Employee development is often seen as a task companies get to when they have the time, and last year not a lot of companies had that kind of time. But as remote work settles into a sort of new normal, more organizations are turning back to their old development plans to see how they can be used in an online setting. Turns out, remote life provides a great opportunity to help employees learn and develop their skills at their own speed. It’s also an effective way of bringing disconnected team members back together so they work on achieving a new skill or ability as a group. If you’re ready to tackle employee development in a remote world, then let’s explore 6 good places to start.
Tactics to improve employee development
If you want to improve the employee development program at your company, what are the best strategies to consider first?
1) Tie L&D into company culture: If you want to develop a workforce that is continually improving, then that goal needs to be integrated into how your company operates. Part of connecting L&D goals to the company culture starts from the top. Senior leaders and managers can show their support and lead by example by discussing their own developmental paths. It’s often useful to talk about development opportunities when companies are deciding on their budget for the year so that L&D becomes a priority in its own right, rather than an add-on when there’s time. Think about whether you want to offer professional development options in-house (or remotely) or structure a reimbursement program for employees wanting to pursue development options outside of work. Once you have a budget and a working plan of how employee development will run at your organization, you can start encouraging employees to participate more effectively.
2) Use assessments: It can be tricky to provide employee development support from a distance but one way is with assessments. Assessments can be sent, taken, and scored online without anyone needing to be in the same place. Debriefs over video chat are also an easy and secure way of sharing personal insights and guidance on developmental next steps. Psychometric tests can also help support a number of different objectives whether you want to use assessments with your entire team to help them gain a better understanding of their colleagues or if you want to focus more on individuals and their self-development goals. Assessments can even help improve leadership ability from a distance to ensure remote teams get the support they need to be productive. If collaboration on your team is decreasing, why not consider leveraging assessments in your employee development strategy to bring them back together?
3) Provide training opportunities across departments: As remote working stretches on it can be harder and harder to keep in touch with colleagues on other teams that you might have seen in the office on a daily basis but don’t work with as closely anymore in remote life. Offering employee development opportunities across department lines is one way of reconnecting your workforce while helping multiple teams learn new skill sets at once. It also allows colleagues to learn about different areas of the business and find new ways of working together more harmoniously. Development activities can provide participants with a common language that can support collaboration and connection even when everyone goes back to their own departments.
4) Offer coaching training for managers: You’ve probably heard the stat that on average 58% of managers report they didn’t receive any training before moving into the role. How well managers lead their team ties into employee engagement, productivity levels, and employee retention. Luckily, there are a number of ways to help managers improve their skills but again, everything is more successful when there’s buy-in from the top. Encourage managers to take time to go to training sessions or bring in opportunities for them to leverage within the company with their own managers. Using a 360-degree assessment tool can be particularly helpful in order to anonymously compile feedback from direct reports and co-workers to highlight what a leader is doing well or where they could use some improvement. So when building your development programs, don’t forget that managers can benefit from learning options as well their team members.
5) Have clear goals and expectations: One reason employee development programs fail is often because there’s a lack of clear understanding of why the activity is happening or what the goals are. Whether you’re learning new skills or looking at career development, it’s important to follow up after the activity to reiterate learning objectives and recap lessons so that employees don’t walk away, forgetting everything they’ve just learned. When you can, try to tie your learning goals to larger company projects. If you’ve had an employee go through a leadership development program, for example, try to make room for them to take on more advanced work so they can continue to develop their skills in a real-world setting. You might even want to connect developing certain competencies to an employee’s annual goals.
6) Use remote learning to your advantage: If we all have to be stuck at home, why not use technology to your advantage? Sometimes encouraging employees to work on their own self-development is easier to achieve without a team watching and can offer managers the option of a more of a one-on-one coaching approach to support learning. You might also want to consider connecting employees with online mentoring options, especially if you have a large corporation with employees scattered in different cities that might never have had an opportunity to learn from each other otherwise. Then, of course, there are endless online learning options that are getting easier and cheaper to access. Online classes let employees learn at their own speed working to their own schedule and can help keep them engaged even while they’re working alone.
Create an employee development plan for a remote world
Just because we can’t be together doesn’t mean employee development needs to stall. In fact, remote L&D is becoming a priority for many companies looking for better ways to engage their virtual workforce. By creating learning opportunities for your team, even at a distance, you’re helping employees reach their full potential and giving them the skills to succeed wherever their career paths take them. That has a direct impact on employee engagement, your company culture, and your retention rates as employees are more inclined to stay with companies that invest in them. Whether you’re looking for in-house options or providing employees with a reimbursement plan, there are many ways to build a program that works for your company and encourages employee participation. As we’ve learned in the past few months, the ability to adapt and learn quickly are skills worth their weight in gold.