How to create virtual safety for learning participants

How to create virtual safety for learning participants

“Psychological safety is a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.” - Amy Edmondson

The Virtual Training Team Principle #2 - Safe Hands

Have you ever been in a team situation where the manager’s plan is just accepted by the team rather than it having been questioned, discussed and extra ideas added? This can happen when the the team don’t feel comfortable enough to challenge or share concerns. Creating environments that foster people’s growth, making them feel comfortable to take risks, suggest alternatives and think outside the box is key to innovation, creativity and learning. And that’s where creating Psychological Safety becomes crucial to development and engagement.

Psychological safety, a term coined by Amy Edmondson, is an important element for learning and growth. In the world of virtual training, the ability to create a safe and comfortable environment for engagement is of heightened significance.

While the Internet and software platforms enable efficient access to learning we also need to be aware that it can be even more important to build safety and trust for our learners. If learners don’t feel the relationship between them and their trainer, has trust and is safe, then this can disrupt knowledge transfer that is essential for growth and success. At The Virtual Training Team we are passionate about being the “safe pair of hands” for our clients and their learners.

What does it mean to have “Safe Hands”?

As an organisation creating “safe hands” or psychological safety for our clients and the trainers we coach starts with us being experts in our field. Whether it is training delivery, training design, using technology or running process, we should be both expert and brilliant practitioners. It is important to establish this from the beginning of a virtual workshop as soon as people log in before the learning begins. When learners arrive on a workshop to be greeted by a warm, smiley, confident virtual coach who is spot on with the tech, content, etc, they should immediately feel that this is going to be a positive learning experience. And this is exactly what we strive to do.

When a client puts their business in our hands they are trusting us to deliver because we are experienced and credible. If you look into the conclusions from the book ‘The Trusted Advisor’ by Maister Green & Galford they clearly evidence that being both expert, and able to provide quality diagnosis of issues, are part of the key criteria for building trust. To achieve and retain trust, our team sets out to know our clients inside and out and spend quality time developing solutions that work. The Virtual Training Team has been crafting its approach and techniques in virtual training design and delivery for nearly a decade working successfully with clients around the world. We want the learnings and experience from this journey to make us a safe pair of hands for our clients and their learners.

Be Virtual, Not Distant

Moving from Face to Face training to virtual classrooms can be daunting for both coaches and learners. So, how do we create psychological safety in a virtual setting?

At the Virtual Training Team, our aim is to not only help coaches become skilled at the job but also a safe pair of hands. Trainers need to become confident in their content, using the technology, running process and managing participants in the virtual environment. For some learners, joining a virtual workshop can feel daunting (especially the first time) so the virtual trainer needs to be able to instantly put them at ease. We train our trainers to be able to create an environment where participants can chat, feel involved, looked after and importantly where they feel safe.

Building rapport and safety is essential in virtual training as learners could be joining in from anywhere across the globe. Traditionally, in face-to-face training, when people first walk in to the training room there is a tendency for them to be a bit uncomfortable because there are other people they do not know. What is the first thing people do in such an instance? They whip out their phones and start checking emails or surfing the Internet. They have disconnected even before they could start engaging. However, in a physical meeting, people can literally be brought back together. Therefore, in a virtual set-up, it is even more challenging to re-engage users who have logged in but then have quickly “checked out” by putting themselves on mute.

Propagating Two-way Communication

When running virtual workshops we encourage conversation and chat from the get go. For a virtual workshop to be successful communication needs to be two way where learners feel comfortable asking questions and sharing insights with each other and the trainer. Engagement increases when learners talk about real issues and challenges they face and when this happens they become more invested in the workshop.

During our virtual workshops we use breakout sessions, where we place small groups into a private virtual room where they are tasked to work through a case study or generate ideas to share back with the main group. This approach means that the trainer is not driving every conversation and knowledge sharing takes places between learners. For this to occur well, learners need to feel psychologically safe - if you feel judged or are criticised you are likely to withdraw and stop contributing.

In a Nutshell

Whether in the confines of a virtual workshop or in the wider workplace when we feel safe psychologically we open up more and can feel confident to grow and flourish which leads to greater business capability. When our managers, leaders or indeed trainers provide a safe pair of hands then great things can happen.

How are you creating “safe hands” for your business? 

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