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3 Simple Solutions to Support Field Teams

Updated: May 21, 2023

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when faced with numerous obstacles related to supporting team members out in the field. Fortunately, the solutions may be easier than you think! Whether you’re a field manager developing the strategy or simply assisting with the support effort, here are three approaches to build on for success.

Scenario: Your field team is spread all over the country (or the world) and is rarely all in the same place at the same time. Having a dispersed workforce creates big gaps in communication, messaging gets missed (or is ignored), and you’re finding it difficult to know the best way to keep everyone in the loop.

If you’re suffering from this communication issue, you may have the following indicators:

  • Everyone in the organization, from Marketing to Learning & Development to IT, faces difficulties distributing information to the field team in a timely manner and in a mode that is easily digestible for their busy schedules.

  • Managers struggle to communicate with field personnel to ensure each is following the appropriate business practices with prospects and customers.

  • Field team members may not ask for help until they’re too far down the wrong road, which can lead to reduced profitability, increased employee frustration, greater risk and poor customer service.

Solution: Take an objective step back from the issue to analyze your existing communication processes and identify the specific barriers to success. Go to the source, your field team, and solicit their ideas. Ask them questions such as:

  • What expectations do they have for communicating with the field manager, team and other members of the organization?

  • What’s holding them back from communicating more?

  • What barriers prevent them from communicating successfully?

  • What are their preferred communication methods?

  • What will make them feel more supported, productive and satisfied?

With this insight, you are more equipped to fine tune the team’s communication strategy and get the necessary buy-in when implementing it.

Keep in mind that a standard communication solution may not be the best solution. For example, you want to use methods that build a sense of community and teamwork but also methods that protect both employees’ privacy and company confidential information. If you’re not feeling tech savvy, ask for volunteers to research and try out some solutions.

Once you’ve identified components of your communication strategy, be sure to identify simple ground rules and expectations for communicating. If you base these on the initial input you received from the team, you will realize more success.

Scenario: Finding a one-size-fits-all training approach to enable your team seems impossible. There just doesn’t seem to be a solution that works for everyone.

When considering your training approach, do you have any of the following issues?

  • Although you offer training programs for new field initiatives, they still seem uncoordinated and ineffective.

  • Regardless of the approach you try, the training is unused or underutilized by field personnel.

  • You’ve tried eLearning but haven’t realized the benefits you were hoping for.

  • You’ve also tried instructor-led training, but it’s expensive and takes the field team away from their tasks and customers for too long.

  • Field team members complain they don’t have enough time in their day to complete the training. Because they are highly mobile, they resort to completing training during their evening or weekend hours, increasing their frustration and decreasing their attention and enthusiasm.

Solution: If you’re feeling like there’s not one solution that meets all your needs, you’re probably right. Instead of looking for a single approach, consider the multiple issues traveling field personnel face. It’s important to realize that they may need a slightly different training solution than other audiences in the organization. Training that enables your field team requires a unique blended learning approach, providing courses and resources exactly when learners need it.

More than likely, your field team spends a good portion of their time away from an office, working at client sites and traveling. How can your training approach address this issue? Deliver the training in small chunks that can be completed during breaks or between jobs. Short 5 or 10 minute eLearning segments or recorded webinars are much more effective than modules that require the field team member to be in front of a computer or in a classroom for an hour, a day, a week.

The training should also be in a format that can be easily accessed anywhere, anytime. Can your current learning management system (LMS) provide this availability? If not, the field team may need a more accessible solution than the rest of your organization. For example, post videos on a YouTube channel, include eLearning in your internal knowledge center/learning portal or use a web (cloud)-based LMS.

Have you considered your approach to developing training for the field team’s personalities and learning styles? For example, training could be more interactive, where the learners can practice implementing strategies and receive immediate feedback, reinforcement and remediation.

Here’s an example of an effective blended learning solution with a variety of components:

  • Several short (less than 10 minutes), interactive eLearning modules that introduce a new topic, with a new module released each week

  • A companion case study workbook that builds a customer’s story throughout each eLearning module and guides learners through developing a solution that includes a field strategy for the scenario

  • A case study solution document that field managers use to coach their team after completion of each module

  • An action plan for field personnel with suggested activities to facilitate practical application of the new material and reinforce learning

  • A discussion guide that field managers use to work through the action plan with each field team member (one-on-one)

  • A group review presented at your company’s next monthly or quarterly field team meeting, in which field personnel share their case study solutions and seek feedback from their peers

A blended learning program like this would also work well with instant messaging solutions, on-demand knowledge centers and best practice articles, so learners can share their thoughts about the training and see what others think and feel.

Scenario: With acquisitions, your company is growing fast. Internal processes and guidelines are continually changing, and so are sales strategies and product offerings. Enabling your field team is difficult, seeming even futile, when everything is in flux.

Do any of these adoption/enablement issues sound familiar to you?

  • Your combined workforce is comprised of employees from different corporate cultures, which means some field employees are taking longer to adjust

  • The merger has forced some employees into new roles they're unsure they can handle and others are required to learn fresh skills that are hard for them to master

  • The dispersed field team, especially, is getting a little lost or frustrated in the transition, leading to disruptions and downtime

  • You try to develop new standards and strategies, but regardless of the effort and implementation, the output never seems cohesive and the initiatives are not thoroughly adopted

  • Existing customers expect high-quality service despite major company changes and without it, customer satisfaction suffers and sales revenues drop

Solution: Mergers affect every employee and are often met with lots of questions. With field team members always on the go, it's even more critical these employees are trained to ensure that service offerings are at the best quality. The best way to do this is for field leaders to ensure the training process is as quick and efficient as possible. The faster you can train your workforce, the better.

Start by assessing skill sets, integrating workplace culture and carving out initiatives that will be sure to help retain key people, such as job shadowing and mentorship. Every department of the company should involve some level of training to ensure that the organizational transition is as smooth as possible.

Another way to get a leg up on a fast-paced transition is to organize training, documents and resources in an online repository where they can be easily accessed. This will allow you to jump-start your new locations and begin translating the organization’s mission and values to field personnel that may have been more accustomed to the previous company.

In initiatives that may need change management, such as using a new tool or adopting a new strategy, ask for and encourage involvement from the field team. They may be too busy to get deeply involved, but they need to know their opinions are important. Early in the tool/strategy development process through implementation, create a feeling of an open, transparent community and provide the team with multiple ways to voice their thoughts and opinions.

Ask open-ended questions such as “How do you think this strategy will affect interactions with your customers?” and “What makes you nervous about using this tool?” Once a few field team members start adding their input and field managers respond with supportive, encouraging replies, you’ll find acceptance and commitment to adopting the new strategy. Leaders can also use the responses to identify and prevent potential upcoming roadblocks in adoption and barriers to success.

Be sure to monitor field team members’ progress in their new roles, and offer additional training to people who are struggling to handle new responsibilities. Finally, encourage the team to share their successes and celebrate others’ success.

In Summary

It goes without saying that the process of supporting employees who perform field work is a big one. It involves a lot of thought, careful planning and participation from field leaders, supervisors and team members alike. Make sure to ease the process as much as possible by having an effective communication strategy, training approach, and change management plan in place. Sitting down with key company personnel to map out plans for these three solutions can save you a lot of time and headaches down the road - and will ultimately prepare your field team for success.

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