In March 2020, most organizations thought that the mass exodus of employees to remote work from home would be a temporary situation. More than a year later, it’s clear that it will be a far more permanent solution. Even as virus concerns subside and more employees return to the workplace, many companies have come to realize that using Zoom for work from home and training offers benefits that will extend far beyond the pandemic.
With so much online employee training, or in some hybrid format serving both off and on-site employees, Zoom has become a go-to tool for facilitating these critical interactions.
Mark Pereira works as a trainer and on-site supervisor at a call center for Briljent LLC, in Indianapolis, Indiana. The pandemic, he says, has changed the way the company does business—they’ve moved from a brick-and-mortar call center to having all agents work from home. His most recent employee training class, he says, is in a hybrid format—a few days of the week are in the office, following social distance standards and other sanitary guidelines, but most is done via Zoom.
He and others have discovered some useful best practices for using Zoom for training that others can use as they work to ensure that staff members, whether remote or on-site, can continue to learn.
1. Make Engagement a Top Priority When Managing Virtual Teams Training
Both synchronous and asynchronous trainings benefit from maximum engagement. Training using Zoom can help make online employee training mirror the in-person experience, but managing virtual teams training requires a focus on ways to boost engagement. Fortunately, that’s easy to do when using Zoom for training.
Darin Detwiler is an assistant dean and associate teaching professor at Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies in Boston. Helping attendees make connections with each other is an important first step for ensuring engagement, he says. “Use some time at the beginning and end of a session to connect to the other participants in the online environment,” Detwiler recommends. Take time to recognize birthdays or other celebratory events at the beginning of a training session, or give participants a chance to share their own good news or accomplishments, he suggests.
Another important factor in engagement—don’t hide behind a PowerPoint presentation, Detwiler cautions. “Showing that you are there conveys a sense of presence—an element that is essential during these times.” Along the same lines, he says, “ask participants to show themselves.” And, he adds: “Encourage discourse with the participants. Their perspectives and questions are part of what will make the training come across as personalized, organic and having value.”
When employee training in a hybrid environment, as many organizations are these days, it’s important to pay attention to both those online and those in the physical environment. That can be challenging to do, but Zoom features can help online employee training engage virtual learners and ensure they feel as though they’re part of the larger group.
2. Make Maximum Use of Zoom Features
Features in Zoom offer ample opportunity for engagement and can be used to boost understanding and learning in the online training environment. Pereira shares a number of ways he uses features to optimize his employee training efforts:
- In hands-on practice sessions, he shares his screen and has trainees share theirs to demonstrate the steps they’re taking.
- Role-playing to give trainees an opportunity to practice what they’re learning. He sends participants in the agent and caller roles scripts, demonstrates a scenario to the class and then calls on trainees to practice the scenario.
- Sharing and reviewing recorded calls, an ability that Skype does not have, he says.
- Whiteboard exercises are used to review lessons in a mind map type of exercise using text and images that trainees contribute to.
- Hands-up, clapping or thumbs-up icons so trainees can easily ask questions or indicate understanding and interest in topics being covered.
When considering the use of these and other features, it’s important to practice with them before using them in a live employee training environment. Effectively managing virtual teams training requires solid knowledge of the tools being used. Of course, another challenge for trainers today is the need to manage both the online and in-person experience. Hybrid training can be accomplished through a combination of workplace synchronous and asynchronous training with consideration of the needs of trainees in both the virtual and live settings.
3. Design and Deliver a Great Hybrid Training Experience
While Zoom provides a great platform for employee training of all types, all aspects of the training don’t need to take place online, or synchronously, says Dawn Mahan, a consultant with PMOtraining. This is key to providing a high-quality experience for trainees whether in person or online. She shares some tips for designing effective hybrid sessions. For instance, have printed handouts available for people physically in the room; for those employees who are remote send worksheets by email ahead of time.
Matt Erhard, a managing partner of recruiting and executive search firm Summit Search Group, agrees. “Screen sharing is a useful tool, but many people will absorb the information better if they’re able to follow along,” he says. “Sending out materials in advance also allows the trainees to look them over in advance so they’ll know what questions they have and ultimately get more out of the training.”
Zoom breakout sessions can be used for exercises for virtual attendees while those in-person work together, Mahan says. Then both groups can come together to debrief and discuss the exercise. This can be facilitated by enlisting “the help of an extra moderator to help monitor the Zoom chat so virtual participants’ questions are answered just as quickly as if they were in the room,” she says.
Israel Gaudette, founder of Canadian Saas company Link Tracker Pro, also recommends enlisting someone to help with the logistics of delivering hybrid training for employees—what he calls a spotter. “With a spotter, you’ll be assured everything is going fine from your attendees’ point of view,” he says. Simply ask some of your colleagues to join the audience as spotters, he recommends. “Their main task is to let you know immediately when something goes wrong.” They can alert the main trainer via a private chat message or some other means.
“Problems like audio glitches, mismatched slides, or desktop resolution issues are impossible for you to recognize while presenting,” Gaudette says. With a spotter, you’ll be notified and can fix these issues before they get worse.
The hybrid training experience, Mahan acknowledges, has presented challenges for trainers during the pandemic. But she says, it can definitely work. One important key when using zoom for training: avoid situations where one group feels “less than” another. Make a concerted effort to ensure that the online experience is as close as possible to the experience of trainees on site.