A few weeks ago I was in a discussion with a group of managers on the challenges of leading remote teams. One topic that ended up getting a lot of air- time was Career Development. It turns out that most of the managers and their teams had figured out meeting remotely, executing well with virtual teams and even optimized home office infrastructure. But almost all were struggling with Career Development, especially for the early career professionals (0-5 years work experience) on their teams.
For early career professionals, the biggest learning opportunities come from their colleagues and managers. With remote work significantly restricting easy access to colleagues and managers, these employees were worrying about their career and if this extended remote work situation would impact their access to learning new skills.
My follow on discussions with leaders and managers globally threw up three themes for career development with a remote workforce- Career Discussions, Individual Development and Networking.
Here are some of the things that the best leaders and managers globally are doing to have real impact on Career Development, especially for remote teams-
Ensure Career Discussions
In the initial panic of forced remote work, all attention was focused on productivity. Ensuring that teams have the infrastructure, access and support to deliver on their goals. Somewhere along the way, career discussions were unwittingly de-prioritized. Career Discussions are even more critical with remote teams, so that people know where they stand with regards to their performance and what they need to focus (skills). A career discussion is also a great opportunity to recognize a team member’s strengths and understand their aspirations and the support they need.
The one upside of the pandemic is that we are seeing a surge in online learning content- both free and paid. Encouraging people to prioritize learning and ensuring that they have the time to learn is a great way to translate career discussions into tangible actions. Providing the team with financial support for learning has a great impact.
Networking is particularly important for early career employees, to build their career in the organization. Most often than not, they learn of opportunities in other parts of the organization through their network, not through internal job postings! Not being co-located means that our teams are missing access to their networks and visibility into future career opportunities in their own organization. Some companies I talked to, are seeing success with Digital Volunteering and Special Interest Groups as an alternative way for people to make connections with others within the organization.
We all have seen a number of jokes shared over the last few months referring to 2020 as the “lost year”. Given the uncertainty, it’s hard to disagree. Perhaps we can make it a “big win” year by making this the year of individual development.