Building employee development in an organisation is a challenging task at the best of times. In a coronavirus economy and society, it can seem downright daunting. With COVID-19 having forced hundreds of thousands of employers across the country to transition to remote-working, employee development might be the last thing on your mind. But, when you examine it, the transition to remote-working actually presents some unique ways for your company to enhance its employee development programmes. With that in mind, here are 4 tips to help you build a learning culture within remote teams in your organisation.

1. Be flexible and adaptable
The success of the learning culture in your company rests, in part, on the values and approach that you take to learning itself. The most effective learning cultures are adaptable and flexible, reflecting the fact that plans never really follow a predictable path.

It doesn’t really matter how impressive the learning programme is – if it’s not adaptable to the needs, schedules and learning styles of its students then it’s likely to fail.

For example, think of natural selection in the environment – arguably, one of the ways that life ‘learns’. Whilst the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ is bandied about a lot, in practice, it’s not necessarily the strongest species that survive and thrive – it’s actually the most adaptable.

Hence, why the humble rat has survived multiple ice ages and the massive Tyrannosaurus-Rex is now a fossil.

Don’t worry if your L&D strategy isn’t the most advanced offering out there – just make sure that you leave the strategy flexible enough to enable new approaches, tactics and tools to be used with it.

2. Build the learning structures
Creating defined learning structures is really important for adding a sense of permanency to your learning culture, and a sense that it is something ‘real’ rather than just a one-time project.

Don’t get too scared of structure. A structure can be something as simple as having a broad list of subjects you want your employees to cover, through to something as detailed as a full syllabus, online workshop calendar and planned activities.

Of course, the more specifics that you can provide, the more effective your learning structure is likely to be.

For example, an ideal structure could be something like this:

• Employees are given online learning modules to complete
• Knowledge is tested through online quizzes and progress checks
• On a set date, learners join a group video call (led by a tutor) to:
• Talk about what they’ve learned
• Discuss how to use it in practice
• Ensure common understanding
• Pick up on any points that weren’t clear

Building a learning structure is simply a case of putting pen to paper and working out how you’re going to deliver the education you want to offer!

3. Celebrate the positives of online learning…
Whether a learning culture takes root in your organisation depends on how much your employees believe that it’s something that actually benefits them and that the results are worth the effort. The same holds true of senior stakeholders too.

This means that a central plank of your learning strategy should be selling the benefits! Make a list of general benefits that a strong learning culture will provide to your company, and then try to drill down further into these, looking at their short-term and long-term benefits, for example.

Some obvious benefits of online and remote learning include:

• It treats employees like adults and not children – employees are trusted to take control of their own learning
• Reduced costs – there are no venue/transport fees and trainer time is minimised
• People can fit learning around other commitments

Be sure to emphasise how employee development can help the wider company too – doing some research into measurable facts that you can quote is useful here.

For instance, a recent survey from Deloitte suggesting that companies which invest in employee development are 92% more likely to innovate, 42% more likely to be change-makers in their industry, and 58% more prepared for the future than those companies which don’t have a learning culture in place.

4. …but be honest about the challenges
Of course, as well as selling the positives, make sure you’re honest about the things that employees might find difficult about remote learning – and provide a solution. If you’re honest about the difficulties that your team is likely to face, you can nip issues in the bud when they’re still relatively manageable and improve your chances of building a long-term, deeply embedded learning culture.

One of the most obvious challenges is the lack of face-to-face contact with remote learning. For some people, who find they learn better on their own, this is fine, but others might struggle without the supervision of a tutor.

The nature of video call technology can also present unique challenges. Patchy WiFi connections can cause havoc for some students, and many people can find large group video calls a bit unruly sometimes. Being honest about the potential challenges and preparing your company to face them will help to improve the sustainability of your learning culture overall.

Bearing these tips in mind will help you to build an adaptable, scalable learning culture at your company that can provide tangible benefits for employees and the wider organisation.

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