Flexy Solutions: Connect with Collaborative Learning Even When Your Team is on Different Time Zones
Remote work hit a lot of companies hard. But the added layer of flexible scheduling while ALSO working remotely creates complexity that a lot of organizations just don't know how to deal with.
Most work is still inherently social. We deal with people. We ask questions. We get answers and have to respond. We build for target markets and audiences, considering how we might best serve the consumer.
We learn from our observations of and interactions with others.
It's important we don't remove the social element just because we've gone remote and we're working at different times.
At this point, you may be asking yourself...
How can we possibly collaborate and learn together when we're on different schedules?
Well, that's a question we hope to answer for you in today's post.
What Not to Do
Let's start with a brief list of things that we traditionally use for training that WON'T work for you:
A meeting where everyone sits in a conference room to review content and discuss.
Virtual instructor-led training where everyone has to join in a live session and participate in breakout rooms.
Live-streaming a presentation where people can chat in the comments.
For obvious reasons, these three don't work. They're trying to force everyone on to the same schedule.
But how about this one...
You use a LMS to deliver self-paced elearning (with some caveats to this one).
So much self-paced eLearning is like reading a book in silence and never telling anyone about it. People click next to continue and then go about their day. This is especially true in remote environments, where it's not like you're just going to tap someone on the shoulder to talk about what you're seeing or someone happens to oversee that you're working on a training as they walk by and then stop to chat.
Now you might be thinking...
Wait a minute here. We can't do face to face, we can't do vILT, and we can't do self-paced eLearning. Is there anything left?
Try This Instead
Start by asking yourself (or having your L&D leader ask) three questions:
What is it we want to happen when this learning experience has been completed? There's a gap somewhere-- whether it's new information or a failure to execute to the degree expected. Define the expectation.
How do people collaborate / connect to work here, even when they aren't doing it for learning / training reasons? There are tools already at your disposal. People have to communicate to get work done, even if their job is "independent." Examine what communication channels are leveraged most frequently. Think about where your workforce lives.
What inspires, intrigues, or aggravates people enough to get them talking? Communication happens when people want answers or want to share. They need motivation to do so, and experiencing strong emotions can be a motivator.
Now that you've explored the core you can start to build the action plan. Choose your:
The best tool is the one that people are already using-- email, Teams, Slack... whatever. Meet people where they are rather than making them learn something new.
Leverage these tools to deliver the training content (we'll get to this in just a moment) OR to lead people to the training content if it lives somewhere else, like a LMS / LXP.
You'll also need these tools to create a community space where people can connect and share. Bonus points if those spaces are easily searchable.
If you don't already have an easy place for people to connect, this is your sign to sign up (We use Workplace by Meta at Your Instructional Designer, and we also recommend it to clients who want to implement social learning networks).
As you go through what content you'll include, remember... you're creating a collaborative, SOCIAL learning experience. You don't have to, and, in fact, shouldn't try to cram everything in.
If it doesn't help them close the gap you identified, it's nice to know, and doesn't go in the training content (but maybe it's a job aid or a conversation you have later).
Stick to the essentials, and let the rest happen organically through conversations.
Your training content will need to be delivered in an asynchronous format -- one that doesn't need to be accessed in the moment-- since your team doesn't have a common schedule.
We suggest building blocks of microlearning that can be delivered digitally. Some of our favorite ways to distribute this content include:
Social media posts / internal comms posts (e.g., social posts to Slack)
Email (see The Nudge, for example)
Short video in a searchable playlist
EdApp, which has social learning features built in
What makes these self-paced eLearning and online resources different from the ones I called out earlier are going to be the ways in which they're designed.
Continue reading to learn more.
We already talked about using your communication tools to deliver Learning Campaigns, the L&D version of the marketer's drip campaign.
Using internal collaboration tools schedule posts or messages at regular intervals that provide content or lead users to it. This might be daily, weekly, or monthly, but it should be regular so it eventually becomes expected.
The regularly scheduled content not only keeps the work top of mind but creates a shared experience. This is key to creating a social and collaborative learning environment. They can only have conversations about content if others are able to speak to it.
If you've ever had to teach or prepare a training, you probably know that, most of the time, there will be one or two people who like to talk and the rest have to be encouraged to participate in discussion.
That doesn't change with eLearning and online resources. But for whatever reason, it gets ignored.
There is one very simple way to increase socialization and collaboration.
Ask for it!
Give people prompts that invite them to connect and share in relevant, meaningful ways.
Marketers are great at this. They call it a "call to action."
Invite people to share stories. Remind them to ask for help. Prompt them to respond to specific questions. Don't just hope they'll go seeking interaction.
It can be as simple as saying something like...
You just read this post-- and a big congrats for getting all the way through! 🥳
What's one thing you're going to implement into your own work?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments below (or LinkedIn, that's cool too).
The truth is social learning very rarely works without leveraging social influence. Who can you rely on at your organization to be the champion of your new approach? Who's the "Cool Kid" who can convince others this will be a good experience? And also, who can you tap in to moderate communities / cohorts / conversations -- keeping them lively, analyzing lulls, and removing inappropriate content?
These likely are not all the same people. But they're all necessary to get the full value of your social learning initiatives.
Need better training? We can help.