Estimated reading time: 6 minutes, 20 seconds
At Workplaceless, we are passionate about learning, and grateful to learn from those whose experiences are different from our own. As the number of companies shifting to remote work arrangements exploded in 2020, we saw a significant influx of resources offering to guide employees and companies through the transition. This influx was essential for many experiencing remote work for the first time.
Now, as companies are shifting or settling into their long-term vision for remote or hybrid teams, we thought it would be helpful to provide a way to cut through the clutter and learn when to take advantage of free resources and when to invest in external remote work training.
Here are the top six questions to consider as you weigh the usefulness of paid training versus free resources for yourself and your teams.
We’ve said this since March 2020: working from home during a pandemic is significantly different from working remotely as a strategic operating decision. Perspectives and training that were developed as a result of emergency remote work served to help people cope during a period of unknown. For those organizations hoping to embed remote work as a future operating model, training should come from strategic and experienced sources rather than newly enthusiastic advisors. To determine experience level, consider specifically investigating: how many years of experience the source has in virtual work environments, whether their advocacy for remote work started before or after March 2020, what their strategic approach to remote work is, and if remote work is their sole focus or an add-on to their core offerings.
Every remote work tip and new idea builds our repository of tactics to test so we can learn what works best for us and for our clients. Understanding the tools and tricks that companies, and remote work advocates, use to ensure their work runs smoothly and productively benefits everyone interested in remote work. However, tool stacks and hacks are not skill development. A business's ability to excel using a digital-first strategy hinges on the ability of their entire workforce to excel in that environment. To truly build skills, for example remote leadership skills, and drive behavior change, training programs need to be based on proven practices in remote work and structured using best-in-class instructional design principles. It’s rare to find free resources that conform to these standards. Additionally, be wary of guides or resources that use marketing language such as “the ultimate playbook” or “the complete guide.” Remote work is still evolving and there is no guide that is “complete.”
We love remote companies and advocates who openly share their experiences, challenges, and guides for what works. However, in many instances, these free resources are written from a single perspective which is limited by a unique set of circumstances. If the context reflected in free options isn't relevant to your situation, seek out programs that are based on industry-wide research and practices. Take a look into: how many subject matter experts were consulted, the diversity of the experts and industries featured, and the range of fully-remote and hybrid-remote companies supplied. Do the situations highlighted in the program include challenges overcome and proven practices? Applicable insights can absolutely be gleaned from both individual and diverse perspectives, but it’s important to know which elements of each situation are relevant to you.
Free resources often exist as standalone guides. These resources can address the particular needs of an individual and are often accessed in ways that are specifically tailored to that individual. For training across a remote team or organization, it’s critical for success that everyone completes the training with an aligned understanding, a common set of expectations, and a shared vocabulary. Team alignment comes from paid training programs that can be stackable across roles and levels within an organization.
Free courses often track completion of modules based on metrics such as time viewed or videos completed. This can provide a high-level snapshot into progress. However, paid courses use learning management systems that can offer more robust performance metrics. Quizzes and assessments can track knowledge retention and behavior change. Assignments, graded by remote training providers, can offer real-time feedback about areas of concern and improvement at the individual level and team level. At an organizational level, it’s important to know if you want feedback on how well your employees are taking in information and applying it.
Free resources can be easy, and obviously inexpensive ways, to learn new concepts if you’re looking for a one-time intake of content to help upgrade individual performance. If you’re looking to scale performance goals across an organization, free resources first require company time and energy to complete and assess the training materials. Then leaders are faced with how to meaningfully implement these strategies. With paid training programs, you are guided through a process, with resources and content that have been curated and condensed to include the most contextually relevant information. Free resources don’t come with the additional support that is often needed to drive real behavior change that will support organizational remote work initiatives. An external training provider will be a partner that helps you identify roadblocks and design a program that delivers impact on business outcomes.
As always, our goal is to help remote professionals and teams thrive for the long term. Let’s schedule a time to discuss how training can help your team.