In recent weeks, remote procedures have experienced a tremendous boost. Many providers, whose services have so far tended to be based in the face-to-face area, are increasingly switching to online procedures. In the face of this omnipresence of online or remote procedures, providers and customers now rightly ask – how effective are online procedures really?
We too already asked ourselves this question some time ago. To be able to provide a well-founded answer, we therefore carried out a meta-analysis across different studies that examined different online formats.
In this article we want to take a closer look at the effectiveness of online procedures by presenting the key findings of our research.
In order to put all this into practice for you, Alexander Fritz (Managing Partner at Profil M) discusses the findings in a short interview and explains which factors are important for ensuring the success of your online procedures.
As part of our meta-analysis, in addition to our own experiences, we looked at recent empirical studies and articles, which in turn deal with the validity and effectiveness of remote training and assessments. The central arguments that we want to share with you address the most common concerns, such as
- Quality of results and sustainability of learning success
- Acceptance and commitment of participants
- Participants’ attention span and quality of interaction in the groups and with observers
- The possibility to create a basis of trust and networks
In general, it can be said that online procedures have proven to be highly effective. The effectiveness and efficiency of virtual selection processes and interventions can largely be confirmed.
Looking at the validity and effectiveness of virtual assessments, the first conclusion that can be drawn is that they are indeed effective. Specifically, this means that the right candidates could often be selected. The studies clearly show: Unconscious biases and resulting distortions in selection processes can be reduced and the accuracy of online procedures can therefore be confirmed. The valid assessment of social and cognitive competencies in a virtual learning environment can also be confirmed (Howland et al., 2015). Role simulations show a higher validity in the observation of social competencies (Hasler, 2009). Furthermore, a robust design not only allows for objectivity and equal opportunities, but also greater consistency in implementation and evaluation.
The quality of the procedures and results can therefore be clearly confirmed.
It is also clear that participants showed a high level of commitment and attention during the procedures as a result of a stronger focus and fewer distractions. The possibility to create an interactive and appealing space to gain experience also leads to greater acceptance by the participants.
Beyond the usual concerns, the question of costs is certainly also a relevant point. The studies have shown that virtual assessments are definitely more cost-efficient for companies, since the logistical effort is often eliminated and in some cases fewer ACs have to be carried out.
Although virtual assessments can be described as very valid and effective, there are some limiting factors in virtual space that are related to technology. If technical obstacles arise, they stand in the way of a “natural” and fluid interaction. This also includes the fact that networking can hardly be translated into virtual space, such as through a one-on-one conversation during breaks. Nevertheless, by ensuring a psychologically safe framework, a good basis of trust can be established, which allows an open exchange.
Virtual training & coaching
Virtual training and coaching sessions are no longer used only for knowledge transfer. Studies show that virtual training sessions have long been used to teach soft skills or deeper reflection.
An interesting result was that participants in online training courses rated their learning success higher than in classic training sessions. This may well be due to the fact that virtual training measures often include accompanying measures that turn the learning experience into a development journey and thus lead to greater learning success.
Concerns regarding the acceptance of and commitment to online procedures can be dispelled by a study by Gehrman and Koch (2007). This showed that the acceptance of a learner-centered training design is clearly given. In fact, this study even refuted concrete fears such as participants’ possible helplessness, isolation, or disorientation.
The argument that the possibilities for interaction in virtual space are limited cannot be scientifically confirmed either. Thanks to a variety of tools and programs, classic training formats, such as work in small teams, individual reflections, or even game-based elements, can also be mapped in virtual training.
It was also surprising that the learning success and the quality of the results even increased due to the reduction of social and emotional barriers, such as less influence from a negative group climate or a more equal integration of all participants (Geißler, 2007). Building a trusting relationship and establishing proximity were not generally perceived to be difficult (Friesenhah & Tayler, 2013).
Lastly, considerable cost savings and more efficient use of resources can once again be identified in this context (Howland, et al., 2015), which make virtual training and coaching attractive.
Our analysis generally shows that based on the current state of research and with a good design, online procedures are very clearly of a high quality and effective.
Best practices and learnings from science
The question that now arises, however, is how to address the concerns in practice so that they do not actually come into play during the implementation.
To answer this question, we asked Alexander Fritz about his best practices and success factors for virtual assessments, training and coaching measures.
What must be considered when designing online procedures?
It is generally the case that the basis of any online procedure is a thorough needs analysis. In this way, learner-centered procedures can be designed and the greatest possible acceptance of participants can be ensured.
It is also necessary to identify clear objectives. Only in this way can learning success be made measurable. Tracking and the possibility to continuously improve the procedures significantly contribute to their validity.
Lastly, the selection of suitable tools and instruments is also very important. This wide range of methods promotes interaction and exchange.
Since an online procedure has certain characteristics in terms of its implementation, a face-to-face procedure or training measure cannot be translated one-to-one into a remote procedure. Accordingly, content and exercises must be designed in such a way that it is suitable for remote procedures. This also contributes to an increased attention span and interaction quality.
What must be considered when implementing online procedures?
When implementing online procedures, we attach great importance to creating a trusting environment. Getting to know each other, detailed briefings, and an appreciative atmosphere are not only important in face-to-face training, but also in remote procedures. Because only in this way can sustainable learning experiences, the exchange of ideas, and even longer-term networking be made possible.
This also applies to confidence in the technical environment. We actively train participants so that technology no longer represents a barrier and interaction and communication can take place as realistically as possible.
A very pragmatic note concerns break times. Experience shows that online procedures are different from face-to-face procedures in terms of their intensity. The intensive work on the screen and the stronger focus lead to participants become tired more quickly. In order to keep commitment and attention at a high level, it is absolutely vital to take frequent breaks and to encourage participants to exercise during these times (e.g., short stretching exercises).
What requirements do these formats place on trainers and diagnosticians?
Generally the same requirements apply in virtual space as in analog space. Ideally, a trainer has sound technical and methodological knowledge to create development space for participants, which in turn ensure sustainable impact.
More specifically, a trainer or diagnostician who conducts online procedures should have a certain technical affinity and master the tools. This ensures the smoothest possible processes and a variety of methods that are congruent with the objectives.
But a personal factor, that is, resilience, should also be very pronounced. The technology can, of course, cause problems, but the dynamics in a group or with a participant can also be quite challenging. A trainer or diagnostician should be able to handle these challenges competently.
Virtual social competence is helpful in dealing with these challenges, but also simply to be able to implement a good online procedure – communication, structure, and the creation of trusted space are at least as important in virtual settings as in analog situations.
So what is the bottom line in terms of must-haves for successful online procedures?
All in all, I can give you the following success factors:
Build trust with your participants. Show genuine interest in your counterpart, also share something about yourself and show competence. When these factors are present, it is much easier for participants to open up.
Create a climate of psychological safety. Whether training sessions or assessments, psychological safety is the basic component for effective cooperation.
- Do not confuse psychological safety with a harmonious environment. Indeed, it is absolutely necessary to communicate openly and honestly with each other and to convey relevant feedback in an appreciative but also clear manner.
- Make your own experience. Have the confidence to take part in an online assessment or training measure to better understand the participants’ perspective and at the same time identify possible challenges promptly.
- In general, participants in virtual processes already show a high level of acceptance and commitment during the implementation. This could be increased by actively integrating them into the design process – co-creation makes the content even more target group- or requirement-specific.
In addition to very pragmatic reasons for cost savings and efficient and sustainable use of resources, our meta-analysis shows that virtual Assessment Centers and online training and coaching sessions are truly effective and highly valid.
In fact, online methods and traditional face-to-face methods can be considered almost equivalent in terms of effectiveness and impact. Of course, there are some topics and experiences that virtual settings cannot map equally vividly. For this, we recommend smart development journeys in which synchronous and asynchronous, face-to-face and virtual processes are combined with each other.
We wish you every success in designing your online procedures and would be happy to assist you as an experienced sparring partner and consultant in the design of your virtual procedures.