Virtual Learning and Communication
As more platforms, businesses, and educational institutions manage interactions and their typical daily services from home, the need for virtual communication that is seamless and transparent is more needed than ever.
Although we weren’t necessarily prepared for the changes that would come with the pandemic, COVID-19 has forced something that was long avoided by traditional industries: the need for virtual communication tools that make it just as easy to learn, work, and grow, right at home.
This crash course into the world of virtual learning development and instructional design has been, for many, overwhelming. We didn’t exactly receive any warning. Yet, those of us who are pragmatic know that it is here to stay, and with good reason: working from home saves companies, schools, and individuals money in transportation and wasted time. Many other countries around the world already knew this.
Therefore, ease of clear communication through a virtual portal needs to be paramount for everyone in the game today.
How Does Virtual Communication Compared to Co-Located Communication?
When two people are sitting in an office together, communication is easier to transmit. However, giving this kind of setting a 5/5 star rating wouldn’t be fair to say, either, though. With the unneeded conference calls and team meetings that eat up valuable time throughout the day, the previous way of communicating in a business setting needed improvement, too.
Now, in a virtual setting, the communication struggles are much more apparent. Yet, they are not insurmountable.
How Can I Improve Virtual Communication at My Company?
Step 1: Have Virtual Leaders
The manager-style structure still needs to hold true, even online. There needs to be strategic virtual leaders positioned around your team that strive for clear communication and uphold their responsibility to have a constant virtual presence. This constant presence helps keep teams on track, allowing them to know there is always somewhere there to answer their questions. This will make it less likely that team members will sign-off or unplug since they feel an ‘isolation’ that makes them drift away from closeness with the business or institution.
Step 2: Celebrate Accomplishments
All too often, people treat virtual communication like it’s a video game. We forget that the people on the other end of the chat boxes are still real, breathing individuals who deserve to be treated as such. That’s why celebrating contributions and accomplishments is a huge part of virtual team management. It helps people to feel like they are still part of a team, even if they are sitting at home, on the couch, in their pajamas.
Step 3: Uphold Trust and Open Communication
Virtual settings automatically create an anonymity that was not there when working in an office environment. You can feel a sort of detachment that can make ‘trusting other people’ more challenging. If a virtual leader is behaving in a way that lacks transparency and open communication, the entire team will unravel. One of the best ways to establish this trust is to seek out mutually beneficial focuses, and making expectations blaringly and blatantly obvious.
Step 4: Continuously Invest in Your Virtual Leaders
Virtual leaders need to be made aware of the business fundamentals, challenges, and changes immediately. They cannot be kept outside of the business discussions. If they are, that crucial trust that they maintain with the rest of the staff will fall apart. A successful person, in a leadership role within a virtual setting, becomes a valuable partner in delivering value added solutions to the organization.
What Trust is Not
In order to establish this person-to-person, authentic trust within a virtual setting, the virtual leaders need to go beyond relying on reputation, authority, and control. It’s about keeping your word, telling the truth, and admitting to fault, even when it’s really hard to do. It’s about keeping your promise as a leader, and doing what you say you are going to do. It’s about building integrity and having a reputation that allows people to fall back on you, no matter what.
Trust cannot be purchased, written into an email, or stated to a team of individuals. It needs to be felt and witnessed. And yes, even through written words on a computer, all of our subconscious can detect if we are communicating with someone who is lying or not telling the truth. That element of the human spirit will never go away, even if we are all interacting in virtual learning environments.
Communication is Key
In order to oversee effortless training and development in any virtual workplace today, virtual leaders need to be supported, invested in, and constantly briefed so that they can maintain an infallible level of trust with the people they maintain. The anonymity of the internet can be dismantled if we remember that, at the end of the day, we are human beings who need authentic and trustworthy connection.
That is how virtual learning and communication can flourish.