Training and Certification

5 Tips for Training a Geographically Dispersed Team

October 8, 2013

Ashley Neu
Tips for Training Geographically Dispersed Teams

Laptops, mobile phones, web conferences, intranets are all just a few of the vast number of technologies available today to keep co-workers interconnected despite their geographic locations. Whether you work for a global mammoth with offices around the world or you are simply working from home as a part of an online presence with no physical brick and mortar location, you will run into the issue of training your staff in a consistent manner in order to witness consistent results.

Fledgling startups and global online retailers all face this issue as they try to make their mark and become the next big thing. However, the only way to do so is to mold the right team that can take you to the next level, an arduous task when employees can be hundreds or thousands of miles apart from one another, yet expected to work together. So how do you break the distance barrier and create a training program worthy of greatness? Well, you need to get creative; there is no cookie cutter approach to greatness, you simply need to find what works for you, your business and your team. Not every organization can work on the Zappos and Google mindset, so you need to find your unique niche for employee development. But don’t worry we didn’t bring you here to tell you that you need to come up with it on your own, below are a few of the best online training tips and tools that you can utilize to elicit the highest return on your training investment.

1.       Create a Private Discussion Space

This is the first step to creating a budget-friendly and effective training program. Understand the needs of your employees and your organization. If you do not know what your team is struggling with or the questions they face on a daily basis, how can you create a meaningful training program? You simply can’t. You may be able to think of the issues they are having or talk to a few of your district leads about what the majority should learn but you will never develop a deep understanding from all levels as to what the most prevalent training issues are unless you open the discussion to everyone.

Microsoft SharePoint offers a great platform for this type of collaboration because it can be easily organized to promote employee connectedness through private company social networking pages and feedback through open discussion boards. To learn more about this topic, read our Microsoft SharePoint Collaboration Features blog post. Create a training thread and encourage employees to post their opinions as to the areas they feel they need the most training in order to better perform their jobs. Doing this will give your employees a sense of value and a stronger voice in the organization, which can also reduce turnover rates. In addition, by providing training based on their specific needs, you will increase their receptiveness to the programs and achieve better results overall.

2.       Make a Video

Maybe you’re launching a new product or a new selling approach, whatever it is, a video will surely be a more effective medium for delivering your materials than printed word alone. Seeing truly is believing and if you take the time to create an informative video based on your training goals, it will surely resonate with your employees more so than just an email with a bunch of bullet points. Share your enthusiasm and character and employees who have never even met you face-to-face before and you will begin to form a sense of connection and commitment to you and your organization.

Hopefully you have an intranet set up for your company, because that is the easiest way to house a training video collection so employees can access it again and again. However, if you don’t, sending out a mass e-mail to district leaders or your entire staff can also work, it just makes referring back to it a little more time-consuming but not difficult. Also keep in mind that a video is inexpensive to create, especially with the high quality video capabilities of today’s mobile devices, so there is no reason why you shouldn’t utilize it as much as possible!

3.       Online Technical Training

If you need your team to be trained on a technical topic or something outside of your company’s primary knowledge scope, then find a web-based course that your entire team can go through at the same time, despite being in different areas. Through an online session, you will gain the specific skills you need from a qualified trainer and this can often come at a reduced cost, perfect for any business with a tight budget.

It is also best to take the training at the same time because it increases their options for collaborating on the topic outside of the online training session. In reference to the first tip, a discussion thread for the training topic can allow team members to post their questions and answers as you all move through the training experience together. By increasing the collaboration opportunities through this training session, you are essentially adding a team building aspect to the course.

4.       One-on-One Web Training

If you have an employee struggling with a singular topic or if you’re training a new employee for the first time, then a one-on-one training session is a great option. Allowing a live video conference and training opportunity helps to reinforce the topics even from a distance away. As stated previously, being able to put a face to the name creates a connection between the employee and supervisor without really having met them before. Additionally, it increases the effort the employee would regularly put into a training session if they were expected to do it on their own without any immediate means for collaboration.

A one-on-one session essentially brings the perks of a face-to-face training course to the online space by providing a personal training setting that is hard to come by in a work situation where employees are widely dispersed. This is the best option for forming a connection right from the new employee’s start date and then again throughout their careers to reinforce their individual value to the organization.

5.       When All Else Fails, Rent

The main purpose you operate your business from the online space and not through a brick and mortar location is to save money. You save on set-up and maintenance costs and can begin reaping the benefits of your efforts much faster, but the downside is that you have no physical place where your entire team can convene for training and collaboration. The above tips provide a number of online collaboration and training solutions but sometimes you really need the face-to-face interaction. Both types of training are beneficial in different ways to your team’s performance, just read our blog on it, but how can you incorporate both into your business plan? Renting space is the best way to achieve this happy medium. Did you know we offer conference room and computer lab rentals in Columbia, MD?

Whether you need to rent out a large conference room, a computer lab or just a meeting room there are plenty of professional options to choose from. Depending on the type of training or team collaboration needs you want to achieve, there is a space available near your location of choice that can accommodate you. Additionally, it is a one-time investment you can control. Unlike owning or maintaining your own space year after year, for just one day or one week, you shell out the costs of a brick and mortar to gain the benefits of a face-to-face training session for your team.

The only consideration for this type of training option is if you are training several times throughout the year or holding a number of meetings and conferences in rental spaces, then it could end up costing you more. Remember to weigh out the price of renting in comparison to what it would cost your company to own a permanent space so to avoid losing the cost-savings aspect of these tips.

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