In 2020, the Aires Training team was tasked with moving all our programs to a virtual environment. The biggest challenge we faced was how to modify the new-hire orientation training (which involves up to 75 internal participants). This training is the first formal experience employees have with our company, and it was critical that we put our best foot forward.
Creating a virtual training can be a daunting task, especially when our goal is to create an experience that is authentic in all parts. We allow people to be themselves, engage in humor and levity, and understand that while we adhere to our company’s mission, vision, and philosophy, we are also navigating unprecedented times with the pandemic. Authenticity belongs at the heart of that, so we listened and engaged with this principle in mind.Areas of focus in the virtual program included:
- Mixing it up. We try to stay away from PowerPoint presentation after PowerPoint presentation, keeping everyone on their toes with polls, games, breakout rooms, and even Zoom bingo. Maintaining a high energy level is key.
- Reviewing the previous day’s session. Each new day, we let the group give their takeaways and summaries from the last session. It was crucial to us to have this experience be as engaging, collaborative, and interactive as possible. After all, they say you learn best when you are teaching others.
- Focusing on ice breakers. Some of us get nervous when we hear these words, so we did our best to integrate fun ways to get to know one another. Talking about their first jobs, their pets, or having a brief “show and tell” of an object from their house that meant something to them was a new spin on the classic idea.
- Keeping the cameras on. We encouraged everyone to be on camera so that we can learn and workshop how to be aware of body language, presentation, and how you come across in a virtual presentation. For some participants, this was more of a review, but some new hires learned a lot from this practice.
- Remembering that laughter is important. Knowing that virtual training can be challenging, we always made it a point to laugh and make jokes with the team. As the old adage goes, laughter is the best medicine.
- Encouraging breaks. Even though our training was completely virtual, we honored people’s need to take a break from their screen and made sure we were giving adequate time for this.
There were definitely some bumps along the way, but we continued to move forward, recreate ourselves and find new ways to keep a virtual meeting engaging even when our “Zoom fatigue” was at its peak. It challenged our resilience and adaptability, but we are better for overcoming what seemed to be impossible at the time.
My best advice to make a training class or workshop successful is keep it real, have fun, share your stories – experiences, kids, pets, favorite mugs, and everything else in between. The learning will get there, but the connections are what is the most important.