Deloitte’s 2020 Global Human Capital Trends survey found that a majority of all organisations recognised a need to reskill between half and all of their employees between 2020 and 2023. And that was toward the start of the pandemic. Today, the need for this degree of adaptability and growth is matched by a need for team resilience. Research from McKinsey & Company during the pandemic showed that the companies which exhibited healthy, resilient behaviours were significantly more likely to stay afloat compared to “unhealthy” companies.
This may seem fairly obvious to most of us – healthier companies perform better – but the secrets to developing and enshrining resilience in your teams are less so. Especially in this burgeoning remote work culture, building resilience requires careful navigation of the digital scape. Unable to meet with our colleagues in person as frequently as before (if at all), the need for a solution to remote team resilience training becomes acute.
This article discusses the challenges facing team resilience building, as well as the solutions eLearning can provide.
The Rise of Remote Work: A Curve-ball for Team Resilience
According to Upwork’s Future Workforce Report 2021, by the year 2026 somewhere in the region 28% of all American workers will work remotely full-time. If this trend is echoed by even a fraction across the rest of the world, then most business leaders will soon have to manage their teams remotely. This in and of itself requires resilience, but in a world of constant change, teaching resilience in remote teams will be just as key.
Team resilience is the ability of a team to foresee potential challenges, prepare for them, and adapt to and overcome them when they arise; all whilst remaining a cohesive, high-functioning unit. Previously, building resilience in teams could be conducted in person, in a physical workplace setting, where creating clear and open channels of communication can come quite naturally.
Remote work culture, however, comes with a whole new set of unique challenges to team-building, the likes of which cannot necessarily be mitigated using the same resilience tactics as before.
Building Resilient Teams Remotely: The Challenges
The biggest challenge facing remote team resilience-building is, of course, the time and space between team members. Split across numerous time zones, teams may struggle to work synchronously, communicate effectively, or form the types of compassionate, supportive, complimentary bonds, which are fundamental to resilience.
As highly social creatures, we have evolved to depend on subtle social and physical cues to develop relationships with each other – particularly to develop trust, one of the foundational cornerstones of building resilient teams. Unable to exactly replicate the sorts of environments that foster these connections – such as the traditional office setting – we must rely on other strategies to help our employees connect and build strong networks. eLearning is a particularly effective tool for bridging the remote work gap.
Building Resilient Teams Remotely: The Potential for Elearning
eLearning encapsulates the systems, processes, and technologies employers can use to upskill and reskill their employees digitally – or in other words, remotely. Online education and eLearning solutions provide a framework in which team leaders can help foster resilience, both in individual employees and the wider organisation.
With 24/7 access to eLearning portals and training materials, employees around the world are able to grow at their own pace, whilst keeping open and accessible communication with each other. Not only is eLearning a more affordable means of building remote team resilience (compared to traditional in-person methods), but it also has the unique scalability of a digital solution. For businesses expanding internationally, the scalability of your resilience-building framework is key.
Fostering Resilience With Elearning: The 4 Characteristics of Resilient Teams
In Unbreakable: Building and Leading Resilient Teams by Bradley L. Kirkman and Adam C. Stoverink, the authors propose four characteristics which must be present for a team to be regarded as truly resilient. These are confidence, candour, flexibility and foresight. We examine how eLearning might be used to help foster these four pillars of resilience in remote teams.
Resilient teams are confident that they can tackle anything thrown their way, navigate challenges effectively, and emerge on the other side all the stronger for it. This confidence is, however, more than the compound confidence of individual team members – which tends to be more confidence in personal ability. Instead, it is a confidence in the team as a whole.
Confidence manifests when each team member trusts the abilities of their colleagues, but more than this intimately understands their colleagues’ roles. It requires the team to cheer on each other’s successes and support each other through difficulties.
eLearning solutions can help to build confidence in resilient teams through the open sharing of knowledge and responsibilities, collaborative decision-making, upskilling and reskilling training modules to improve individual confidence in the employee’s own abilities, and the provision of a platform for regular team feedback, analysis, and consequent improvement.
Some experts on team resilience would go so far as to say that resilient teams must comprise employees who deeply and genuinely care about each other. In remote work culture, such a depth of compassion is inarguably harder to foster, given the lack of out-of-office hours colleagues are able to spend with each other. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that candour can’t be encouraged with the aid of eLearning.
In order to be resilient in the face of change and challenge, teams should be able to speak honestly, easily, and truthfully with each other. Clear communication is always key in business, but in building resilient teams it is fundamental – a lack of candour foments distrust, slower response time to external issues, and confuses problem-solving; all of which may prove costly, even fatal, to a business.
eLearning platforms can be used to provide team members with a safe and honest environment in which to settle disputes, share truths, build stronger bonds, and overcome adversities together. This could take the form of forums for spontaneous “candour breaks,” in which the participants set aside time to speak openly without reproach. Alternatively, eLearning can bridge geographical barriers by providing an accessible user interface where team communications can be accessed, recorded and replied to regardless of the remote worker’s time zone.
Planning is at the heart of team resilience. The ability to foresee potential future challenges is invaluable to business; running simulation scenarios helps to prepare teams for a wide range of issues they may have to face at some point or other. Yet foresight requires more than an outward, forward-thinking perspective; it also requires introspection.
In addition to training teams to tackle a variety of challenging scenarios, eLearning solutions can be used to evaluate the current skillsets of team members in order to uncover weaknesses. These individual weaknesses can act like hairline cracks in the porcelain of the group, and if not addressed, could prove the team’s downfall.
eLearning allows resilient teams to identify their weak spots so that they may then seek further training and education through their eLearning platform to strengthen the target area. Assessment and upskilling, combined with scenario simulation – e.g., what happens if team member X has to take time off at a crucial moment – fosters the foresight that teams need to be resilient.
Finally, flexibility. The old analogy of the tree serves us well, here. If the tree is rigid, strong and inflexible, then in calm weather it may look perfectly sturdy; however, in a storm that same tree will snap and fall. On the contrary, the young and flexible sapling can bend at the will of the wind and weather the same storm unflinchingly.
This is as true for teams as it is for trees. To build a truly resilient team, it must be a flexible unit. Managers can help to ensure flexibility by training team members to know each other’s roles well enough that they can share responsibilities when workloads fluctuate, creating higher or lower demands for particular skill sets.
Moreover, recruiters can help to create more resilient teams by hiring employees with a high level of diversity – often linked directly to diversity of background (i.e., ethnicity, race, religion, sexuality, and gender).
The intrinsic accessibility of eLearning solutions opens recruitment to a wider pool of diverse talent, as does the nature of remote work – disabled and neurodiverse people may find remote working and eLearning far more accessible than office work. The self-paced approach to eLearning – whereby employees develop their different skills at different speeds and using different eLearning tools – further improves accessibility, whilst also giving employees the resources to grow more familiar with their colleagues’ roles.
Recap: The Importance of Elearning for Building Resilient Teams
Building resilient teams remotely is more important than ever, evidenced by the tragic upheaval of so many businesses by the pandemic and a consequent shift in global work culture. For companies looking to expand internationally, or operating through increasingly remote teams, resilience means more than just survival: it means competency and future-proofing, too.
The four primary characteristics of an actively resilient team are confidence, candour, flexibility, and foresight. These characteristics can be encouraged, trained, and reinforced with the aid of eLearning solutions. eLearning is of particular use in building resilience in remote teams, whose members may never have met, and who may live on opposite sides of the world.
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