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Keeping Remote Talent: What's Your Company's Plan for Growth Opportunities?

Stagnancy is an innovation killer. In today’s marketplace, companies and remote leaders that want to encourage and sustain a culture of innovation, recruit and retain top talent, and maintain a competitive advantage must have and communicate a vision for creating career growth opportunities inclusive of their remote teams and remote workers. 

It is vital for leaders to stay tapped into the concerns of their remote employees, who too often are left wondering: 

  • “What kind of influence will I have working from home?”
  • “What if no one notices my hard work?”
  • “How limited are my next potential remote roles?”
  • “How will I ever get promoted?”
  • “Why take that kind of risk at this point in my career?”

They also worry that working remotely puts them “out of sight, out of mind”—uninformed of new opportunities and overlooked for advancement. It is crucial that remote leaders and people operations professionals dispel these visibility fears by creating a dynamic, inclusive culture that recognizes, values, and rewards the work of individuals on remote teams. This culture needs to be clearly communicated and reinforced by company leadership and supported by company-wide policies.

While remote work is entering into a new era of maturity, partially and fully distributed companies continue to grapple with ways to adopt more formal career development pathways. Some are establishing mechanisms and practices that increase team members’ visibility. Some are providing internal skillshare and training opportunities that showcase employees’ expertise and strengths. Some are providing the necessary support for participating in external activities, like speaking at or attending virtual or face-to-face events or contributing to respected industry publications. Yet many of these programs can often feel ad hoc and dependent on the discretion of individual managers. And data within Owl Lab's recently published State of Remote Work 2019 report reveals that this isn't necessarily top of mind for all remote managers—"career implications of employees working remotely" is one of the challenges remote employee managers are least concerned. 

In taking a holistic view of your company and the people within it, it’s critical to establish a comprehensive and inclusive career development program. By tying career growth into correlated investments in learning and development strategies, you’ll find that you stand a far greater chance of reducing employee turnover. Retaining and enhancing your existing team is less costly than working within a constant state of recruitment, not to mention the disruption to operations when important roles are in flux. That scenario is morale-damaging at best, and a business crisis at its worst.

Creating a remote career development structure starts by charting out the direction your company is headed, the skills that are needed to get there, the flow of people who already have those skills, and those who would benefit from professional learning and development to acquire the skills needed. With an eye to the specific needs of remote businesses, we’ve developed the Remote Work Competency Model to outline those skills needed along a career trajectory. Offering a clearer path for professional development is just one part of the puzzle, though.

Very real obstacles exist when it comes to breaking down silos and generating a broader knowledge of next step opportunities in remote companies. Ensuring that current teammates and prospective employees are aware of available roles within your organization is critical—not just for retention purposes, but also as a competitive advantage. Questions that leaders and HR teams should be asking as they flesh out remote career development programs include:

  • How formalized is your remote work policy and does it fit with the growth and increasing flexible needs of your employees?
  • At a company level, what channels are in place to foster easy access to learning about upcoming positions as well as long-term growth potential opportunities? 
  • What formalized processes are in place to ensure leaders check with every employee on career goals and growth, regardless of office location?
  • What roles are truly in-office critical and what jobs could be performed just as effectively by your remote employees?
  • Are your all employees tuned into the direction of your business and are you providing them with the resources and development opportunities to grow with you?

It’s helpful to remember that the most well-run organizations—like their people—are dynamic in nature. So enabling and encouraging change should ideally be baked into your culture and processes. But if you haven’t made this a priority yet, there’s no better time than today to consider how you can keep people dialed into your organization’s own growth and development by you being dialed into theirs.

Top talent craves a way to move forward. How can your organization stand out as a beacon for these individuals? Take a moment, right here and now to assess and setup a consultation for how your company is going to build and deliver your remote people development needs.

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