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. 

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.

Conference Calls … They’re so 1995

June 24, 2014 10:23 by Rebecca Doepke
It’s Monday morning, time to lead your team’s weekly sales call. The agenda for the call is to give an update on sales, discuss what’s in the pipeline, and have the team share success stories. Everyone dials in and you’re ready to go. Sounds like a straight forward and simple group conversation, right?  Unfortunately, here is how this conference call typically goes down.Before you kick off the call and get to your agenda, you first need to find out who’s on the call. In other words, take attendance. This doesn’t exactly get the call started with collaborative enthusiasm and energy, not to mention burns another 5 minutes of everyone’s time. After you take attendance, hopefully everyone is still paying attention as you move on to share last week’s sales and year-to-date numbers. You’re not sure because no one has done much talking but you.Next, you open it up for success stories, and the real fun of managing communication on the call is about to begin. After a moment of silence, three people start talking at the same time. Then they all stop talking before saying simultaneously, “Oh, I’m sorry. Go ahead.” Followed by, “No, you go ahead.” More silence takes place. Then the three people start talking at the same time … again. Not only do you have to call out who should talk first, you also have to keep track of who has already shared their story and who still needs to contribute.Finally, you have to deal with those that didn’t speak up amidst this chaos. Time to call on them one by one.By the time the call is over, an hour later, there is a sigh of relief. Everyone is glad the time waster is over so they can get some work done.So, what other options do we have? Why not a virtual meeting?Let’s try it again and see what that looks like.It’s Monday morning, time to lead your team’s weekly sales meeting. Everyone logs into your virtual meeting platform and connects to the meeting audio as directed. The agenda for the call is to give an update on sales, discuss what’s in the pipeline, and share success stories. No need to take attendance, everyone present is listed right there on your screen. You also know who has connected to the audio. You’re ready to get right down to business. Now you can kick off the virtual meeting with enthusiasm and energy!You open it up for success stories and managing communication is easy. You can pose a question asking who would like to share their success story by raising their hand. You can simply call on the folks that raised their hand and avoid several people talking at the same time. If you want to stop putting people on the spot and make sure that everyone is prepared to share, give this idea a try. In your meeting invitation, ask everyone to come prepared with a success story to share summarized in the form of a written headline. Instead of having everyone share their stories one at a time, you would prepare a whiteboard exercise asking everyone to post their headline on a whiteboard. Once all headlines are posted, the group could vote on which headline they would like to hear more about first.  Virtual meetings offer participants the opportunity to interact, engage, and collaborate in multiple ways versus only verbal conversation. Through the use of collaboration tools, everyone can interact with your content, visuals, slides, web links, and video. Turning on webcams might be an option so that participants can see each other as they share their success stories, something that is not possible on a conference call.There isn’t an option for smaller groups to work together on a conference call, but virtually you could use breakout rooms.  Here’s a thought:Best practices can be shared and extrapolated through the use of breakout rooms. Consider breaking the large group into smaller teams by placing them in breakout rooms to share on-the-job experiences. These smaller groups can use a whiteboard to take notes, which can later be shared with the larger group when everyone comes back together and downloaded as a takeaway from the session. Keep in mind, breakout rooms offer a comfort level to those who prefer smaller groups when asked to participate. Switching gears to the end of the meeting:On most conference calls, there’s usually some type of follow-up. Whether it is to share notes from the call, sending out a document or white paper that was promised, or an email reminder of action items assigned in the meeting. In a virtual meeting, notes can be taken in real time right in front of everyone, and everyone can leave with the notes through file sharing. How efficient is that?Whether it’s the weekly sales update, a discussion around best practices, or a project management meeting, conference calls can be challenging and oftentimes are not as productive and efficient as you would like them to be. So, why not consider going virtual?

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Online Meetings | Sales | Virtual Meetings

The Pre-work Predicament

April 9, 2014 14:56 by Dana Peters
Trainers and meeting facilitators see tremendous value in getting a jump start to their virtual instructor-led training (VILT) classes or online meetings by assigning pre-work. Yet time and time again this effort results in only a portion of participants actually completing their assignments and arriving fully prepared for the online event. Let’s take a closer look at this challenge. Why is pre-work assigned? Trainers and meeting facilitators say: Time in the online classroom or meeting space is precious. Pre-work gets participants thinking about the topic beforehand, formulating new ideas, or learning some foundational information. Well planned pre-work leads to well-prepared participants, ready to hit the ground running in our sessions. When submitted ahead of time, pre-work is a way to get to know participants; where they are at with the topic, what their capabilities are, and what their interests/motivations are. Pooled together, pre-work is a snap shot of the participant group as a whole, allowing us to customize the training or meeting objectives before we even get started. Why is pre-work not done? Participants say: Sometimes there is no compelling reason to complete it. We don’t see the value or connection between doing the pre-work and our participation in the class or meeting. It doesn’t seem important or required therefore we assume it’s optional. “What pre-work?” I must have overlooked it amongst the hundreds of other emails I receive each day. I forgot. I set it aside to complete later. Later never came.  It’s boring. I started it but it was too painful to finish. How do we change this? WIIFM. The old “What’s In It For Me.” Simple, but often overlooked. We suggest your introduction to the pre-work include a clear and concise explain of why the pre-work is beneficial to the participant. If you are having trouble articulating the WIIFM from the participant’s perspective for the pre-work you have planned, then you should question if the pre-work you have designed is necessary. Make this commitment: Any and all pre-work will be compelling and necessary. Related to WIIFM, the connection between the pre-work and the goals and objectives of your meeting or training class need to be clear. If the participants sense that skipping the pre-work will result in being lost, out of the loop, and ill prepared in comparison to the rest of their peers, they will be more motivated to do the pre-work. Set expectations. Make it crystal clear to participants how their time on pre-work will contribute directly to the conversation, content, outcome, and their ability to participate. Pre-work should be front and center at the beginning of the training or meeting, first up on the agenda. This will get the session off the ground quickly with energy. Be clear about how much time it will take to complete the pre-work. If the time commitment is on the longer side, consider breaking it up into multiple steps. Provide a mini-checklist so that participants know how much they have done and how far they have to go. Have a submission process. We find pre-work that results in something that is turned in or that you are able to document online as completed is more likely to get done. Communicate well and often. When explaining the pre-work requirement in the initial invitation, ask for acknowledgement and commitment to do the work. Utilize a communication timeline for the whole pre-session process. We suggest automating these steps as much as possible. Share accountability. Hold up your end of the bargain with a promise of quality. 1) You will only design meaningful and interesting pre-work and 2) facilitate sessions that meet, if not exceed, the stated objectives and goals. Be clear on how the objectives or goals of the event will be negatively impacted unless everyone has completed the pre-work going into the session; often peers will hold each other accountable. Sometimes the pressure of letting the group down is enough to make the pre-work a priority on everyone’s task list. Accept the fact that your communication process needs to include multiple reminders and some hand-holding. Make it easy, interesting, and flexible. Invest the time necessary to make the pre-work interesting. It should be visually appealing and command attention. Consider options outside of “read this document before our meeting.” Could you use other mediums: video clips, podcasts, short learning modules, or other paper based activities? Make it easy to get to and work on. If you are sending out reminders, include the pre-work information/links again so participants don’t have to dig around for it. Can your pre-work easily be worked on from the road (on commuter train or business trip)? Can it be completed in short sittings, perfect for fillers in-between meetings or during the wait at the doctor’s office? How do we handle those non-compliers? Following the same vein as being clear about pre-work expectations, we suggest that you are also clear about the consequences for not completing pre-work. This can be as direct as automatically withdrawing the participant from the event attendee list, after sending several reminders, to giving the participant “the out” by allowing them to withdraw from attending voluntarily. These are some of our thoughts on how to handle pre-work challenges. What are some of yours?

The Next Chapter for Mondo Learning Solutions?

April 1, 2014 12:11 by Dana Peters
If you follow me or my company closely, you know we have been in business for a few years now and our focus has been on connecting corporate learning & development professionals with the highest quality learning experts in the field. Acting as a learning matchmaker of sorts, not only have we learned a lot operating under this broad-brush business model, but also we are evolving from it. Old habits die hard and my corporate strategic planning instincts are still in my blood. So this past October, as usual, I sat down to reflect on what we have accomplished and where we are headed. In the back of my mind I had a sense of where we were at, but I think it is important to look at all the data together: client feedback, where leads are coming from, where our relationships are strongest, where clients need help, what we are good at, and where the revenue is coming from. The outcome of all this? For us, all roads lead to the virtual-instructor led training (VILT) space, and so begins the next chapter of Mondo Learning Solutions. We are excited to focus our energies into helping our clients plan, design, and deliver groundbreaking live online training and events. We will continue to connect organizations with the highest quality independent experts and niche training firms, but now we are laser-focused on the live online learning arena. Curious about what this all means? We’ve updated the website to reflect the services we offer, the areas in which we consult, and the professional development workshops available. Visit us at www.mondolearning.com to learn more.

Managing Two Simultaneous Audience Groups: In-Person and Remote Attendees

March 14, 2014 12:38 by Greg Owen-Boger
My team and I recently found ourselves in a situation we advise our clients to avoid. It occurs to me that if even WE can’t follow our own advice, how can we expect others to? So, instead of saying “don’t do it,” here’s some advice for dealing with it. The situation is this: You’re presenting to a group of individuals. You’re in the conference room and you have some slides to back you up. You also have a few people logging in remotely using a desktop sharing platform. It’s one thing to manage the group in the conference room. It’s an entirely different thing to manage the remote group as well. It’s nearly impossible to keep everyone focused and on the same page, which is why we don’t recommend doing it. But reality is what reality is. So, here are some ideas for managing both groups so that everyone remains equally engaged and actively participating. The main thing is to remain engaged so that you can monitor everything that’s going on. You have responsibility for both audience groups. Remind the in-person group to be thoughtfully inclusive of the people participating remotely. When side-bar conversations happen, they leave the remote participants feeling left out, as if they are merely observers rather than active participants. Ask remote attendees to put their phones on mute. Too much background noise coming from several phones at once becomes distracting to people in both groups. Encourage remote attendees to use the chat feature when they have questions or comments. Assign a spokesperson who can speak for the remote attendees. This person should monitor chat and be the voice and advocate of the remote attendees. Use directional language such as “in the upper right corner…,” or “moving on to slide 13….” These verbal cues will help everyone know where to focus. Check in with the remote attendees throughout by asking if they have anything they’d like to add to the conversation. At that point they can unmute themselves or use the chat feature. Managing both audience groups can be a real challenge, but by using these ideas, you should be able to do it without too much trouble.    

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Online Learning | Online Meetings | Turpin Communication