This guest post was written by Simki Dutta. Simki Dutta is a content marketer at Venngage, a free infographic maker and design platform. She writes about all things marketing and communications. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Remote employees can feel isolated and lonely. While they get to enjoy flexible hours and are considered to be more productive, there’s no denying the fact that most of them are plagued by the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ dilemma.
You can choose to introduce team building activities that help your employees stay connected, but nothing drives engagement like investing in their growth.
Remote or not — every employee values training and development opportunities. It proves that the company is invested in their future, resulting in greater accountability and engagement.
A Gallup study revealed that organizations that make investments in employee development report 11% greater profitability and are twice as likely to retain their employees.
Let’s take a look at how you can create a robust employee development plan and get one step closer to that goal.
Perform a training needs assessment.
A successful employee training and development program begins with a training needs assessment.
The idea of this exercise is to take into account your business goals, identify gaps (knowledge and skills) in your organization, and see what kind of training you need to strengthen your remote workforce.
According to Edge Point Learning, the different assessment methods include:
- Questionnaires: survey employees
- Observation: conduct informal and unannounced observations
- Interviews: interview employees and managers
- Assessments: evaluate knowledge through short multiple-choice questions
- Competitive analysis: analyze your competitor’s performance and evaluate where you stand
Every method might not be suitable for every organization so it’s best to pick and choose what’s feasible for you.
At the end of this, you will have a better understanding of your training goals which will form the backbone of your employee development plan.
Involve employees in the goal-setting process.
One-way communication never works well, especially if it’s centered around training and developing employees.
Instead of a top-down approach where you hand over goals to employees, involve them in the process and let them have a say. When they buy into the goal and see how it benefits them, they are likely to be motivated, productive, and engaged from the get-go.
Remember: these personalized development goals need to be aligned with the overall business objectives.
It’s a good idea to arrange 1:1 online meetings with the manager (or mentor) and the employee where they can discuss development goals and put together an action plan.
You can also use a timeline maker to create a template that breaks down the action plan into manageable chunks spread across a specific time period. This helps the employee get organized and track progress.
Develop a blended learning program.
With a goal to improve its Capture Team Leader (CTL) training for its sales team, Boeing devised a blended learning program consisting of eight small, virtual training lessons followed by a four-day live course.
The outcome? Participants ranked the training an average of 4.5 out of 5 and 82.5% of respondents felt they could immediately use the course content on the job.
This is an example of an effective blended learning program.
Suited for remote employees, blended learning involves the best of instructor-led and independent learning. It allows employees to learn at their own pace and creates opportunities to engage learners.
Here are some blended learning strategies you can implement:
- Organize real-time, instructor-led training sessions
- Create mobile-friendly online course modules for asynchronous learning
- Deliver short and focused content at various intervals through micro-learning
- Organize group discussions and other collaborative activities
- Provide recorded webinars or videos
- Use simulation-based training
Assign stretch assignments.
Your employee development plan shouldn’t be all theory and no practice. You need to create opportunities for your employees where they get to apply what they’ve learned over the course of the training program.
Stretch assignments are one such strategy.
Stretch assignments are defined as a project or task that is beyond the employee’s current skill or regular tasks. The idea behind this is to place them in a challenging position and encourage them to learn.
Cisco implements this well. Employees get to “test-drive” a specific role through a stretch assignment. These can be assignments with a different team, job swaps, or even long-term rotation assignments.
Doing this keeps remote employees motivated and serves as a vital development tactic.
Use mentoring to track progress.
You can create the best employee development plan but if you don’t establish a process to track progress, none of it will matter.
Assigning mentors results in:
- Increased motivation
- Better alignment
- Improved performance
Mentoring plays a bigger role in a remote setup because it promotes regular check-ins and encourages employees to have an open and constant line of communication with someone who is in a position to offer guidance and serve as a sounding board.
Nancy Halpern has an interesting piece of advice for mentoring remote employees. She says, “Mentoring relationships often fail because they can’t land in the sweet spot between overly casual and overly engineered.
It’s critical when connecting remotely to have an initial agenda and a loose plan—so that the framework is there but you’re willing to adapt.”
The takeaway: Create effective employee development plans.
Remember: employee development is not a one-off initiative. You need to foster a culture of continuous learning that works equally well in a remote work environment.
Your employees are your biggest asset and investing in their growth empowers them to drive business results.