by Randy Rayess

How the best remote companies train their people

Sep 30, 2015
CareersIT LeadershipIT Skills

We have to rethink our training process to provide our teams with access to information as and when they need it and to accommodate a more flexible work environment.

We all know the importance of having great talent on our team. Talent alone though is not enough. After working with some of the best remote companies, I’ve seen that an outstanding training process can dramatically change an employee’s experience and success.

Training is a lot more than a few lectures from a manager. The key to a great training process is how well your new talent fits in and how quickly they are able to understand what your organization values and how it operates.

This is difficult to do especially in a remote working environment. So how do these companies make training their competitive advantage? 

Have a company wiki

Remote companies have wikis to allow all employees to easily access company’s information anytime online. We’ve seen a company wiki take a variety of forms, including a living blog, a Quora-like Q&A form or sometimes just a Google doc. 

What are the 5 most important parts of the wiki?

Performance reviews. All well managed remote teams encourage that you dive into detail regarding your employee performance reviews. When and how are reviews conducted? What are the key parameters? Give examples of what successful people in each role have done – Did they build a creative side project? Did they complete all tasks on time? Did they challenge some of the product team’s assumptions and roadmap? This will make it clear to a new employee what you value and what matters to you.

Role specific info. Once the general details are understood, an employee can dive deeper and study information related to her role. For example, developers can get an overview of the coding policies and the existing code architecture. Video walkthroughs generally work well when guiding new developers through the code base. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). The FAQ is a database of various questions that employees usually ask or have asked in the past. If your developer has a new question then there should be an option within the wiki to add a new question, which can be answered by relevant people within the firm. Once that question is answered it automatically becomes part of the wiki. Anyone who has that question in the future can easily search and find the answer.

Working Style. New employees must be familiarized with the working style of the team – this is especially important in a remote working arrangement. Make it clear when you expect people to be online, available to chat, when the rest of their team usually works and what time zone each person is in. It’s always better to over communicate early on instead of leaving your new employee to make their own assumptions.  

Tools. Each company uses different tools like project management software, communication tools, storage etc. Getting each person set up and trained on the tools at the beginning allows them to be productive early on. You definitely do not want to see your team wasting time trying to figure out how to use your task management tool. Add a quick tutorial for setup, on boarding and for general usage of the tool and make sure common questions are added to the FAQ section.  

Why is a company wiki important? How is this different from a handbook?

We consistently hear that well-made and well-managed company wikis make employees self-reliant. This saves time, for both you and the employee. 

Another advantage is that all questions or tutorials can easily be revisited at any time by any employee across the organization. You no longer have to answer the same question multiple times and can have your senior team prepare great tutorials and answers to the FAQs in the wiki as that is going to provide long term value to the entire organization.

Knowledge management through a company wiki is simpler and more streamlined. All information is collected and organized in one place, so that you don’t have to worry about fragmented communication at work places. This is the key difference between this and a traditional handbook, which is not easily searchable, regularly modified with new questions and answers and is not customized with detailed role specific information.

These practices have worked well for remote teams but I believe they can add value for traditional office based teams. As millennial talent look for a flexible work environment, where they can quickly add value and expect access to key information as and when they need it, we need to make sure our company and our training practices are efficiently setting up our new team members for success.