How to Cross-Train Employees When Your Workforce is Remote

By Jeanette Coleman, SPHR & SHRM-SCP on Dec 18, 2019
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There are many ways work and employment have changed in the 21st century. You can send emails from your smartphone, share spreadsheets via the cloud and research job applicants on social media. One of the biggest trends employers are seeing as we move further into the century, though, is the number of employees wanting to work remotely.

Remote work has a handful of advantages. It offers a more flexible schedule as remote workers can skip the daily commute and work from their home or local coffee shop. It allows workers to work with team members who are dotted around various locations of the globe. But remote work can be a double-edged sword for companies who wish to cross-train their employees.

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Cross-training involves continual observation and oversight. To learn about a new position, an employee often needs to shadow other employees and learn from them. This is hard to do in a remote work environment where employee interaction is reduced to emails, phone calls and the occasional video chat.

This doesn’t mean you need to abandon hope of cross-training your remote employees altogether, nor should you. Cross-training is vital for protecting your business from sudden departures and making sure employees aren’t bored by repetition. In order for you to reap these benefits, we’ve compiled a list of strategies for cross-training your employees even if they work thousands of miles away.

Strategies for Cross-Training Remote Employees

  1. Step into Streaming.

Since your remote employees don’t get usually get to interact with other employees often, losing out on the subtle aspects of the job that other employees pick up on, making online videos featuring employees at your main location can help make your remote employees feel included. If you make these videos training-based, remote employees might gain insight through the videos that they would miss out on if they were simply reading documentation. Much of communication is non-verbal, and internet videos take advantage of this by showcasing employee mannerisms and body language.

Make these videos 5-15 minutes long and you’ll be in a good spot. Workers are more willing to routinely stream bite-size content than sit through marathon orientations that last two hours.

  1. Make Employee Engagement Digital.

Oftentimes, when HR departments put on employee engagement events, they focus on the people at the office. They host holiday parties, organize office sporting events or plan team-building exercises. But remote workers need to be engaged, too, and they usually can’t (or won’t) make it in for the annual ugly sweater luncheon.

One way to offer engagement to remote employees is to recognize remote workers on social media platforms, email newsletters, or company websites. Post examples of their work so that other employees can offer feedback or congratulations. Feature employees at your main location too so that remote employees get to see some of the work others are doing at the workplace.

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  1. Include Remote Workers on Committees.

Many companies have employee committees that are made up of people from different departments. These committees allow for inter-department exposure and collaboration. If your business has any of these committees, encourage committee members to reach out to remote workers as well, even if it means holding meetings with a phone in the room on speaker. When remote workers are on these committees, they’re exposed to new ideas and new roles that they can take on in the future.

  1. Shared Projects, Shared Knowledge.

Assign group projects that employees — remote and non-remote — can work on together. While working on group projects, remote employees will collaborate with other employees and learn more about how their role impacts your company. It will also encourage them to interact with other employees who have different roles. Throughout the course of the project, your remote employees will inevitably pick up on what their peers are doing. They’re likely to learn a thing or two, if not more.

As we get more and more connected through public Wi-Fi and 5G, the amount of remote work available will continue to grow. Utilize these tips to prepare for that future, but be sure to reach out to Axcet HR Solutions to learn how else you can be prepared for technology’s impact on workspaces now and in years to come.

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