Today, about 58% of U.S. employees work from home at least some of the time. Hybrid and remote work increase access to talent, improve employee satisfaction, and even reduce costs for employers, who can downsize office spaces and accommodations if people regularly work from home. As a result, these work options have become mainstays for many businesses.
At the same time, they introduce new challenges for leadership development, especially if your organization relies on internal development and pipelines. Remote and hybrid work change how leaders interact with HR, their development experience, and the feedback they receive because they spend less time around relevant people. That makes it more difficult to assess employees and move promising candidates into leadership development.
It also requires you to adopt new strategies to deliver relevant leadership development since fewer people are available for in-person training. As such, you need to create procedures that accommodate remote work so your leadership development remains productive.
Track metrics that matter
When employees shift to remote work, you have to change your expectations for what success in that role looks like. In an office, people have different distractions, ways to communicate, and demands on their time. For people working remotely however, other metrics are better gauges for their performance, like communication (e.g., time to respond to emails, watch a video, how others rate their communication), accountability (e.g., how well they embrace and implement feedback), and project management (deadline management, goal management, asking for help, etc.).
Because traditional metrics don’t always apply to hybrid work, you’ll have to lean on self-reports and leadership reports to track the performance of your workers. Implementing tools like 360-degree feedback or an equivalent help paint a clearer picture as well by gathering input from colleagues.
Diversify work experience
On-the-job experience is believed to make up as much as 70% of relevant experience. As such, exposure to different personnel, coaches, teams, and work environments is standard in leadership development. You don’t have to put that on hold because someone is working in an office; instead, it’s a good idea to introduce candidates to multiple forms of work, rotate them through teams, and naturally expose them to different work styles and teams, even remotely.
In practice, that could look like asking someone to assist on another team for two days per week. Or, you might set up sessions where an employee interacts with another team to offer or gain insight for their own group.
Implement digital and virtual coaching
It’s crucial that leaders have one-on-one time with other leaders and with their mentors. That shouldn’t stop at leadership coaching however. For example, a lot of progress happens when employees communicate during their downtime. Water-cooler talk and lunch offer opportunities for innovation, collaboration, and valuable feedback — all of which are lost when you move to remote work.
Creating opportunities for feedback sessions, one-on-one calls, and coaching, even between peers, retains some of those opportunities for remote workers, allowing your candidates to continue to grow in a hybrid environment. To go the extra mile, supplement this with in-office time and traditional coaching. At the same time, if your employees need to lead or manage others digitally at least some of the time, they’ll also have to perfect their digital interactions. In either case, your remote and hybrid personnel will benefit from:
- Opportunities for one-on-one sessions with leadership
- Feedback sessions between peers and with leadership
- Coaching sessions between Scrum masters, team leads, employees with certain technical skills, and people with specific competencies
- Opportunities to connect with others (e.g., meetups or virtual lunch/coffee with no intent other than to share ideas and information)
All of these add value to leadership development in different ways. Determine what you hope to gain from those interactions to figure out how to convince people to take part in them and how to track their actions. For example, if you want to improve connections and collaboration across the organization or within a team, you could ask everyone to sit in on a video call twice a week during lunch with someone from another team. Or, you could ask individuals to participate in X number of hours in one-on-one coaching with their preferred leaders and experts. That also gives the individual more control over what they learn and thus over their career progression.
Remember to include training
Formal training traditionally makes up about 10% of leadership experience. The Harvard Business Review assigns it a little more importance, because formal education helps leaders make sense of the world. It introduces concepts, ideas, and structure such as established processes, which shape leaders’ perceptions and decision-making.
In-person workshops and training are the bedrock of formal training, but you can also deliver relevant training via a digital learning portal, digital lectures and workshops, and online courses. This easily accommodates remote and hybrid personnel, as they can participate in online training at their convenience.
Remote work is here to stay. Although many people only work one to two days a week from home, many others are fully remote. Creating strategies for leadership development and personal development that align with remote and hybrid work strategies is important to maintain robust leadership development both in and outside the office. In addition, as remote work becomes more widespread among businesses, it’s important that future leaders be able to lead in those environments along with traditional ones. Luckily, as we’ve shown, cultivating the skills they need via online means is both cost-effective and relatively easy to implement. Follow the suggestions in this article or use them as a jumping-off point to expand your leadership development into the digital workspace.