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Why Waiting for In-Person Training is a Mistake

When we first proposed to some of our clients that they pivot classroom workshops to virtual training, we got more than a few hasty “No, we’ll wait till we can meet in person again” responses.

There was a fear that a virtual training might not be as impactful or as engaging as in-person sessions and that, as a result, it would be better to hold off for a few months than to settle for a virtual experience. However, this kind of thinking is doing leaders and businesses a disservice. For one thing, it is still unknown when it will be safe to return to in-person training. And, once it is deemed safe to return, in-person training will almost certainly look different than it did before the pandemic. What we do know is that postponing training based on a wish for the future will result in a missed opportunity to capitalize on the benefits of remote training.

What we know now: virtual leadership development is working and working well.

Here are four major reasons to conduct remote leadership development training:

  1. Virtual leadership is the new norm
    The beauty of offering leadership development training now is that the training mirrors the current remote working situation. Many large corporations have mandated remote work through the summer of 2021, making skills to develop and lead a remote team a necessity. Many leaders are accustomed to seeing their team members in the office, providing and receiving valuable feedback in-person. A well-designed learning experience may (and, we argue, should) cause leaders to pause and reflect upon how they are leading and stewarding culture in a remote environment. Leaders now have the renewed opportunity to learn the power of prioritization, strategic thinking, and communication, especially in a world where informal interactions are limited.
  2. Virtual training is cost- and time-effective
    While it is great for networking purposes to have a whole group of leaders in one room, this traditional training model can be expensive. From hotel rooms, to meals, to flights, the ticket for an in-person training can be a huge investment in terms of dollars and time. Rather than traveling, leaders can log in to their training and still have opportunities to interact and network with other leaders across the firm. Virtual programs take many forms: a few hours a day over the course of many weeks, or even full days over the course of one intensive week. Training can mirror traditional in-person programs or be tailored to fit specific needs. Instead of pulling leaders out of the office for multiple days to travel to a program, virtual training offers flexibility and can be even more custom tailored to the calendar constraints of the target population.
  3. Leaders want and need it
    People drive organizations, and it comes as no surprise that employees feel more invested in organizations that invest in their development. COVID-19 has put many companies to the test from a budgetary, as well as a leadership, perspective. Recent Gallup data shows that employees and managers are experiencing a decline in their feelings of preparedness to do their job and in their feelings that their employers care about their well-being[i]. Now is the perfect time to invest in training for leaders to reinvigorate a remote workforce that has helped the firm brave the pandemic and make the shift to remote work.
  4. It’s a great way to connect (and it can be fun)
    Virtual training is a great way to get people together without physically getting them together. Investing in virtual training time can be just the connection outlet that people are seeking. Gathering a group of people from across the organization and providing them with a shared experience can be one of the most effective ways to build community in the current environment. Go a step further and provide people with a shared challenge to tackle in the form of a business simulation to allow leaders to learn from each other. Business simulations are powerful experiential learning tools that help leaders practice making tough choices and having difficult conversations, all while building a network of peers.

At Insight Experience, we have put hundreds of leaders through virtual training since the onset of the pandemic and have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from HR leaders and participants alike. Some powerful quotes we received include:

“I’m not sure I would ever have learned this much had I been shadowing someone in a real business environment. It was incredibly realistic, allowed me to practice skills I didn’t know I had, work closely with a team, and experience managing a company.”

“I learned a lot about myself for sure as well as processes and how to think as a leader.”

Virtual training does not simply have to be a talking head. Add a business simulation for additional community-building, challenge, and engagement! Now is not the time to wait for in-person training to come back. Lean in and invest in leaders.

[i] Gandhi, Vipula. “As COVID-19 Continues, Employees Are Feeling Less Prepared.”