Teams that work well together are stronger, more focused, and often more productive. And one of the best ways to help build that bond is through team training. But getting an entire team together for learning isn’t always easy—especially with the rise of remote work.
The idea of virtual team training may leave employees feeling disconnected. Instead of getting together in the same room, they join from their own location and, this way, miss out on opportunities to interact with and learn from each other.
But online training doesn’t have to be a solo venture. When you plan ahead, online team training can be just as effective as in-person group learning.
In this article, we’ll look at why team training matters—especially when teams are working in online settings. We’ll also share what training activities you can use to encourage virtual team building.
The benefits of virtual team training
You may be asking why you should bother with team training in an online environment. After all, tech gives people so many opportunities to learn from anywhere, at any time, at their own pace.
But your team can still gain a lot from learning together–even from a distance. So, let’s clarify what we mean by team training. We’re not talking about sending a group of people through courses all at the same time—whether online or offline. Sitting together through the annual compliance presentation doesn’t qualify as team training.
Instead, we’re talking about a group of people learning collaboratively. Team training includes intentional interaction and engagement that encourages more participation and group practice. You might think of it as teamwork training for employees.
When employees learn together, you get a number of benefits, including:
- Stronger relationships
- Better communication
- A higher level of engagement in the content
- Better learning and knowledge retention
This kind of team-building is important when people don’t see each other and interact regularly. An online training environment can be especially effective in promoting collaboration and mutual learning.
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Let’s take a look at some ways to use online teamwork to make your training more enjoyable and more effective.
5 online team training activities
Helping your employees feel like part of a cohesive team during training can be as simple as adding a few exercises to your strategy. Consider the five following ideas for getting your team’s learning together.
1. Boost conversations with social networking
Use social networking to replicate—and improve— the conversations happening offline. In-person training can make for good conversation, but it can also be limiting. You can only hear from so many voices in the allotted time.
But if you set up an internal Slack channel or online forum, people will be able to chime in throughout their training and beyond. You can create different channels for relevant topics so people can ask and answer questions regarding specific skills or processes.
Help create a culture of good communication by showing employees you encourage them to ask questions. Then watch them succeed as they help one another learn and apply key learning.
2. Promote a sense of community with live sessions
One of the great things about eLearning is being able to log in when it’s convenient and complete lessons quickly and effectively. But you can still capitalize on the power of teamwork through blended learning. In other words, a mix of self-paced and real-time group training.
Host live sessions where everyone logs in at the same time. Getting to put faces to the names and hold real-time conversations will build team strength. And it will allow you to run activities for getting people to interact with the content and each other.
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3. Increase skill application with homework and peer reviews
The beauty of online training is the ability to spread the content out over time. Breaking it up also provides for some between-sessions skills practice. Assign projects or set challenges for learners to accomplish between lessons–like practicing a specific skill on the job.
Get more out of assignments by having employees give feedback on each other’s work. Have learners submit their projects, and then assign them to review a set number of their peers’ projects. This will not only get them practicing the skills. It will also allow them to see others’ perspectives on those skills and learn more through evaluation.
4. Strengthen retention with content review exercises
Content review sessions help reinforce learning. They also build on the collaborative spirit you establish in the training. For the best results, engage learners in interactive post-training reviews.
For example, bring in some friendly competition with a Jeopardy-style quiz. Or, have learners write down their questions and then let others take a stab at answering those they feel confident in. These kinds of activities will motivate learners and make the content they learned more “sticky.”
5. Encourage collaborative learning by turning learners into teachers
One of the best ways to learn something is to teach it to others. Take advantage of this principle by giving learners a new role during training.
Assign employees to prepare a presentation on some part of the training content as a review exercise. Not only will they learn it better, but their colleagues will benefit from looking at the content from a new perspective.
How to engage employees in online team training courses
Once you have a plan in place for effective online team training, you need to consider one more factor: motivation. Team training only works with total team participation. And this may be outside some employees’ comfort zones for any number of reasons. For example:
- Employees are used to training just being a box they need to tick and don’t necessarily want to invest much time or thought into the process.
- Group activities might feel overwhelming or unappealing to those who are not inherently social.
- Zoom fatigue makes live online training feel like a chore rather than an opportunity to learn, particularly when employees have to interact in real-time during their virtual team training.
Here are a few tactics you can take to motivate everyone to participate, help employees get the most out of team training, and see the results you expect:
Communicate the value of the content
People are motivated to do things that are in their best interest. As you advertise the training session, make sure you share the benefits for your employees. Will it help them do their jobs more efficiently? Prepare them for new roles? Invest in their career progress?
Let them know what’s in it for them. When employees understand the reasons, they’ll show up and participate.
Make employees a valued part of the process
People won’t feel invested if they think they’re just a number to be checked off. Let learners know their voices are heard and their contributions are valuable by seeking input.
Ask for feedback both before and after training. When employees know their voice will count, they’ll be paying attention and participating to prepare their feedback.
Make it fun
You can improve engagement by adding a level of gamification to your virtual team training. Get people interested with a competitive element. Add a leaderboard that tracks progress or quiz scores. Get the team working together as they compare their ranking to other departments in the company.
Or, offer badges and certificates for completing certain activities. Setting a tangible goal will help employees stay motivated to finish their training and really learn the content.
Better training for better teams
There are a lot of ways to make virtual team training a successful venture for your group. You just need to jump in and be ready to adjust your plans as needed.
For example, try some of the activities mentioned in this article and see which are the biggest successes. Or, test your training strategy with certain departments and then decide which ones you want to roll out on a bigger scale.
However you approach it, as you invest in your teams, they’ll have a better training experience. And you’ll see happier employees and better results.