March 3, 2021 6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Educating an effective workforce is nothing new. Covid-19, however, gives it newfound purpose. Faced with the crisis, enterprises worldwide were forced almost overnight to adjust from brick-and-mortar operations to working from home. A year later, that trend is more engrained as businesses remain virtual—and may continue to do so well into the future.
But, while it was necessary to mandate the change, relatively few organizations were ready to make the shift. Why? While it sounds simple in concept, transitioning to a remote-work environment is involved. Success requires specialized resources and a mobile, modern mindset.
For entrepreneurs, this can signal a distinct advantage, where agility and flexibility reign over long-established corporate practices. Those starting out can put into place a liquid-workforce strategy, a phrase coined by Accenture. The idea is to adapt and advance.
It’s a strategy that involves seeking the best candidates from anywhere, remotely engaging them in an ever-evolving business. Seeing to workers’ ongoing development in an organization engineered to perform and learn on the fly, from near and far. In short, making virtual viable.
Technology enables virtual operations
First steps first—to succeed, enterprises need to ensure workers have robust technology systems, internet access and networking capabilities to enable virtual operations.
For start-ups, this quickly becomes part of their DNA. High tech not only equips an enterprise to work from home, but it can turn it into a thriving business—small but mighty.
Yes, ready access to the proven technology provides part of the solution. The right outlook matters, too, as attitudes become more accepting of working virtually.
For instance, FlexJobs in December cited compelling statistics: “According to Upwork, 41.8% of the American workforce continues to work remotely. Although an estimated 26.7% will still be working from home through 2021, 36.2 million Americans (22% of the workforce) will be working remotely by 2025.“ That is a staggering 87% increase from the number of remote workers prior to the pandemic.
So, the stage is set—and potential players of all sizes are in place—to accommodate whatever future working environments dictate.
Educators engage workers remotely
Beyond the necessary IT, remote education requires not just a good, but a great workforce training team. Teaching virtually calls for instructors grounded in education who embrace modern ways to engage workers spread out across thousands of miles in multiple locations. Virtual classrooms also require more sophisticated delivery.
Effective educators know how to connect long-distance with workers. Instruction includes customized learning through bite-sized bits of information, role-playing, breakouts into small groups, and online interactions with instructors and virtual classmates.
Sessions should incorporate auditory, visual, and kinesthetic aspects to keep everyone involved, according to business.com. Educators skilled in the virtual classroom do micro-learning with tools that animate presentations, captivating workers with infographics and interactive tutorials. To ensure 100-percent participation, instructors should energize participants with stimulated customer-service scenarios and quizzes.
In our multimedia-and-multisensory world, remote education has to be on par with workers’ everyday lives. Truth is, educator-led instruction recreates real-life experiences. It better prepares participants to address in-the-moment situations and ever-escalating consumer expectations.
This modern approach to learning plays right into the entrepreneurial mindset—fusing virtual training with viable business outcomes. Think, do and be. All at once and everywhere.
Caring culture seals the deal
For entrepreneurs, more is required to succeed over long distances and in the long run. And that comes down to having the proper corporate culture. By its nature, a caring culture promotes open communications and stimulates learning for organizations, large and small.
Developing a transparent, sharing workplace helps individuals feel included and valued, especially for remote businesses—be they start-up or established. You’ve got to connect with people to compete, inside and outside the business.
Driven by the pandemic, job arrangements, where workers divide their time at home and in the office, are now common, HRDive reported this past summer.
With this change, though, comes major concerns about “maintaining corporate culture,” according to a Gartner survey. It cited: “Sixty-one percent of respondents said they had implemented more frequent check-ins between employees and managers.”
Here, emotional intelligence can differentiate an in-touch workplace from an out-of-touch one, regardless of where individuals are located. Skilled workers gravitate to companies where they feel appreciated, and to organizations known for attracting higher-caliber talent. In both cases, the payoffs often are reflected in morale and margins.
This holds true, whatever the age or size of the business. And when learning is individualized and delivered within a caring culture, the investment in a virtual workforce pays off far beyond the classroom.
Investing for the long term
No matter how thorough the instruction, workers won’t know everything the first day on the job. This means circling back to reinforce key lessons, listening to customer interactions, and providing workers with continuous feedback. Badge recognition rewards and encourages ongoing performance after initial onboarding.
An educator also might create a 30-, 60- or 90-day development plan to keep sharpening workers’ skills, done through a learning management system. Such a system is designed to create, distribute and manage the delivery of educational content. It underpins all participant development, in the virtual classroom and through ongoing education.
A shared community website complements all of this, promoting a sense of belonging. There, workers review their performance, receive business updates and learn about new opportunities, as well as interact with peers. Common ground for common good.
In 2020, organizations, new and old, re-engineered how they trained and operated outside the traditional office. Some made it work; others didn’t. Regardless, all should be commended.
Against a backdrop of hope, entrepreneurs should apply hard-earned lessons against New Year opportunities in front of them, back in the office or staying virtual. A combination of the two might be best. Because there’s leverage to be had in 2021 from both.