Training a Remote Workforce

When sales budgets are trimmed, training is typically among the first items to go. Why? Because training is viewed most often as an investment that can’t directly bring positive, immediate impact to the bottom line. Additionally, the costs of traditional classroom training include not just travel and expenses but also lost productivity because members of the sales force are out of their respective territories instead of in front of their customers selling.

The question is not, “Should I train my distributed workforce remotely,” but rather “In what way should I do so, and with what tools?” one must consider which methods are most effective and how retention similar to classroom training can be ensured. Finally, managers must consider whether to build the training itself or hire it out and whether the training can be standard or if it needs to be custom-developed.

The answer is that “it depends” on how your team learns and what tools you have available to train to those learning styles.

How We Learn

Adult learning theory is a deep study; too deep to cover for this article. That being said, most learning boils down to three main components that are critically important to retention:

Component 1

The learner needs to visualize the material. He or She needs something to look at that provides context and allows for a connection to be made.

Component 2

The learner needs to hear the material. Whatever they hear needs to correspond with what they are seeing, or else the connection is not made.

Component 3

The learner needs to apply (do) the skill being learned. Until the learner tries to execute the new skill, the learning circle is not complete.

If any one of these components is missing, there is a decreased likelihood the learner will make the connections necessary to be able to execute the skill being taught.

 Standard or Custom?

You need to start with the question of whether or not customization is, in fact, necessary. The caution here is to make sure you are not answering out of ego, but rather from a pragmatic point of view.

Generally, if yours is a specialty product or service, some type of customization may be required. If it is a skill set that you are training, then most likely little or no customization is required.

For example, if your training topic is ‘overcoming objections,’ (a skill that can be applied no matter the product, service, market, or type of objection) then customization is most likely not required. By contrast, if you are training your staff on a new patented airfoil design for a jet engine, customization is probably required.

The other consideration is what people and tools are required to customize.

Different Training Delivery Options

In-person live training

This is the typical classroom-style delivery of training. The benefits are tremendous in terms of engagement and retention and are often the “go-to” solution for guaranteed ROI.

Virtual live and recorded

This became the “only” option of choice when the pandemic hit, and likely won’t go away. Done correctly, by a skilled facilitator used to classroom-style in-person training, provides many of the same benefits of engagement and retention but is much more flexible in terms of time and investment.


Popular before Covid, and likely growing post-pandemic, this option provides the best of both worlds. Perhaps an initial in-person training and then reinforced virtual live training over time. Combined with skilled coaching, blended is the preferred long-term solution for sustained change.


A broad term that is used to describe a wide range of electronic delivery mechanisms through various devices. The high-quality training usually can’t be developed internally unless you are a Fortune 500 company due to the need for; subject matter experts, instructional designers, graphic designers, animation and voiceover professionals, technicians, and expensive software. However, very much in reach when contracting with an outside firm.

What solution is best for you and your Team?

It depends on your desired outcome. That’s where we should start.

  • Create a training outline of hard skills and soft skills you want to train.
  • What does the final curriculum look like? Heavy in documentation and tools or more video and/or audio-based?
  • Do you want to end up with a training library of sorts that can be used for all future new hires?
  • What type of “interactions” do you want as part of your training? Exercises, breakout groups, tool development, roleplaying, etc. to drive engagement.
  • How are you going to test for understanding?
  • What is your reinforcement plan to make sure the training “sticks” with your team-members long-term?

There are many considerations when deciding on a training approach. However, you aren’t recreating the wheel! This is done every day all over the world. If you are looking for help navigating all these questions and arriving at possible solutions, drop us a line and one of our Guides would be happy to help you through this process.