Home’s been my office for years, and for a long time this was unique. Not anymore. Now I’m only one of the millions of Americans dialing in from their living rooms, kitchens, or homeoffices.
A survey by the Conference Board found 77 percent of human capital executives anticipate the number of remote employees will increase as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. And a Boston Consulting Group survey revealed that companies expect about 40 percent of their employees to work from home in the future. It’s clear that remote work is here to stay.
A remote workplace model has significant implications for how businesses recruit, onboard, and develop talent. We have a team of more than 6,000 remote call center agents at KellyConnect. We employ 421 team leads who manage up to 15 agents each, and last year alone, we trained 200 leaders remotely. We’ve been focused on work-from-home for over 10 years. Given the current environment, I thought Iwill share some of our tips for developing leaders virtually.
1. Create a Learning Culture First
Leadership training—whether it’s virtual or in-person—can only be effective if your organization is committed to learning. Before you put tools and processes in place, it’s crucial management buys into your overall strategy for professional development. In practice, that means executives should instill a learning culture, and your head of training should sit at the table with other business leaders. This will foster conversations that align leadership development goals with business metrics and identify training areas that need special attention. This is particularly important when you’re developing leaders who interact with customers, either directly or through their staff.
An example of best practices comes from our call center solutions, where we support clients across industries. We’ve built a fully virtual supervisor training that wraps around specific coaching developed by our customers. Six instructors administer both the Kelly and client training over a 15-day period to eligible employees who’ve been with the company for at least 90 days. Our 421 team leads all started as KellyConnect agents and have been promoted internally.
2. Picking the Right Vendors and Instructors
Delivering impactful virtual instructor-led training (VILT) is tricky. You need the right tools, and that means selecting services ranging from simple to highly complex. How do you choose the right vendor?
A remote workplace model has significant implications for how businesses recruit, onboard, and develop talent
It comes down to understanding your desired training outcomes and the tools needed to get there. Here are some questions to ask before vetting a service:
• Do you require multiple trainees to interact live on camera?
• Will your training benefit from roleplaying and problem-solving exercises?
• What are the security protocols you need to consider?
Other considerations include partnering with a company that shares your corporate culture and determining if there are additional opportunities for collaboration. For example, I serve on the advisory board for one of our providers, which has made for a strong relationship that ultimately enhances the training delivery.
But even the best tools only take you so far. The success of your VILT ultimately depends on the quality of your instructors. There’s an art and science to teaching virtually. Your instructors should not only be subject matter experts, they also need to understand how to leverage VILT tools to keep trainees engaged while moving them through the curriculum.
3. A Hybrid Model for Leadership 101
We have developed five individual curriculums and deployed around 120 learning modules for KellyConnect. We recommend the following best practices:
• Employ a hybrid training model that is 70% instructor-led and 30% self-guided.
• Hostup to 10 trainees for interactive sessions such as motivating direct reports, providing constructive feedback, and leading team meetings in virtual classrooms.
Participants apply the concepts discussed to real-world situations via exercises within our learning management system. They’ll roleplay a performance review or navigate through a crisis scenario, for example. They complete these exercises at their own pace. Many are recorded, graded by our instructors, and shared with peers in the program to solicit feedback.
4. Continuous Training and Clear Metrics
Leadership training doesn’t end when virtual classes and exercises are completed. A crucial step is to measure the impact of your VILT and determine if changes are required or additional coaching is needed. A survey of participants will give you immediate feedback on how valuable they found your training. That can be followed by additional touchpoints over the next 90 days or so, where coaches reinforce concepts and identify knowledge gaps.
These touchpoints also help determine how training has impacted behavior and performance. One critical point is to decide which metrics are most valuable to you. In KellyConnect’s case, we look at data around customer satisfaction, call handling times, and knowledge scores. We also gather feedback on supervisor performance from both their direct reports and managers. This has allowed us to be very responsive to what happens in our call centers and deploy specialized training quickly.
If you’re one of the companies who’ve shifted successfully to remote work during this pandemic, then you might be considering a permanent work-from-home model. You can only manage that transition well if you have a comprehensive virtual leadership development strategy. The tools are out there. Take advantage of them. We hope you find our four best practices helpful.