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Managers and Management FAQ
How do we deal with training for new employees when the telecommuters have to do the training? Our department has eleven employees, four of whom telecommute. We have two editors (I'm one) and both are homebased. The telecommuters don't have work areas at the main office, though there is one area which they can share when they are on site. My manager is concerned about how to go about training new employees. With more than one-third of the department homebased, the remaining employees would bear the training burden. We could set up a schedule in which those employees who are homebased come into the office and spend a day, or a few half-days, with the new employee during the first week or two. Is this the best way?

This is a problem that many companies overlook, though it happens mostly with field sales people more than office-based telecommuters. It's great to get the real estate savings by shrinking or closing offices, but the problem arises when you start adding or replacing staff and there's no "office" at which to orient and train the new employees.

I think you've answered your own question. The idea of having the telecommuters come into the office on some planned schedule is how to handle it, but with two additions. First, make sure that there is a clear training agenda for the new hire - a list of topics, skills, etc. to be learned or discussed. Second, make sure that there's a clear division of labor as to who is going to provide training about what. There's a big risk of things falling into the cracks with a shared-training setup like this.

Also, I'd say that the new employee should be the one to decide when enough is enough. That is, you want him/her to feel that it's okay to say, "Hey, wait a minute. I really don't fully understand XYZ. Do you think you could spend another couple of half-days working with me on it?"

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