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Telework for dummies

Mar 17, 20033 mins
IT SkillsNetwork Switches

Is telework training a solution in search of a problem?

Last week I noted that the recent Kinetic Workplace survey found firms providing telework training increased 15% from 2001 to 2002. Here, we’ll look at some training options.

For managers and execs looking for an overview on how to implement a telework program from scratch, the International Telework Association and Council 11 offers a series of free online workshops. Topics include “Selling the Telework Decision,” “Getting Ready to Implement” and “Training the Telemanagers and Teleworkers.”

Gil Gordon Associates offers training courses for teleworkers and managers, both onsite and Web based. Gordon’s Web-based training is conducted in association with the Work and Family Connection:. Courses are two hours each, and pricing varies based on the number of participants.

Another good choice is Phil Montero. Although Montero offers onsite training for managers and teleworkers, his online training is geared to the latter. Montero will begin offering “teleclasses” based on his onsite seminars come April. Sessions cost about $35 each and rely on a workbook in Adobe Acrobat format and the telephone only – no Web conferencing tools.

As with most telework training, employee classes focus on topics such as virtual teaming, how to avoid distractions, communicate effectively, deal with family and friends, and setting up a home office. Manager training typically covers candidate selection, measuring results, communication skills, anticipating problems and the like.

But Joe Roitz, AT&T’s telework director, believes telework training is unnecessary; that the supply of training options outweighs demand.

“Think about it,” he says. “Much of your day is spent on the phone or processing e-mail. You’re working with clients, customers, suppliers or team members in other locations, whether you’re in the office or teleworking.” Roitz says two barriers to telework — technology and the need for human interaction — can’t be solved with training.

 “Sure, training helps improve communications skills, but if someone has problems communicating in e-mail and by phone, they’ll have problems no matter where they’re working,” Roitz says. “They don’t need telework training, they need personal and managerial development.”

Roitz says the true barrier to telework is manager resistance: “Is this something training can cure? Can you send your manager off for a couple of days of training so she’ll see things your way? It’s doubtful.” He adds it’s important for the employee to recognize that managing by performance is just as much if not more in the hands of the employee. A teleworker (or telework hopeful) can take the lead in setting quantifiable objections or creating an agreement to clarify expectations.

“But that isn’t telework training,” Roitz adds. “It’s Management 101. Good managers and good employees are good managers and good employees – no matter where they’re working.”

Moreover, Roitz points out topics such as technology, ergonomics and remote management skills should be taught to everyone, not just teleworkers. “I can’t think of a single managerial skill that’s only applicable to teleworkers,” he says. “But if rebranding these platform skills helps advance telework, I’m all for it.”

What do you think? Is telework training a growing market or a solution in search of a problem? Write me at