Encouraging education in remote teams


Learning isn't just happening in courses, schools and seminars. In the modern workplace, it's mostly also happening between peers, during casual conversations, exchanges or concrete knowledge transfers.

This is all becoming a little more difficult when doing so remotely: Casual conversations don't happen as often, it doesn't come to long exchanges outsides of planned meetings and knowledge transfers can only productively happen if people have enough overlap in their timezones (to set up a 1-2h meeting). Learning as a remote employee is hard, and as an employer, it's your job to encourage learning in your team.

Note: This article was inspired by some of the comments on learning given by companies on remotehub.io.

Encourage open and vocal culture

In many teams, it's recommended, sometimes even required, to post a status update about your work publicly. This is a great opportunity to talk about the problems you have encountered in the past few days, and the solutions to it, and gives all employees a opportunity to read about it, and hopefully solve one of their problems at some point too.

It's also important to not only do this in text, but also either hold a meeting for sharing progresses and new learning, and record/distribute it to the whole team.

By doing so, you're not only giving everyone on the team an opportunity to learn, you're also encouraging people to becoming more communicational and expressive, some crucial skills for working remotely.

Internal talks

Sharing problems is great, but it can be a great opportunity to give people the possibility to prepare something longer term too and share new findings, instead of only solutions to a problem. That means that you could free up an all-hands spot every second week for example, where people can talk and discuss the recent work they are doing and give a longer form talk about it.

We used to call this "innovation lunch", others call it "master classes", "open sessions", "roundtable talks" or similar, but the idea is always similar: Give people a few days to prepare a few slides, and create a focused, ~1h-long talk, just about this specific topic for everyone who is interested. Always keep in mind to record these things, so people who can't join still get something from it.

This will often result in a healthy discussion and promotes learning more effectively than discussing things 1-to-1 across cubicles.

External talks & training programmes

It's always good to get the whole company up to speed and share knowledge between each other, however, in regular periods you should also try to get some external, fresh knowledge into the company, for example by inviting a special guest for a talk, or bringing the whole team to a training program (this is for example a great way to spend an afternoon during a team retreat too!)

This is not too different from a co-located team, but way more crucial to do. In general, these points are not unique to remote teams, but in co-located teams many of these things happen by themselves, whereas in remote teams, you as a manager or founder are responsible for organizing these things and making them happen.

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