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4 Talent Growth Strategies for Your Remote Workforce

Posted by | November 21, 2019 | Talent Management

Via HR Technologist : 4 Talent Growth Strategies for Your Remote Workforce

The future of tech work is remote. In my career, I’ve led on-site and remote teams―and I am now working remotely myself. I’ve seen first-hand both the need to recruit team members who work remote – and the impact that being outside the office can have on an individual’s career growth.

The work-at-home workforce has grown by 140 percent since 2005, as reported by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, nearly 10x faster than the rest of the workforce. The trend is increasingly gaining traction in the tech industry as hiring remote workers widens the talent pool. It also allows the employers to put individuals from a variety of backgrounds and diverse experiences together which has been shown to improve the complex problem solving and decision-making skills of a team.

As 3.9 million Americans or 2.9 percent of the total U.S. workforce, work from home at least half the time, according to a FlexJobs report, it is paramount that companies establish priorities that foster growth, learning and career development of these employees across distance. Here we present four actionable strategies that can be adopted to level the career advancement field for remote employees.

1. Establish evaluation practices that work across distance

All employees should have clarity on the career tracks available to them, and the performance metrics used to evaluate their progress. However, as direct observation is not an option, additional thought and effort is required to formalize how the performance of the remote employees will be measured. Here are some suggestions:

  • Conduct weekly status meetings, both individual and group, via video conferencing tools for all members of the team, both onsite and remote. This removes any proximity bias. Also, use a good agile project management tool to track individual assignments, task estimation, and progress.
  • Have quarterly company retreats at a site different than the office, and make it mandatory for all employees to travel and attend in person. Ask all employees to document their progress and share their contributions with the management and peer teams, both as brief written reports and lightning talks.
  • Schedule frequent and longer one-on-ones with remote employees to make up for the missed “popping in to ask a quick question or clarification” time. Always ask them if they feel adequately informed and supported, and give them a voice on the process improvement.

2. Enable “virtual” water cooler conversations

As much as the information related to promotions, advancements and stretch assignments needs to be communicated via official company platforms, the existence and importance of the people-to-people flow of information could not be ignored. Remote employees tend to miss on conversations and knowledge exchange that would typically happen around the water cooler. Below are some ways to counter this:

  • Provide alternative “virtual” water coolers utilizing the online team collaboration tools. Create dedicated virtual groups, chat rooms, and group discussions where employees can seek out new information, build peer relationships, share best practices and indulge in personal chitchat.
  • Encourage participation by nudging employees to post inspiration, bloopers, and photos of what’s going on. Create virtual events like post a picture of your pet day, or respond only in movie dialogues event, etc as fun and effective ways of building remote bonding.
  • Allow the team to enjoy a break together such as “remote” lunches, coffee breaks and happy hours where the employees enjoy food, drinks, and informal conversations together, connected via video feeds.

3. Reinforce the importance of remote learning

Career advancement is closely related to an employee’s personal and professional growth. Not only talent growth should be a company’s highest priority but also it should be ensured that remote employees will not be overlooked in this process. Consider the following:

  • Supplement every training offered on-site with a remote viewing and participation option. Same with any invited talks and presentations.
  • Have an always-on digital library of resources such as books, papers, articles, subscriptions etc available to all employees free of charge. Frequently ask for recommendations on what content to add to these resources and update the catalog accordingly.
  • Provide an education allowance and encourage remote employees to take online personal and professional development courses that best meet their needs at their own pace.

4. Create deliberate “lead from afar” opportunities

Give remote workers opportunities and guidance to flex their leadership muscles. Increase their visibility, as well as what they can contribute and weigh in on. Some recommendations are as follows:

  • Encourage remote employees to present at company-wide meetings. Make them team leads for specific assignments and ask them to subdivide the tasks and lead status meetings via video conferencing tools. Ensure the audience, setup and logistics are similar to as if the employee was presenting onsite.
  • Create shadowing programs where remote employees can virtually shadow someone in a position they aspire to be in or aim to understand better. Create schedules so that they can join in on the shadowee’s group meetings, customer and stakeholder interactions.
  • Create mentoring programs where remote employees can mentor other employees. Establish onboarding mentorship for remote workers by remote workers as it is helpful for a new remote employee to reach out to someone in a similar work situation for questions or concerns.

Companies need to be intentional and proactive about building processes to support career advancement and development of their remote workforce with the understanding that equitable processes will, at times, require different strategies for onsite vs remote workers. We have discussed some of these strategies in this article.

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