If you’ve been on this planet for more than a day, you’ve heard of COVID-19. This virus changed the way companies operate and we’ve had to learn a lot in a short amount of time.
At SkillStorm, we run in-person classroom-based training with dozens of people working in close proximity—not exactly social distancing. And with a nationwide quarantine mandate in place, we needed to formulate an immediate solution to keep business running as usual.
We were forced to quickly come up with ways for employees to continue running presentations, conducting training, or performing some other task they normally conduct in-person. In this blog, we’ll share the challenges we faced when going from the classroom to the cloud and what we learned from it.
No matter how you slice it, human interaction changes when you’re not face-to-face. The extent to which we communicate using non-verbal cues and body language is immense—especially as a trainer or a presenter. It’s very difficult to read whether someone in the audience is following you when you can’t see their face.
As trainers in a classroom, we can respond when it looks like someone has a question, but isn’t willing to speak up. We can speed up, slow down, and change course based on how our audience is responding. But how do you replicate that online?
We’re a Microsoft Teams shop, and there’s a limitation on the number of video feeds you can display at once. Our solution? Zoom. Yup, the very same platform you and your friends probably used to host a couple happy hours during quarantine.
With Zoom, you can have up to 25 video feeds at once, which is the typical size of a classroom. Other platforms are slowly adjusting to this need, including Teams. But if you’re presenting a PowerPoint or your screen, you can’t see your audience without disrupting your presentation. However, we discovered that with a second monitor, or extending your computer screen onto that smart TV in your living room, we can present our screen and get a feel for our audience (almost) as well as we can in-person.
In a fast-paced work environment, you need to build strong teams. SkillStorm hires and trains new employees, and they quickly build strong relationships with their peers and support each other during their intense training program. They chat while on breaks, go to lunch and happy hour, and build each other up both professionally and technically.
Our trainees study together and help each other learn new technology very quickly. When you’re just joining a company like our trainees are, you need to connect with people and get on stable ground. That all is put on pause when the world is working from home.
One solution we found to be helpful was implementing online meet-and-greets. It was a great way to engage your virtual workforce. If you have new employees starting, try setting up 15-minute meetings with your new hire to meet people on their first day. Pick the people that would be the most important for them to meet given their role.
For our trainees, we want them to meet with their trainer and other new trainees—their peers. So everyone spends their first day having quick one-on-one meetings with their fellow coworkers! It sounds time-intensive in the beginning, but you’ll get your new employees off to a great start and give them a strong sense of community in your company.
WAIT, THERE ARE POSITIVES TO ALL OF THIS?
We always need to find the bright side in a difficult situation. So what are some of the things we can take from this and implement post-quarantine?
- Virtual Trainings.
- Quicker Onboarding.
In the technology field, we have teams spread out over the country and around the globe so we’re used to utilizing technology to meet. But, for anyone who has never had to run a meeting over a Web conference has had quite the learning curve over the last few months.
Ultimately, we have learned the importance of training our people to be virtual-ready. Email, Zoom, Slack—these are all tools that are even more important to stay connected at work; and our people are getting really good at it.
Onboarding has been a breeze for us. We hire people from all over and typically relocate them to a training site. With virtual training, we could onboard a new hire on Friday and start them training on Monday.
This virtual process has helped us bring people on board that we wouldn’t have been able to under normal circumstances. Our trainees are open to relocation across the country, but training online saved them one extra relocation.
This last pro is somber. We realize how much we take for granted at our jobs. The people, the routine, the lunches—all the little things that keep us motivated and productive. All the things we used to complain about are now the things we realize make us love our jobs.
While no one would argue COVID has caused plenty of negativity, as businesses, we have to look at the positives and how we can learn from this situation to be prepared if this happens again.
In adjusting to the virtual world, we’ve had to adjust to the virtual world, and in doing so, we’re all building new skills and setting up infrastructure. In the end, the companies that learned during this unprecedented time, will be the ones that will emerge stronger.