How To Train and Retain a Distributed Workforce

distributed workforce

Managing a team is tough. It’s even tougher when one of your employees is based in London, your office is in Santa Fe, and Skype just froze on your group video chat for the hundredth time.

Telecommuting for work climbed to a whopping 37% in 2015. As remote teams become more common, managers are challenged by the logistics of providing effective training to staff based all over the world. While virtual tools are available to improve quick communications and manage projects (where would we be without Slack?), they are not necessarily equipped with the features that provide full and ready access to the training and learning and development materials (L&D) that power your workforce.

The pressure is on to assess and address your training needs and aspirations to keep top talent on board and your whole team reaching and exceeding goals. Recognize the unique challenges posed by your distributed workforce, and conquer them with consistency and operational efficiency.

The unique challenges (and benefits) of a distributed workforce.

Your distributed workforce opens you up to such benefits as access to the best talent available, reduced costs like a 38% reduction in workplace support cost, and more value for your company. But there are also many inherent challenges in hiring remotely. Here are a few worth considering—and tackling.

  • Training your distributed workforce can prove cumbersome without the employee in front of you. While you may fly trainers to remote workers, they often find themselves on their own when it comes to on-the-job application. Without the right training infrastructure, this can lead to employees who don’t fully understand how to apply what they’ve learned once trainers have flown home.
  • A lack of face-to-face interaction makes it difficult to maintain a rapport with your workforce, since there’s no easy way to saunter over to his cubicle and ask how his day’s going. They may not feel that you are an accessible resource. Employees may feel isolated, and you may never have a clear picture of employee satisfaction.
  • Poor operational efficiency occurs when your employees lack consistent training or reference materials and don’t develop the skills to perform at their fullest potential on a daily basis.

Keep your team functioning at their best.

Despite the challenges, having a distributed workforce is clearly worth it for many companies. So put geographical challenges aside and recognize the value of this “Remote Revolution.” Make sure they are working with consistently applied policies, and provide L&D that is accessible and effective, even remotely.  


  • Support employee advancement. Employees need to know that they can achieve more with your company. Those opportunities for advancement may seem, well, remote to your distributed workforce, so make sure that they’re easily accessible to everyone. Reach out to your workforce regularly and understand and enable their plans for advancement. Provide them with ready access to the training that they need to achieve their plans.
  • Maintain regular communication. Whether it’s daily hours on Slack for instant messaging or a 5-minute Hangouts call every morning, be sure to stay in the loop with each of your remote employees. Your team needs to know that they can reach out to you and get answers as quickly as if you were in the same office.
  • Customize training for individuals. When you can’t see your staff regularly, good training methodology is more crucial than ever before. We all learn differently, so survey your employee base and figure out what each individual needs to know and how they learn the most effectively. This prevents information overload and allows you to efficiently invest in the learning elements that your employees actually want to use, whether that’s video, dynamic content, or text—or a combination of all three.
  • Provide just-in-time content. There’s no sense in expecting your distributed workforce to memorize every word of their learning content. Instead, arm them with reference materials on a dedicated content platform for easy access to the answers that they need, whether they’re preparing for a sales call or actively in the field with a prospect.  

Your distributed workforce is valuable, so make sure that you’re providing value to them in return. With extra attention to regular communication, employee advancement, customized training, and just-in-time content, your remote team will reach new heights.