Thursday, February 29, 2024

The Importance of Adapting to Different Employee Learning Styles in Remote Teams

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The new remote work ecosystem has tremendously benefited many businesses, but it presents a unique set of challenges for interacting with employees. Generally, it can be much more difficult to connect with employees via a remote medium rather than an in-person one, which can be a frustrating obstacle — especially during onboarding. 

However, during an employee’s initial training and continued coaching, adapting to their needs is essential. For Hannah Lloret, VP of Headbackers at Cyberbacker, understanding the needs of a virtual workforce is second nature.

Coach instead of teaching

The goal of coaching is to guide the employee to understand themselves rather than telling them how to do something. “A good coach must help the employee identify the source of their struggle and give them the skills to come up with a solution to improve it,” explains Lloret. “This is the primary difference between ‘management’ and ‘coaching.’ Management is largely about making the decisions for employees, whereas coaching empowers employees to make those decisions themselves.”

When dealing with large workforces — such as the group of over 500 Cyberbackers that Lloret works with — the temptation can be strong to fall back on management rather than coaching strategies. “The more employees you have, the more generalized training tends to become, but it is essential to resist this urge,” she says. “Make sure you take time to adjust any training to employees’ specific needs, as this will lead to better retention and performance.”

Lloret suggests that employers take the time to focus on each employee’s learning, development, and coaching early on in their time at the company. “I give my Cyberbackers extensive coaching before they ever work with a client,” she says. “This ensures they are prepared to handle any circumstances that may arise.”

Still, coaching is not a one-and-done process — a commitment must be made to continuous learning by both the employer and the employee. As the duties and responsibilities of an employee evolve, it is crucial to continue to guide them through their development. “If the goal is for your employees to grow, and the company alongside them, striving for continuous improvement is key,” says Lloret.

How to best build employee engagement

The biggest obstacle that must be overcome is creating employee engagement. Engagement and retention go hand in hand, so finding a strategy that maximizes employee engagement is essential. However, the methods that may work to keep one person engaged may be ineffective for others.

There are several different types of learners; some are kinesthetic learners who learn best by doing, whereas others are auditory or visual learners. While standing and giving a lecture may be an effective way to help auditory learners, a kinesthetic learner could become completely disengaged and retain very little. Adapting coaching strategies to employees’ unique needs is the best way to ensure engagement.

One of the biggest challenges employers face regarding coaching their employees remotely is that it tends to be much more difficult to grasp employee engagement. “Whereas in an in-person training, it’s easy for the trainer to see the reactions of employees to understand how well they are absorbing the information, this can be much more difficult through a virtual meeting or webinar,” says Lloret. “Employers must find different ways to gauge their employees’ engagement in training and coaching.”

Of course, the easiest (and most important) strategy to better understand employees’ engagement and needs in a remote workplace is to listen. “Coaching should be a two-way street,” Lloret asserts. “If you coach employees as if you are just enjoining, they will likely see you as condescending and won’t absorb your advice and information as well. Instead, aim to create a mutualistic mentor-mentee relationship where you learn from each other.”

The best way to create this dynamic is by asking questions. Not only does asking questions serve as a tremendously effective way of aiding recall and ensuring information retention, but it can also serve as a valuable method of collecting feedback to improve the coaching process. 

“Ask open-ended questions like, ‘What did we discuss that you found most valuable today?’ or ‘What else would you like to learn about this topic?’ to help start a conversation,” explains Lloret. “Then, most importantly, listen to and apply this feedback to the best of your ability. Employees want to know that you value their input.”

Summary and repetition can also be effective ways to ensure that employees get the most out of coaching. That being said, there is a delicate line to be struck when using this method. 

“Too much repetition can easily start to feel condescending and counterproductive,” says Lloret. “Make sure you are reinforcing what was taught instead of saying it to remind them of what they already know because that could be misconstrued as patronizing.”

Strong coaching involves creating engagement to promote employee retention. This is a continual process that employers must work on — not only during the onboarding process but throughout the employee’s time with the company. Committing to continuous, adaptable improvement is the only way to ensure maximum efficiency in a remote workforce.

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