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By 2025, 84 percent of employers will rapidly digitalize working processes. By the same year, 94 percent of business leaders say they expect employees to pick up new skills on the job.

These two things combined are the clearest signal that professional development in the workplace has permanently changed.

Obviously that means the entire process–from the way employees access learning content, sign up for workshops, receive information, and interact with their peers–will be different in the remote work age.

But one thing that might not be as obvious is what employees want when it comes to virtual professional development:

Sixty percent of employees say that they are looking at their employers to provide them with scheduled learning opportunities when developing skills on the job.

And most companies, however, are struggling to build professional development into their remote work culture today.

As remote work continues to grow, it's more important than ever for organizations to invest in their workplace development programs and get it right.

This framework gives you the foundation to provide your employees with a healthy pipeline of learning opportunities, real-time insight, and communication ideas to prioritize learning and build a culture so your team is more productive and engaged at work.

What Is Professional Development In The Workplace?

Employee professional development at work is critical for big businesses. Having employees who are learning and growing helps organizations of all sizes stay relevant and competitive.

Today, most employers encourage their employees to manage their career development while HR teams find ways to ensure the organization provides opportunities to employees to further their growth and learning.

The challenge is doing it remotely.

Why Is Workplace Professional Development Important?

Without a professional development program, it's next to impossible for any business to compete, address skills shortages, adapt to market or industry changes, reduce turnover, or increase worker productivity.

And without room to grow, your employees will become bored with their work quickly, lose passion and even purpose for being there.

That said, it can become very frustrating for organizations and employees at once.

How Workplace Professional Development Has Changed

While professional development is essential, so is the way that people have access to learning, connecting, and growing remotely.

A Ten Spot poll recently revealed 60 percent of employees want their organization to provide a structured learning environment versus keeping things open-ended.

Basically, "Tell me when and where to be, and I'll show up."

So, how can you put a remote workplace professional development program into action–and make it a game-changer for your employees?

3 Steps To Put Professional Development In A Remote Workplace Into Action

Deploying a remote workplace professional development program approach is easy with the right plan in place.

1) The first step is changing the way you think about a workplace professional development program. Your program benefits your organization, sure, but it's genuinely about your employees and their goals.

2) Give your employees the freedom to follow learning opportunities that speak to them. No one likes feeling forced to attend every single workshop.

3) Build an approach you can use to engage your employees using a channel of their choice. We'll get into it more below, but consider learning can happen over email, phone, Slack/Teams, video, or chat.

4) Regular check-ins will give you insight into how your remote workplace professional development program is working. It'll tell you things like how engaged your employees are, what course they liked most, and what resonated.

There are three elements to creating your remote workplace professional development program to remember, so you nail it:

  • Collaboration
  • Feedback
  • Recommendations

Step 1: Foster Employee Collaboration

For many employees, specifically Gen Z, this is their first time working entirely remotely. It's created a ton of winning opportunities for innovation, but with innovation comes its share of complications.

One challenge is the feeling of disconnection. Today, employees feel disconnected from their company, mission, job purpose, and colleagues, and only 34% of employees describe their company culture as team-oriented (Ten Spot culture survey).

Yet, since the pandemic began, 85% of organizations have accelerated the digitalization of employee interaction and collaboration.

So, this shows there's room for improvement in collaboration and learning in the remote work environment, and now is the time to invest in collaborative virtual education.

Virtual learning tools are essential to ensure your team has immediate and ongoing access to new information, classes, courses, workshops, wherever they are. Some types to consider:

Internal learning management systems

You can build your own internal virtual learning environment with access to critical publications relevant to your business or niche platforms that focus on specific learnings related to your organization.

Subscription-based remote learning

LinkedIn Learning is an added feature to business and personal accounts where many courses are available across sales to leadership training. Work from home has its perks in that employees can turn to places like HubSpot or Coursera courses to get advanced professional certifications right from their living room.

Workplace engagement platforms

While the first two ideas are great options to boost online learning, they are the least collaborative of the bunch. Workforce engagement platforms like Ten Spot offer regular virtual programming with leading experts that your employees can access from anywhere, in-app live team chat, on-demand video resources, and more.

The benefits here are that you're a) providing learning opportunities and b) finding new ways for your team to engage and connect in the process.

You can also streamline your processes by building out a shareable calendar, schedule virtual lunch and learn opportunities, and watch and learn in live sessions together.

Step 2: Gather Feedback

You already know most employees want you to tell them when and where to be, and when your team is remote, you have to get creative with your professional development strategies. The first step is to talk with your employees and find out what they need, expect, what their goals are.

If they are newly remote, have one-on-one conversations to review their goals and see which ones may need modifications.

As you build a remote workplace professional development program, sit down with each employee one-on-one to check in:

  • What are their individual goals?
  • How do they want to keep moving forward?
  • Are there gaps in their training or development that need immediate attention?
  • Use your one-on-ones to provide regular feedback and coaching as you go along to ensure your employees have the tools and information they need to learn at their best.

As you assess your team's needs, consider what topics, mentalities, and approaches you need to up-skill and look for opportunities to adapt current skills development practices for a remote environment.

And, it’s a good idea to ask your employees to assess their own work, strength, goals, and challenges in their current role. Talking with your employees also reaffirms that you have their goals and best interests in mind, and they will know the company will support them in their professional growth.

One of the best ways to go about this is to have your employees create a user guide, like an operating manual where they share information on their learning and communication preferences. It's also a great way to develop a culture of feedback and transparency.

For more information about user guides, read this article, How to Get to Know Your Teams Virtually.

Step 3: ABR - Always Be Recommending

Finally, developing a successful remote workplace professional development program is a loop. Once you understand how your employees like to learn, topics they're interested in, begin matching virtual learning opportunities to their goals, along with your business goals, and build a robust remote professional development program. Consider things like:

  • What technologies are you using?
  • Where you're sourcing learning opportunities.
  • What subscriptions or third-party platforms you'll use.
  • What you need to set aside to budget for employee professional development.
Plan and ideate

Virtual remote learning offers many options, but ultimately, most learners need to be engaged to deeply learn a new skill or gain knowledge.

Begin sourcing experts or planning out a couple of months and be sure to include things that will help your team expand their talents like:

  • Working directly with a subject matter expert
  • Virtual hands-on workshops in smaller groups
  • One-on-one coaching and mentoring opportunities
  • Virtual networking groups
  • Stretch assignments and projects
Schedule and arrange

Once you have your professional development programming in place, consider what it will take to put your new program into action. Your program may include a mix of must-attend significant group events and courses just for a few people or even individuals. So, what prep work needs to happen? Will you need help from other employees? 

When scheduling the content with your employees, depending on the size of your organization, you can schedule the skills development opportunities right on your employees' calendars.

Or, if you're a much larger organization, have a centralized place where employees can access programming information and immediately RSVP.

Revisit and adapt

After each training session, schedule a quick video check-in or send your employee a Slack or email poll asking how it went, what they learned and if they’re interested in doing similar sessions again. 

It's a good idea to revisit your remote development program quarterly, collect your employee feedback, and make adjustments as needed to keep your program fresh and thriving in the long run.

Is your team ready for a remote workplace professional development strategy?

The workplace professional development landscape has shifted a lot. No matter the stage of your remote workplace development program, you have to keep pushing forward. If you need help, learn what employee engagement looks like with our new ebook, Can Your Culture Withstand the New Normal?

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