Working Remotely? Keep Your Employees Engaged and Learning

Working Remotely? Keep Your Employees Engaged and Learning

With many Americans working from home, online training can help your workforce get caught up on regulatory training requirements or maybe even learn new skills.

On January 7, 2020, health officials identified a new virus responsible for an unusual pneumonia in Wuhan, Hubei, China. Just over two months later, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic. This virus was named SARS-CoV-2 and is commonly known as COVID-19 or the novel coronavirus.

In an effort to try and contain the spread of this extremely contagious virus, millions of people around the world have been taking part in various degrees of separation, from social distancing to self-isolation and even shelter-in-place orders.

Within the United States, many cities and states have begun announcing that all non-essential businesses should have employees work from home, or close altogether, for the time being. If you are following this guidance, now is not the time for employees to become complacent.

Implementing online training strategies can help your entire workforce get caught up on regulatory training requirements or maybe even learn new skills.

Time to Take Safety Training

Despite the importance of completing training over safety topics, employers and employees alike often feel it takes time away from the job at hand. With online training, completions can be done from any location, and what better time than when workers can’t fully do their normal jobs?

Many safety topics don’t require hands-on training and are perfectly suitable for online coursework, such as electrical safety or lockout/tagout. These are both training areas that affect a large number of employees but are easily offered through virtual training.

Additionally, while all personal protective equipment (PPE) should be tried on and tested before being used in the field, now is the perfect time to introduce, or reintroduce, all of your employees to the different types of PPE. Utilizing online training for PPE allows employees to become more comfortable with equipment they may encounter on the job.

What’s more, many people are currently wondering whether respirators or face masks can be useful in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Through online training, you can make sure all of your employees understand these common types of PPE and how they could help protect you and others.

Train Employees on Soft Skills

While safety topics are often crucial for a particular job, and for your employees and the company to meet regulatory compliance, there is an entirely different set of skills that create fully trained, well-rounded employees: soft skills.

Employers often overlook the inclusion of soft skills in a training curriculum because they don’t seem to directly correlate with company performance or contribute to the bottom line.

However, this is an inaccurate assumption. A study by researchers at Harvard University, Boston University and the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business found that employees who received training on a variety of soft skills—including communication, time management and problem solving—helped grow productivity by 12 percent. Almost one year following training, the company’s return on investment was up 256 percent.

So, what soft skills should you be training your employees on? There are a wide variety that can be useful, but here are a few universal soft skills that can help boost individual, team and company-wide performance.

  • Time management. It likely goes without saying that time management is a crucial skill every employee should learn. Perhaps more than any other soft skill, this is one that can most directly affect a company’s bottom line. If workers cannot manage their own time well, they will likely be unproductive and waste the company’s time and resources.
  • Problem-solving. Similar to time management, employees at any level should be able to demonstrate problem-solving skills. The basic tenets of problem solving are being able to assess a situation and find a solution. While some people are inherently good at creative thinking and others excel at critical thinking, problem-solving skills can be cultivated no matter what.
  • Communication. Strong communication skills are important both on and off the job. Think about all the interactions you have each day, from grabbing a morning coffee to meeting with clients or going out to eat. Speaking, body language and active listening are crucial for these encounters, but don’t forget about electronic communication as well—which is becoming increasingly common, even for formal communication.
  • Positive attitude. You may consider positivity as relevant only to public-facing employees, such as those in customer service or hospitality roles, but positive attitudes throughout the company help keep employee morale up and create a healthy working environment.

With many jobs becoming more dependent on, and sometimes completely eliminated by, technological and AI advancements, soft skills correspondingly become more important, as these cannot be automated.

Including both hard skills and soft skills in your company’s training curriculum makes for well-rounded, satisfied employees, which leads to an efficient, productive company.

Retrain to Improve Effectiveness

Throughout your life, whether in school or at a job, it is very unlikely you went about learning something new using a “one and done” method. Repetitive learning opportunities increase the likelihood of the worker(s) retaining the information which, in the context of a working environment, makes for a more effective employee.

For many years, companies have offered—or even required—annual training on certain topics, such as sexual harassment in the workplace. While more employees than ever are now working remotely, this is a great time to let your workers retrain on any number of topics.

When it comes to safety training, repetition may be even more important than other categories of training. Employees not only need to stay up-to-date with regulations, but they also must know how to follow all preventive and reactive steps in various situations, making it imperative they fully understand the training.

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