Some ignore them because they are easy to ignore, whereas some ignore them because they are not present in the here and now in front of their eyes. Then there are some who ignore training and engaging their distributed workforce – the customer care representatives, the last mile sales people, the shop floor production team working in a remote plant – because it is just too expensive, cumbersome and time intensive to arrange trainings for all of them.
So they rely on long-drawn emails, shoot-from-the-hip memos, conference calls with team leads, and well – they think their job is done. But is it?
Let us take a step back to assess why it is worth putting in the effort and resources into remote management of your distributed employees, and also briefly touch upon how it can be accomplished effectively without really burning a hole.
They are the biggest brand custodians of your organization
They literally create the company perception in front of your customers. Have a new product update? A process stands changed? This needs to be communicated to your soldiers at the last mile immediately! And immediately here means hours, not days or weeks.
They need to be updated, trained and assessed on this no matter where they are. If they go wrong, the entire chain of dominoes fall down one-by-one.
They are the most important cogs in actually building up the brand image. The field sales executives, the customer care representatives, the people at the shop floor in your plant – their level of preparedness can make or break your brand in a single instance.
The link between employee actions and brand equity appears to be universal. For example, when brand equity is high, companies are able to charge more than competitors, retain customers despite price-cutting by competitors, and weather bad news such as a product or service failure.
Increasing brand equity involves investing for longer-term contingencies to both build and sustain profit. Thus, every organization benefits from training and engaging with their employees regularly to build trust in their brand.
These employees may not be able to articulate marketing slogans, but they speak from their hearts about the company and its products and services, says Marilyn Nagel, Co-founder and Chief Mission Officer at NQuotient. 
Professors Betsy DuBois Gelb (Bauer College of Business, University of Houston) and Deva Rangarajan (Vlerick Business School) have conducted a qualitative study to discover guidelines that could lead to these improvements. Some of the results of the same are as follows.
- Employees are tangible representation of the brand.
- It seems likely that customers transferred their experience with the individual employee to the brand, if they have not received any pseudorelevant information about the employee, and consequently did not regard the employee and the brand as two separate entities
- Customers that are not outcome-dependent are less motivated to focus on any personal information regarding the employee, and should tend to regard the brand and the employee as single, coherent unit
- When customers do not depend on the employee’s assistance to make an effective decision, their existing brand personality impressions and brand attributes were affected strongly by the behavior of the employee
These specific findings help drive home the perennial point of how important it is to train and assess your distributed workforce properly, as when the time comes, they can make or break the brand.
They deserve it
Just like their colleagues working at bigger positions, at a more centralized location.
Items in the “important but not urgent” list never happen, and we all know that. Let me show you why employee training and engagement of your distributed employees regularly should be item #1 in your agenda.
Regular training can actually:
- Make your employees better at what they do
- Help establish a consistent culture
- Increase the perceived aspirational value of your company in the eyes of prospective talent manifold
- Help you retain great talent
- Help to unsuck training, make it more interesting, engaging and effective
Now, training your distributed, frontline staff regularly has a few more advantages attached to it, over and above the ones listed above.
- More sales. More early stage coversions. More $$$.
- Customer satisfaction. Equals repeat business. Equals mission accomplished.
- Greater employee engagement, which is actually the hardest to achieve with a distributed workforce, who spend more time outside the organization than in it.
- Better product quality. Naturally, your manufacturing plant is far away from the city, employs a lot of blue collar workers – many of whom follow a set of instructions to manufacture or assemble the company’s products. Better training at the shop floor can actually directly result in higher product quality.
These additional benefits make the distributed workforce all the more deserving for regular training, grooming and engagement.
Remote Management – Training and Engagement
There are a number of items on which you can train your distributed workforce. Some of topics that you can train your distributed customer service representatives are:
1. Problem handling
The art of handling problems in the form of irate customers, technical failure, or non-availability of an item of desire is an absolute essential in the job profile of a customer facing role. You want your distributed customer facing team to be ready in terms of responses, as well as perfect as far as behavior, temperament, mannerisms, body language and communication is concerned.
One of the most effective ways of training your customer facing team on the skill of problem handling is through roleplays. There are tools in the market that allow you to simply upload a roleplay and roll it out to any number of users distributed all over the world to be consumed on any device, with or without internet, in minutes.
2. Assisting in sales
Customer facing roles typically involve generating leads for the sales teams, closing sales themselves, and providing product information to the customers to help them in decision making. If your product is technical in nature, then these employees would need to be trained immediately on product upgrades.
One of the best ways to train employees on complex product upgrades and processes is simulations and walkthroughs. Again, deliver these trainings to your distributed workforce on platforms that allow sending across any multimedia training, is consumable on any device, allows assessments and provides analytics into the training consumption and performance.
3. Soft skills
You can also train your distributed workforce on soft skills and regularly test them out through video assessments, which can easily be done very effectively on the move on any hand-held device like a mobile phone or a tablet with a front facing camera. Keeping in mind that you can roll out any such assessment in minutes, and alert your distributed workforce about this instantaneously, you can not only design detailed training and assessment modules for your existing workforce, you can also develop effective onboarding programs in this fashion as well.
The HR tech industry is racked with innovations with several new players coming into play, providing users like yourself with a number of tools to effectively and affordably train and engage your distributed workforce.
Extending your LMS to these distributed team members is neither an expensive proposition anymore, nor is time consuming. It is becoming increasingly critical to keep such distributed employees in remote locations (or roles that involve a lot of travel) customer-ready and up to date in terms of product developments and skills.
It is all about taking that one extra step, and installing a system of blended learning that encapsulates your regular trainings and assessments in alignment to your organizational objectives, and delivers them to your distributed workforce as well.
What do you think? What is stopping you from training your distributed workforce? Let me know your thoughts. Also, if you like this post, please share it on your social media.
Sources of quoted studies:
- Vlerick Research – Employees can make or break your brand
- Marilyn Nagel on the Huffington Post
- Dissertation by Daniel Wentzel for the University of St. Gallen (PDF Download)