and say that it has been done.

But does it get the job done? Explainer videos may have their place, but if training is going to be delivered this way, then it has to be:

  • Part of an integrated face-to-face training programme or session
  • Small, task-oriented videos that encourage the user to take action afterwards or respond to questions
  • Made available to the user afterwards for reference

Bringing together the dispersed or hybrid workforce

An increasing trend, particularly in start-ups but more and more in established businesses is bringing the dispersed workforce together, often for a full week in a specific location. These get-togethers are often the perfect opportunity not just to foster the company culture which may be hard to develop remotely, but to train entire teams as a group.

Whether this is in-house training or sending groups to a conference room or hotel for specific training courses, the training has a double positive impact – of helping teams problem-solve together, developing bonds between employees, and also helping retention. This is equally true of businesses who are operating on a hybrid model with employees in-house two or three days a week.

Research clearly shows that a lack of career growth and development is one of the major drivers behind the ‘great resignation’ that took place last year, and that great resignation will develop into a continuing ‘deep resignation’ unless employers find creative ways of meeting this demand. The investment, therefore, in bringing dispersed workforces together in a classroom environment, is an obvious one:

  • To build connections between employees who work mostly or entirely remotely
  • To encourage problem-solving in a face-to-face environment
  • To continue to upskill employees who want to develop their careers and professional knowledge

Webinar training, or how to beat Zoom Fatigue while upskilling your people

We all remember zoom fatigue from the pandemic, and the lessons from the IT department’s favourite method of cyber security training remain long in the memory – if you’re training anyone online, it has to be engaging.

The move for many training companies – IPI Academy included – towards a webinar-based learning model, has meant that many have had to find new ways of engaging people on webinar sessions that can often be two or three days long. A simple zoom call no longer cuts the mustard.

Technology has developed to make these training sessions more engaging and more interactive – polls, breakout rooms, and so on. But beyond the technology, those training via webinar have to ensure that:

  • The training session doesn’t become a stream of consciousness – engage the users and develop a workshop environment
  • There’s no ‘death by powerpoint’ – simply talking to slides doesn’t engage or upskill delegates
  • That the environment is as close to a classroom environment as possible – no phones, crystal clear audio and video, and no talking over each other like that Monday morning team zoom call

Responding now to the next normal

Who can say what the next emergency is going to be – a pandemic, another Brexit-type event? The workforce has been through more change over the last three years than since the 1960s, and without forward planning from businesses, employees will find a better work-life balance or career opportunities elsewhere, as we can see from the great resignation.

The Next Normal will see an entrenching of the remote, dispersed and hybrid models, posing further challenges to employers who need to upskill and retain their people. The likely answer to this challenge is a hybrid of the three methods outlined above.

"We're increasingly seeing businesses combine a blend of in-house or classroom training with live webinar training throughout the year as they face up to the challenges of the post-pandemic workplace. Employers have gone through the Great Resignation and now face up to the bigger challenge of engaging and retaining people who want to progress in their careers - the new challenge is to develop training programmes that meet that demand."

Dwane Charalambous, Director, IPI Academy

In some cases, specifically on-boarding, but also for bite-sized training, the “on-demand” video model works. But it has to be engaging and it has to encourage interaction.

In many cases, bringing in-house trainers or taking people out to a course, can prove to be an engaging method of upskilling that has side benefits of developing bonds between employees who may not see much of each other.

And in most cases, webinar training is a go-to option throughout the year as workforces remain dispersed and open to webinar training – so long as it mimics the classroom environment as closely as possible.

IPI Academy offers a blend of webinar and classroom training, and can also bring the trainer to you for bespoke in-house training courses. This latter solution can often be more cost-efficient for businesses. If you’d like to know more about any of our training solutions, contact us today and we’ll work with you to find the best option.


Published on Jun 21, 2022 by Dwane Charalambous