Our latest Covid-19 themed Pulse Check* conducted among 1000 senior professionals in the communications sector found that 87% of respondents are fearful of returning to their workplace due to safety concerns of using public transport.  With that in mind we were interested to find out from a leading trainer in HR skills how she was finding the switch to running her training courses online. Linda Taylor, Founder, The Employee Relations Consultancy, answers this month’s big question…

‘How does virtual and online training compare to face-to-face?’

I have been designing and delivering training in HR skills for more than 20 years. This work has always been face-to-face. Then came CV-19 lockdown and suddenly I had to get up to speed with virtual training and have just delivered my first virtual training programme. This was originally a two-day classroom workshop on Performance Management. I am now delivering this as seven, two-hour sessions via Zoom. I did a lot of research and took part in valuable webinars about how to run effective virtual workshops which helped me adapt both my style and the content of the programme. 

My first concern was – would the IT work? But I then realised that when I turn up at a venue that is also my first concern. I normally use an iPad Pro for training and use my iPhone to change the slides. I have had numerous occasions when I have arrived somewhere, having checked beforehand what equipment is in the room, to find that it is not compatible with my iPad – so the tech worry is always there.

I think that it takes longer to develop that rapport with the group on Zoom than happens face to face. However, one observation is that virtual training can be really helpful for delegates who may be uncomfortable contributing in a large group. 

This brings me on to ‘control’. I have noticed that there is much more control with the Zoom Breakout rooms than there is with in person training. How many times have delegates been late back to the main room because they are on their phones, chatting together or have taken a comfort break? Closing a Zoom breakout room means everyone appears back immediately. A clear plus point for maintaining focus and momentum for the group as a whole.

For this programme, I also think that the two-hour sessions worked well. People could fit this training into a busy schedule. There was also better energy and concentration. I do think that however stimulating and brilliant we are as trainers (!), sitting for 2 days in one room, (sometimes without natural light), is difficult to do and inevitably energy levels flag on the second day. 

This has been a very positive experience for me particularly when five minutes after the training finished, I am able to drink a cup of tea in my kitchen and have not had to drive two hours back from the client’s offices.

I am tempted to answer my own question by saying ‘Virtual training beats face to face hands down!’. However, practising newly learned skills will always be more effective in person. What you do miss is being able to observe body language and the sense of the group as a whole. So, I think my answer is that if practical skills are at the core of a training programme, an in-person session should be built in. However, with a bit of thought and effort virtual training can have the same impact and is a great option as we deal with the current pandemic and move on into the next stage of work – whatever that may bring…

Linda Taylor
The Employee Relations Consultancy


Linda has spent more than 30 years in Human Resources and founded the Employee Relations Consultancy in 1999. Linda works with clients across the South of England providing HR support, delivering high quality training, and carrying out independent HR investigations and mediation.

*Pulse Check conducted among 1000 senior professionals in the communications sector between 22-26

 June 2020.