5 Key Components of a Successful Remote Workforce

April 10, 2018 11:29 by Dana Peters
At the top of most employee’s working conditions “wish list” is some level of flexibility. Effective and productive remote work opportunities can provide that benefit. Remote work capabilities also offer advantages for employers. Employers can reduce some overhead costs, rely on a happier (often more productive) workforce, and choose from a larger talent pool when hiring for open positions. So how does an employer adjust to the growing population of employees working remotely and do so effectively? At Mondo Learning Solutions several of our clients successfully manage a remote, often global, workforce. Our team at Mondo is also primarily remote. Based on our experiences and what we have observed, the following is a list of key components common amongst organizations that have successfully built and manage a remote workforce. Expectations As an employer, defining your expectations surrounding remote work and how it will be conducted is a critical step in the process. Once those expectations and parameters have been defined, communication needs to take place, both written and verbal. Conversations about schedules, working hours, time off, and communication protocol need to take place and be agreed to. Furthermore, employees working remotely need to understand the role they play in the overall success of the organization, regardless of their physical location.  Communication Overall, communication must be top of mind for all parties involved in the remote work relationship. Hallway and informal lunch time conversations will not occur with a remote workforce so having a communication protocol in place is necessary for success. Establish good communication from the beginning of the working relationship by implementing a comprehensive employee onboarding process. The onboarding process should not only outline expectations, but also introduce remote employees to members of the team, individuals they will be working with and projects they will be working on. It’s important for employees to see the impact of the work they do, and communicating effectively is key to managing that. Technology Technology is your best friend when managing a workforce all over the globe. More than ever, technology has the ability to put people “face-to-face” even from remote locations. But it goes beyond just investing in the right technology. Employers need to make sure their remote workforce can utilize technology; that they have the proper equipment and remote office set up. Technology also goes beyond equipment. File sharing services and all collaboration programs remote employees will leverage to work together need to be in place and part of daily work life. Training Training, in my opinion, is folded in to all that we have discussed so far. When thinking about new training initiatives, consider your remote employees equally when making decisions about learning programs and access to those programs. It’s important to include your remote employees, and to explore options other than travel when doing so. Virtual training options can reduce expenses and reach a global audience more efficiently in most cases. Collaboration Remote employees and managers within a company still need to feel a sense of team connection and have the ability to collaborate even though they do not share the same physical space. Employers should provide and promote the use of online or virtual collaboration tools. Through these tools, teams can collaborate on various projects, discuss project roadblocks with colleagues, and see end results of their completed work. Additionally, with remote workers, it’s important to combat isolation. Providing opportunities to collaborate will help build a sense of community and position teams to be successful. Simple check-in calls between team members or their managers will also help to build a collaborative team environment, and alleviate any isolation issues remote employees may be dealing with. A remote workforce is an opportunity both for the employer and the employee. What tips do you have for managing a remote workforce? Anything we haven’t mentioned here? Leave us a note in the comments. 

Counting My Blessings

November 15, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
Where has the time gone? The holiday season is right around the corner, and before we know it, we will all be staring down the barrel of a brand new 2017. Mondo Learning Solutions is nearing our sixth anniversary in business, and like so many others, I find myself reflecting this holiday season on everything I have to be thankful for.First and foremost, I am thankful for our loyal clients; both for the work they give us and for the referrals they send our way. Our business would be nothing without them, and we look forward to continuing to serve their needs. Secondly, I am thankful for the Mondo team. Without our team of virtual producers, facilitators, instructional designers, virtual platform experts, writers, and assistants, all of whom also wear multiple hats, we wouldn’t be able to provide the level of service our clients have come to expect. I’ve come to realize that running a small business definitely takes a village. Days often start early and end late and while we do our best to maintain regular office hours, we all know that doesn’t always happen. I’m thankful for the love and support of my husband and my three daughters, all of whom have tirelessly supported me and encouraged me on this journey, and who have also fallen victim to the occasional, “I just have one more call to make….” statement. Along those same lines, I’m thankful for morning cups of coffee that often get me through back to back meetings, and cocktails on my patio in the evening after a successful day. I’m thankful my business has allowed me to cut my commute time to zero, and that the construction on my block has finally ended. You don’t realize how loud construction is until you work in the virtual space and are forced to try and avoid the deluge of noise.  My gratefulness extends beyond my core team as well. I am thankful for virtual learning partners like my friends and colleagues at Turpin Communication in Chicago and my fellow Board members with the Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter of the Association for Talent Development (SEWI-ATD). Both regularly share advice, expertise, and provide perspective for me in my daily work. I am thankful for the ability to work virtually with individuals all over the world. I have learned so much, broadened my experiences and my knowledge, and have made friends I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to make otherwise. Lastly, I am thankful for you, the readers of our blog. Perhaps without knowing it, you also drive growth in our business, provide perspective, and increase our learning and communication skills with your questions and comments. The end of the year is a busy time for everyone. We’re all scrambling, trying to meet deadlines, and set up client meetings before the craziness of the holidays actually takes hold. But, as I sit here, peering out from under the stack of paperwork on my desk, I realize I am truly blessed. What are you thankful for? 

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Turpin Communication | Virtual Learning

Be Seen: The Pros & Cons of Facilitator Web Camera Use in the Virtual Classroom (Part 1)

October 13, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
As I’ve mentioned in the past, the virtual classroom provides several advantages over the face-to-face environment for both learners and facilitators. However, the virtual environment also comes with what some may perceive as disadvantages. The most common; not being able to physically “see” your audience and the audience not being able to see you. As more and more platforms begin to add capabilities, including the ability to use web cameras in the virtual classroom, it may be assumed that the virtual session can easily be turned into a comparable face-to-face session by simply turning on your web camera. If you have spent any time communicating through a web camera, you know it is not the same as being in person. There’s a time and a place for the use of web cameras in a virtual session. In this post I’ve laid out a list of potential pros and cons you, as a facilitator, can use to evaluate whether or not your being on camera is a “value-add” or a distraction to your learners. At a glance… Pros Participants being able to see the session facilitator(s) helps put a face to name. It’s especially useful for introductions and the welcome time. Allows for virtual eye contact from the facilitator, potentially a more personal experience, if done well. Helps to establish the connection between the facilitator and the learner. Cons Web camera use can create new distractions: Participants may focus on what’s in the facilitator’s camera shot rather than paying attention to what is being discussed. (What’s that on the wall behind the facilitator?) If the audio doesn’t match up to the lip movements of the facilitator. Paper shuffling/background noises in the facilitator’s environment. Poor camera engagement on the part of the facilitator. Eye shifting from notes to camera to elsewhere. There is an increased opportunity for technical issues: If the video feed is slow/skipping (low bandwidth situations). User error. Little to no control over participant device or network. Time investment for the facilitator to test equipment, develop skills, and prepare. Using your virtual platform to its maximum capabilities can be beneficial to the outcomes you’re trying to achieve with your virtual training sessions. The use of web cameras during a session can be a value-add, if done correctly.   Stay tuned for Part 2 where we discuss in detail why it might not make sense to put your facilitator on camera for an entire virtual session.

Dress Rehearsals…A Non-Negotiable in the Virtual Classroom

June 14, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
We’ve all been there. You’re attending a conference. As the presenter takes the podium to begin, it happens. The lavaliere mic doesn’t work, and a blue screen illuminates the room where a presentation should be. Everyone is thinking….”Didn’t they test all this beforehand?” For musicians, artists, and, yes, even virtual facilitators and virtual producers, the dress rehearsal is an important step in making sure your first live delivery is a success, and not technical torture for all involved. Your team has spent countless hours creating killer content that involves the participants in the learning process and uses the technology to its maximum capability.  Session expectations have be en well communicated, pre-work is in the participants hands, and it seems that the only thing left to do is have that first live session. But this scenario leaves out an important element, the dress rehearsal. A tempting corner to cut that often becomes a regret. A dress rehearsal gives every key player involved in the session, a chance to work through the kinks, test equipment, and practice “hand-offs” planned during the session. It is also an opportunity to communicate last minute changes and adjustments, eliminating any surprises or miscommunications during the first live session. For experienced facilitators, the technology is the part that needs to be tested and practiced. The words and content come easy. It’s the virtual delivery in the actual platform that can be challenging. Each virtual learning platform comes with a myriad of tools and functionalities at the presenter’s disposal. If you’re working with a technical host, you may not have to know exactly how they all function, but it’s still a good idea to understand the capabilities of the virtual environment and test them out together. Here is a checklist of items we typically test. Presentations should be loaded so transitions and animations can be checked and double-checked. Any video clips should be streamed to test for sound, accuracy, and playback quality. The session audio, presenter headset, and other equipment should be tested, as well as web cameras if they will be used. Slides, polls, and other content can benefit from a second or third set of eyes checking for errors and flow.  Breakout room transitions and transitions to other planned activities within the session should be practiced.  A walk-through of specific activities that are new or complex. The opportunity to practice verbally setting up the activity and the giving directions of how the participants will participate will identify any minor verbal changes that are needed. Clarify roles. If you are working with a host, use the dress rehearsal to confirm who will be responsible for monitoring chat, welcoming participants, and other minor details. Review the flow. Flow is important in a virtual session, and running through the content ahead of time can help determine if the presentation is as relevant, clear, and organized as intended. It might be temp ting for experienced facilitators to want to skip the dress rehearsal, but more times than not multiple items surface in the process that could have had a negative impact on that first live session. Even if everything turns out to be perfect, and no mistakes are discovered, we all sleep better knowing we’ll avoid the infamous blue screen because we’ve tested and re-tested during the dress rehearsal.

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Learning | Practice | Virtual Learning

vILT Platform Dating: How to Select a Keeper

February 11, 2015 15:29 by Dana Peters
With so many ‘fish in the sea’ so to speak, it can be difficult to navigate today’s dating world. The same is true for finding the right virtual learning platform for your organization. Choosing the right platform for your virtual instructor-led training program is critical to its ongoing success, and is one of the four crucial steps we believe organization’s need to focus on when implementing, and enhancing, such a program. With over 100 platforms on the market, and new ones appearing in the market place every time you turn around, your organization is not short on options. And for some, the complexity of too many choices might be a big part of the challenge, but just like dating, it’s really about compatibility. Start With Questions The first step in selecting the most appropriate tools and technology for your organization is to ask a lot of questions. What type of training will you provide? What level of engagement is necessary for the class to be the most beneficial for everyone involved? Who are your participants? What access do they have to a quiet space to participate in a virtual class? Do they have access to a computer and the appropriate audio connection to participant in a virtual class? Who will be delivering the training? What are their existing capabilities? How do you envision virtual training in your organization might grow and expand over the next few years? Are there other applications in which this platform might be utilized? (Example: a sales presentation with potential customers, or training for existing clients on a new product). Once you have a clear understanding of your big picture needs you will be able to narrow your options down more efficiently as you start to investigate options.Create Your Short List The ease of use for both your delivery team and your participants is something to consider closely. On a basic level, most virtual learning platforms are designed to be intuitive and easy-to-use, but there will still be a learning curve so keep in mind who will be utilizing the platform as well.  Are your primary participants tech savvy people, or will they need a simple platform with lots of outlined instructions to gain the most benefit from your training course? Again, like any long-term relationship, it’s most important to find the right balance.The ability to customize the classroom set up may or may not be an important consideration. The more customizable the platform is, the more complex it is to administer, work with, maintain, and manage. While less customizable platforms may seem more restrictive from an instructional design perspective. Budget is an important factor. Each organization is going to have different needs as it relates to how the platform is deployed. Many platforms offer multiple options dependent on the client’s size and technical requirements. In larger cases, an enterprise on premise solution may be required where smaller organizations is a managed services or on demand solution may fit the bill.The financial aspect is an important part of the equation so it makes sense to sit down and really discuss the investment. Once an annual spend is agreed to it helps to narrow your list of contenders. There may also be compatibility and security issues to consider with your organization’s internal systems, PCS, Mac computers, and even wireless and remote connections. Engaging your internal IT in these conversations will be an important step in this process.Testing The Waters Dating typically starts with casual lunches, meet ups for coffee or a few cocktails. Rarely, do people jump right into a long-term commitment. For success, it’s important to test out the compatibility between you and your virtual training platform too. Utilize short-term trials of specific platforms to test out your top three choices. Seeing the platforms in action, as you and your team plan to use them will be extremely beneficial. What platforms have you implemented? What has worked, and what challenges did you face? I’d love to hear your feedback. From our perspective finding the right virtual platform for your program is just one important component to implementing a successful program. If you’re wondering what the other components are, you can read about them in my post: Building Bullet Proof Online Training Programs.