How to Implement Career Development Programs While Working Remotely

For millions of individuals, COVID-19 has put an abrupt pause on life as we know it. The vast majority of Americans no longer feel comfortable going on previously mundane outings like grocery shopping or dining at a restaurant. Social events, trips, conferences, school, and even work have been cancelled or moved online. About 40 million people are out of work, and millions more have transitioned to remote work. 

While remote work offers plenty of perks, like lack of commute and increased flexibility, some worry that it might stagnate their career. Remote employees often worry that their physical separation from coworkers and management might hinder networking, development, and career advancement opportunities.

Now more than ever, career development programs are essential to bolstering employee confidence in their role within your organization. Traditional career development programs are heavily dependent on in-person interactions: face-to-face mentorship programs, workshops, and seminars often form the backbone of such programs. However, thanks to platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, many of these programs can easily be transitioned to suit remote work. You just have to put in a little legwork to adapt them to a remote environment.

Here’s how you can help your team advance from afar:

1. Remote Mentorship Programs

Just because an employee is working remotely doesn’t mean that they must cease building relationships with influential leaders. Try to keep existing mentorships going via remote platforms (and if you don’t have one yet, consider starting one). Remote coffee chats, assignments, book clubs, team projects, shadowing opportunities, or socially distanced dinners are all great ways to foster bonding between current company leaders and up-and-coming talent. You can even offer virtual shadowing programs or remote internships 

2. Virtual Education

Another great way to show employees that you’re invested in their growth is by hosting online seminars, workshops, or online courses. If you need topic ideas or learning resources, LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, and Coursera are all great places to start.

3. Prioritize Internal Recruitment

Debatably the best way to show your employees that you’re committed to developing their careers is to recruit internally whenever possible. Take note of employees that would be standout candidates for future open roles, and always encourage your entire staff to apply for these roles. Groom any notable internal candidates and provide them with the skills they might need to succeed in these roles. 

Furthermore, be proactive and train your staff for roles that might not emerge in three weeks, but later down the line. Focus on preparing your team for jobs that will likely become more prevalent in the post-pandemic era. Equip your staff with the skills they’ll need to take on these new roles and adapt to this labor market shift.

According to research by SHRM, employees cited lack of career advancement opportunities as the top reason they might choose to leave a company. To assuage the fears of newly remote employees, keep them feeling like they’re progressing in their current roles and that you’re committed to helping them move beyond those positions.

In the midst of a crisis, it can be tempting to just focus on keeping your company afloat. While this is obviously your top priority, keeping employees engaged and motivated should be a close second. An organization is only as good as its people. To keep employees feeling like they’re growing with your company, host online mentorship programs and training opportunities. Furthermore, recruit internally whenever possible, and be transparent with employees about their trajectory with your company. Times may have changed, but your employees’ potential to progress in their careers should remain a constant.