L&D professionals can offer leadership to remote workers and team leaders that goes far beyond guiding them to online training resources. Expertise in virtual training and learning platforms and technologies often translates to facility with a broad variety of social and communications platforms and technology.
At The Learning Guild’s winter Online Forum, Suzi Dunford, senior vice president for learning and talent development at First Citizens Bank, described creating a virtual collaboration hub for her organization as thousands of employees pivoted to online learning, working, and collaborating: “We created an online collaboration hub because the need for virtual work was not limited to training. This hub was a one-stop shop for all things virtual.” Her L&D team addressed everything from how to use virtual working tools to strategies for keeping employees engaged in meetings as well as in their training, and more.
As employees continue to work remotely and teams struggle to maintain their connections and effectiveness, providing tools and coaching remains a high priority. These seven suggestions can help you create your own virtual collaboration hub, enabling your team to extend learning and lead your organization to improved collaboration and outcomes:
1. Offer coaching on virtual instruction
Think meta: The pivot to virtual instructor-led training happened very quickly, too quickly for instructors accustomed to in-person teaching to learn the skills needed to move their teaching online.
Sharing tips for preparing materials, skillfully delivering online instruction in a virtual classroom, and using tools that make virtual sessions more interactive will boost instructors’ confidence and improve learners’ engagement. Many virtual instruction professionals offer free or inexpensive resources and toolkits, and Learning Solutions has published several articles on the topic.
Include links to tutorials and troubleshooting guides for the virtual classroom platform, videoconferencing tools, and other virtual tools your organization is using.
2. Aid in virtual team building
Workers and managers alike struggle with the challenges of being part of a virtual team. Your online collaboration hub should include resources and best practices for both managing a virtual team and being an effective member of one. This might include resources on:
- Learning games or gamified content that encourages team members to work together to achieve a goal—or fuel friendly competition for small prizes
- Making time for social chatting and check-ins in addition to work-focused online gatherings
- Training on and encouraging the use of collaborative platforms like Teams, Slack, or Yammer that don’t require teammates to be on at the same time or on camera
- Leveraging social media platforms for eLearning and collaboration
- Adopting mind-mapping or brainstorming tools that allow teams to identify and resolve bottlenecks, brainstorm solutions to problems, share tips and workarounds, or collaboratively design anything from a new product to an optimized remote workflow
3. Encourage teams to use a project management tool
Collaborative online project management tools are a valuable asset for dispersed teams. A quick glance at your team’s color-coded Trello board or Basecamp calendar can instantly let team members know where things stand, what they need to work on, and how teammates are progressing on items they need. Again, provide training and support as teams learn to navigate this new tool and different way of working. Creating templates and labels or categories that work for your organization and tailoring training to specific needs at your organization can jump-start productivity and adoption of the tools.
4. Create, optimize, or promote a knowledge base
If your organization had been dragging its digital feet, assuming that colleagues could learn from peers and walk down the hall to ask for needed information, now is the time to create or update your company’s knowledge base.
Ensure that key documents, manuals, policies, and tutorials are easily accessible on your collaboration hub platform—whether that’s your LMS or a shared server or a website. Put as much knowledge as you can at managers’ and team members’ fingertips, making it easy for them to find when working remotely. Consider creating a map or infographic that helps people find the information they need, quickly.
A knowledge base is an excellent performance support tool and an easy way to organize and preserve the institutional knowledge that rests with one or a few experts and longtime employees.
5. Curate content
Search for and share third-party content on best practices in your industry, as well as news—whether about your organization, your field, or local COVID developments—that will help colleagues thrive throughout their work-from-home experience. Current, vetted curated content serves as an excellent performance support and problem-solving tool in addition to fueling self-directed learning among employees.
6. Adopt a file-sharing platform
Try to keep your entire organization on the same page with software and tools for sharing and transferring large files, as well as version control of collaborative documents. Are you using Dropbox or OneDrive to share documents? Word or Google Docs to collaboratively write, revise, and share documents and spreadsheets? Provide tutorials, tips, and online help for the tools of choice in your collaboration hub.
7. Don’t neglect security
With teams working remotely, data and information security poses new challenges. Include training on common threats and basic safety and security practices in your collaboration hub—and encourage managers to review best practices with their teams. Off-the-shelf network security training courses are widely available; choose one that addresses common problems like weak passwords and phishing scams, and encourage (or require) all remote employees to take the training. Consider implementing a VPN, multi-factor authentication, or both for remote employees and provide training on why these matter and how to use them effectively.
Join the Alliance to discover more tips and best practices
Are you seeking the strategies and skills required to navigate the needs of today’s ever-changing workplace? Are you an experienced or aspiring leader looking for a community to connect with to explore today’s biggest learning leadership challenges?
The Learning Leaders Alliance is a vendor-neutral global community for learning leaders who want to stay ahead of the curve, and for aspiring leaders wanting to build their skillsets. The Learning Guild’s Alliance Membership package includes access to exclusive digital events and content curated for today’s modern learning leader, as well as opportunities to attend in-person learning leadership events held around the globe. See The Guild’s website for details and to join us.