src=”https://buffer.com/resources/content/images/2022/05/louis-hansel-SCc9AndIwJ4-unsplash.jpg” alt=”How We Offer Async Training To Our Fully-Distributed Customer Advocacy Team”>
We’ve tried a variety of training formats within the Buffer Advocacy group, including training over Zoom, lightning talks and recorded trainings. It is often energizing to train together as a group and fosters a sense community. However, it can be lonely to watch a training video by itself. We also didn’t know how to follow up with our trainers or other teammates. We had the opportunity to look at new training ideas for our remote group at the start of this year.
Juliet Chen, a senior customer advocate at Buffer, was assigned the task of creating a series of four training videos to assist the Advocacy team in their efforts to improve productivity and organizational effectiveness. We have expanded our global coverage as the team has grown. Our team now has teammates that have virtually no overlap, from the US to Europe and Ghana to our colleagues in Australia, Brunei and Thailand. It has become more difficult to schedule Zoom live training sessions.
We realized that the four training sessions we planned would not be feasible and wouldn’t be inclusive of the whole team when we began planning them. We found that synchronous (or async), training was the best option.
We also knew that our teammates could offer valuable insights to the team, so we wanted to capture it. We knew there were no “correct” ways to increase productivity or organization. This is why we created this series to bring different perspectives to the table.
How can we avoid the isolation that people feel while training alone? We wanted everyone to have the opportunity to get to know each other and to feel a sense if they were all in it together. We had to find a way to communicate the information in a fun and engaging manner that encourages participation.
We had several brainstorming sessions to address these issues and come up with some participation and formatting ideas that we would love to share.
The training format
Although we have done one-off training sessions asynchronously before, we never did a series with a fixed schedule. We posted an introduction thread (Threads is our primary tool for communicating asynchronously at Buffer) on the team to kick off the training. It explained what it would look like and how they could get involved. We shared all topics and the schedule.
Jan 21 – Jan 31: Planning for a productive 1:1 synchronization with your Advocacy LeadJan 31-February 14: Keeping up to Buffer communications
February 14 – February 28: Use performance reviews to help you grow
February 28-March 14: Preparing to launch product
We offered new training every other week throughout the quarter. It was part of our overall theme of productivity communication and organization. This was done to encourage team members to think through these topics again and promote learning over several weeks.
The training covered the expectations of any Buffer company, Advocacy team and then the trainer shared tips, strategies and techniques. The training was written in an article format, without any guidelines or rules. This allowed each participant to write in their own style. We provided screenshots and other supporting resources, such as articles and blog posts from others in our industry, and even fun gifs.
How we encouraged participation
We opened the training to all team members who wished for their feedback.
We asked the team for two ways to continue the training.
- Make their submission using the organization strategies or tips they have used successfully
- Share feedback and comments on training submissions or those of your teammates
We asked for submissions and decided to use the following parameters.
- We recommended (but not required) that Advocates attend at least two of these four trainings.
- We allowed submissions in either written or video formats. We wanted them to feel free to share their thoughts in any way that they felt most comfortable.
- We set a deadline of two weeks for submissions, as we intended to include them in the wiki after the session is over.
- So that everyone could view the training and submit their submissions, we asked them to do so in the Thread. This would encourage discussion and feedback.
We received some amazing submissions from Advocates as we went along. They had many strategies to share with us. Some of the submissions were extremely detailed and covered an entire process. Others were more simple but effective methods that added real value.
Others Advocates added praises or validations that they used the same strategies to great success or had learned something new from their teammate’s submissions.
These submissions were included (with credit) in the training. We moved them to our internal Wiki. It’s our hope that any new teammates will benefit from these additional submissions from their peers.
What we learned
Darcy Peters (Customer Advocacy Manager) created our most popular training on “leveraging performance review as your gateway for growth”. Many advocates found it invaluable to hear specific strategies and techniques from the perspective of a manager.
Darcy, it’s amazing how well-thought out your system is! You’ve thought of everything .” – Julia Cummings
We were thrilled to see that so many Advocates had read the trainings and responded positively to each thread. The training series received great feedback overall.
“I want to let you all know that these trainings were so impactful for me. Each one felt like it landed right when I needed it .”. Dave Chapman
These trainings were incredibly valuable! — Essence of Muhammad
We have seen that our team members learn differently. Some people learn best by listening or watching videos, while others prefer reading. This can make it difficult to decide how to best train the whole team.
We’ve already tried the purely written format. However, we would love to try other formats for future async trainings. You could offer a written post but include an audio or video version with the trainer reading it, or even a slideshow.
Another option is to share a summary and then add bite-sized information to the topic each day for a full week (like a Twitter thread). To get more ideas, we’ll continue to survey our team. We want to make sure that the training is as inclusive as possible with all learning styles.
We received a lot positive feedback but submission participation was not as high as we hoped. The inbox was extremely busy over these weeks. Some people felt a bit of information overload due to the many announcements and conversations that occur in the first quarter.
Another reason Advocates did not submit a submission was because they believed their strategies were equivalent to the ones we provided in the training. We hoped that they would share more ideas, even if they didn’t have many strategies and the training was valuable. Although we saw positive reactions to emojis, we still wanted more people to respond directly to the Thread.
To encourage participation and greater cooperation, we will be clarifying the definition of “submission”. We want to see our colleagues continue to have the opportunity to share their ideas and learn from each other.
We’ll ask Advocates for future async trainings to “check off” they’ve read the training and then choose one of these submission options:
- You can add a new strategy to your team that is effective.
- Oder, they can identify a strategy that we have presented and how they would implement it in their work environment.
We will also explore ways to continue to communicate with the team several more weeks after training, to find out how they are doing.
We took a risk by offering a whole series of async-training for a quarter. However, we learned a lot from it and saw great benefits for our team.
Everyone was given equal time to learn and to take part. Those who wanted to share their strategies or tips with others had plenty of time to do so. This prevented us from adding four additional meetings to everyone’s schedule — the team could arrange the training according to their preferences.
Finally, we were able to add the valuable submissions from the team to our wiki to provide resources for new teammates who joined us after the training session.
We are excited about the future async training of the Advocacy team, and we look forward to exploring new formats and submission ideas.
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