Soft Skills Training for your Virtual Teams
In a recent blog, we discussed the ins and outs of providing live virtual parties for teams and organizations. In this blog we will focus on live virtual soft skills training for remote, hybrid, and work-from-home teams and companies. Consider this a short guide to how you can liven up soft skills training with experiential, fun events that not just teach and refresh your teams but will also have the team talking about the training for years to come – and the knowledge imparted with it!
What soft skills can be virtually taught?
All of them! Many soft skills even take on extra meaning due to the virtual environment, especially focus and effective communication. The list of soft skills is long, but here are a few skills that have some special applicability within the virtual work environment:
Focus: work from home, or in empty offices may take a bit more focus than usual
Conflict Resolution: resolving issues may need some tweaks without in-person interactions
Communication: wide ranging issues in the virtual environment
Collaboration: within a virtual team may take on a different look
Creative Thinking: sitting in front of the computer at home takes away some of the stimulus you had going into an office; we need creative thinking to stay away from turning our days into rote work
Before jumping into the benefits of live virtual soft skills training, here is an example of a computer-based training (CBT) scenario:
Company “A” had a CBT catalog of soft skills training purchased from an online provider. However, it was quickly ignored by employees since no requirement existed to take any of the on-demand classes. To boost the use of the CBT employees were given four weeks to complete four hours of soft skills training. Two classes, Ethics and Morals and Effective Communication, were required with two others as personal choice. The feedback discussed amongst employees was wide ranging from, “good refresher, but …” to “funny because it was so outdated.” The CBT was remembered for the lack of contemporary situations and how it talked down to employees, not what the courses taught.
CBT, along with on-site/off-site professional presentations and seminars, have their benefits depending on the company’s culture and situation. It is important to choose the right training method for the right team and organization; what works in one environment may not work in another.
A live virtual training has many benefits for the right team and culture, such as it would be in-person. With virtual training, teams that are spread far and wide can enjoy the same content delivery from their own locations. Your team will also enjoy being together to learn something new so they can discuss and engage with one another. Another benefit is the shortened time frame by which virtual training is given. They are usually one hour versus in-person training which could be multiple hours away from work, including travel.
The benefits of live virtual training may seem obvious, so to add to the expectations of a high-quality experience it should also be unique, experiential, and fun. Fun? Yes! And why can’t learning something like decision making or problem solving be fun?
A virtual training session, by its very nature, sounds like just another presentation in a Zoom room. By taking a step to add practice scenarios and interactions, a live virtual training session will create longer term impressions for your team. Employees actively involved in the training will usually remember what they learned long after the training ended. So … the fun aspect?
Play games! For long-term memory impressions of soft skills training, it’s best to have a little fun. People mostly relate stories of activities where they had fun, laughed, and generally had a great experience. Live virtual training should be set up to learn content in an engaging way through fun activities. In addition, using games or activities for role play scenarios can ease the trepidation had by some team members. The last thing you would want are team members who only remember the fear of performing a real-world scenario in front of their peers instead of remembering the actual content taught.
Companies like Monkey Business Institute, provide fun, engaging, experiential, and customized soft skills training tailored to your team with their Playshops (Workshops + Play). A Playshop is based on the collaborative techniques of improv and incorporates those into learning soft skills through activities and games designed to be supportive and fun. Your team members are not asked to do improv, but imagine they are put into groups of two with an exercise to accomplish between them. After the exercise, a short discussion is led by the professional trainer to discuss the activity’s applicability and answer questions. Like many other services, Playshops went virtual in the last year and will continue to be offered since many teams and companies will remain remote.
How do you put together a live virtual training?
- Focus on two to three topics you would like your team(s) to learn in an hour.
- Work with the vendor offering virtual training to create a course designed for your goals. Those goals may be short term, or long term to include weekly or monthly classes to keep the knowledge boost going.
- Confirm a schedule for the course.
- Follow up with employees after the training is completed.
Live virtual training is a remarkably simple method to set up and implement for your team in just a few steps. As long as the training topics are known and the schedule is set, the vendor will handle the rest.
A few last notes about live virtual soft skills training includes set up and budgeting. When considering live virtual training one should assume the participants are ready to move, talk, gesture, and non-verbally communicate with the instructor and the other team members. It is okay to have some team members that have not fully bought into the style of training, so some up-front prep and a warmup game at the beginning of the session will help ease them in.
As for budgeting, there is no need to spend on travel or take time out of a conference for virtual training. Thus, your team can focus together for an hour versus multiple hours spent on in-person travel, and time away from work. There is a higher value of retaining the knowledge longer with a shorter training time.
That story above about CBT? That was a real experience, and my takeaways that I still remember due to the obvious aspects of them: don’t steal others’ work, don’t commit fraud by falsifying a report (!), and change my network password according to company policy. Not something new I remembered, but important, nonetheless. I suppose it is what you want to take away from the training, but when pre-recorded videos are more distracting than helpful, the quality of the training is lost – I don’t remember anything else but how outdated and forced the videos were.
Ensure you have the right training fit for your remote teams or organization and determine how much interaction and fun you would like them to have. You will be guaranteed they will remember the content from the engaging, fun training session they attended!