Why Is Technology Training For Remote Workers So Painful?

5 Problems With Remote Technology Training: The Solution Contextual Microlearning
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Summary: With the shift of most knowledge workers working remotely these days, the ways we conduct technology training has to change. The old ways are not working. However, the good news is, there is a better way and it's called contextual microlearning.

A Better Way To Train Remote Workers

Amy is having a bad afternoon. She is trying to reassign a task in Microsoft Planner to a different member of her marketing team, but she just can’t figure out how. If she wasn’t working remotely, she would simply ask a coworker at the next desk, but most of her team is away in a virtual meeting.

Amy’s experience happens to remote workers millions of times every day, and countless hours of productivity are lost because they cannot resolve minor issues. Indeed, a global survey of remote workers during the coronavirus pandemic revealed that productivity dropped between 20% and 70% among remote workers due to a lack of technology skills.

The obvious solution here is to provide remote workers with more technology training. However, a survey [1] published in August found that nearly half of US workers have not received any remote training since the pandemic began, and a third of those who did found, it ineffective.

Why is technology training so painful for remote workers?

5 Problems With Remote Technology Training

Remote workers are almost entirely dependent on IT to get work done, which means they also need good technology training. Unfortunately, most instruction leaves them disappointed. I often hear from businesses that are struggling with remote technology training. Here are 5 of the most common issues they talk to me about:

1. Too Many Applications

Did you know that the average company uses 129 software programs [2], and the average user works with around 10 apps? The rise of business apps is generally beneficial. However, when it comes to training, it can be a real headache. It is almost impossible for internal training departments to produce guides for all these applications. Even if they could, such training sessions would only be able to offer "high level" guidance, rather than the more specific tips and problem resolutions that are useful for end users.

2. Technology Training Happens Out Of Context

A problem that has always faced technology training is that instruction happens out of context. Employees will sign up for a webinar where they are given examples of how to use an app. However, they may not actually come to use the app again in their daily tasks for several days, and therefore forget much of what they learned.

Training is much more effective when it can be immediately put into practice, yet the webinar approach just does not reflect this reality.

3. Remote Tech Training Is Too Generic

Employees often complain that technology training does not match up with their needs. Of course, instructors cannot be expected to offer personalized instruction to every attendee, but the nature of technology means that personalized learning is often the most effective.

For example, your company might run a training session about how to use Microsoft Planner. Employees from sales, marketing, and operations teams will all be invited along and see some examples of how to set up a project. The problem is, each of these teams manages projects in entirely different ways, and so the training only partially answers their questions.

4. Practice Makes Perfect

It is well known that repetition [3] is crucial for learning. Unfortunately, remote technology training does not support this. Showing employees how to do certain tasks in an app is almost never enough. They need to be shown several times, in context, before the process really "sinks in."

5. Lengthy Webinars Are Inappropriate

For training with specific tools and tasks, many companies opt for webinar sessions where an instructor guides coworkers through how to use an app. This might work at an in-person training session at your corporate offices but is less effective for remote teams.

We all know how difficult it is to focus when working from home, whether it is kids running around or interruptions from a delivery person. In many cases, a two-hour training webinar is going to be too difficult to stay focused on.

Why We Need More Contextual Microlearning

There is no doubt that some webinar-based training is useful for remote workers. That said, the weaknesses identified above suggest that an alternative approach is needed.

Contextual microlearning is an innovative new approach for technology training that is much more effective than lengthy sessions full of generic examples. Contextual microlearning involves the creation of short, relevant training videos and walkthrough guides right within an application, where the user needs that guidance the most. Instead of searching online or asking a colleague for help, contextual microlearning offers the training at the exact moment it is required.

Let’s return to our example of Amy the marketer who is struggling to reassign a task in Microsoft Planner. If her company offered contextual microlearning, her issues would be resolved in moments. She clicks on a learning tab right within Planner and is presented with several training videos and articles which relate to the specific page she is on. Sure enough, there is a quick guide showing how to reassign a task, and she can get on with her day.

Contextual microlearning offers Amy so many benefits:

  • After a couple of repetitions, she will remember how to do this in the future.
  • It saves her a lot of time and boosts productivity for the company.
  • Amy is left feeling empowered, she no longer feels blocked by the technology.

More Effective Remote End User Training

With more employees working remotely than ever before, companies need reliable, effective technology training. If not, they face serious productivity problems and high rates of employee dissatisfaction.

And this is where contextual microlearning can help. Provide microlearning tools that fit effortlessly into your team’s workflows. Bring the learning to them instead of expecting them to go to the learning modules. Providing great content in the context of their environment, in the flow of their work, and at the moment of their need is the most effective way to ensure that your employees have the information they need on hand to be able to complete their tasks.


[1] Nearly Half of People in the U.S. Have Not Participated in Remote Training Despite Most Businesses Mandating Remote Work Since March 2020

[2] Employees Are Accessing More and More Business Apps, Study Finds