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ATD Blog

Tech for Remote Talent Development

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

My previous post explored tech for team building. Now let's delve into technology to help develop staff.

With the shift away from industrial and manufacturing jobs to service and informational workspaces, many managers find themselves managing minds instead of hands. For instance, technologies that facilitate communication and collaboration enable employees to work from home while simultaneously promoting improved morale and engagement. Such technologies enable teams to put forth their best work in a collaborative environment that fosters creativity and sharing. Organizations and managers that are quick to embrace such tools find themselves with a competitive advantage and the ability to capitalize on the cultural diversity within the company.

And managers who take a hands-on approach to training may find that the distance matters little when addressing individuals using modern technology. Teleconferencing allows for much of the body language and subtle signals many communicators rely on for additional details, and even text-based chat can work in a pinch when trying to send a clear signal to remote workers. The distance afforded by such technologies may actually be a boon in many cases, reducing emotional responses and facilitating communication that can deliver more effective conflict resolution.

Let’s take a look at a few key areas where managers can tap new apps to develop their employees.

Leadership Coaching

According to Ohio University, communication remains the number one trait companies look for in a successful business leader. Talent developers understand the importance of leadership coaching, even for those who do not have direct management roles. Leadership coaching builds confidence and leads to greater employee engagement. Understanding the company’s tools for remote communication and real-time feedback is essential for developing the communication chops needed to lead a modern workforce.

Teleconferencing and virtual meetings are only some of the areas where tech can assist trainers with leadership coaching. Modern leaders must also learn to seek wisdom from company leads and outside mentors. Instant messaging tools need not be limited to employees at a single organization. Leaders can reach out to members of the board of directors for assistance or personal mentors and trainers for feedback on operations and decision-making advice.

Managers and team leaders also find success in delegating responsibility and tasks as appropriate. The tools used to facilitate group-based resource sharing and collaboration work well for this type of task. To-do lists are quickly becoming replaced by virtual whiteboards, where anyone in the organization can contribute ideas and leaders can reinforce key policies and decisions.

Top apps for leadership coaching include:

Google Keep - a virtual whiteboard space where users can create and update notes for each other. Keep also makes it easy to share information by adding users to individual notes or link information from the internet.


Google Hangouts - a chat-based app that functions similarly to Slack with custom channels and private messaging. Google Hangouts integrates with other Google apps, including Google Voice for free teleconferencing in the United States.

Skill Development

Skill development is essential at all levels in an organization. Modern apps enable real-time feedback and evaluation of work, reducing or eliminating the time it takes from production to quality assurance and giving trainers everything they need to identify strengths and weaknesses in the skills of individual employees. This degree of precision ensures that skill development training tackles problem areas outright, helping workers deliver their best work as quickly as possible. For long-term development, constant measurement and guidance can boost confidence and help staff feel more engaged.

The University of Southern California notes that lack of engagement in the workplace can be largely mitigated by a focus on strengths with an eye toward skill development. According to USC, employees report 61 percent engagement when trainers and managers maintain this strength-based focus. Overall, workers report only 32 percent engagement as a whole, making this focus an important engagement tool. Positive feedback helps promote a sense of purpose and can help engaged workers reach new heights. Retention strategies that focus on communication and teamwork instead of penalizing disengagement can transform company culture.

After identifying the strengths and areas for improvement, talent developers can collaborate directly with workers using whiteboards, instant messaging and similar communication tools to set up effective performance-improvement plans. Soliciting feedback and receiving it in a timely fashion smooths the process for both sides. Employees benefit from timely information and realistic goals, and trainers can monitor the ongoing development process to offer additional coaching or training as needed. This helps workers remain engaged in the process and can prevent feelings of bullying or victimization that may accompany improvement plans.

Top apps for skill development include:

Evernote – a tool for sharing notes or even entire directories with anyone and update plans in real time. It includes features for recognizing words found in images.

Advertisement – a planning tool that enables instant scheduling and updates. simplifies scheduling important improvement milestones. Syncs with Android, iOS, web and desktop applications seamlessly.

Regular Reviews

The much-maligned employee performance review is more important than ever in today’s workplace. Finding opportunities for skill development and leadership coaching is simpler with modern tech tools, but the volume of metrics available for overall performance evaluation can sometimes make these reviews seem a daunting task. This is especially true for connected workers on far-flung teams. Trainers often insist on regular reviews, as they provide excellent insight for training purposes, while managers feel that scheduled evaluations can lead to a sense of dread and uncertainty, undermining the morale and engagement they seek to foster.

Luckily, tech can help smooth the process. Annual reviews are excellent tools for identifying training or coaching opportunities, but they shouldn’t be the only real indicator of performance an employee receives. Scorecard programs let managers and trainers monitor metrics on a quarterly, monthly or even daily basis. Providing regular guidance ensures that there’s no surprises when annual review time arrives. Updated reviews also provide exceptional insight when companies seek to promote from within, giving organizations a pool of qualified candidates ready almost as soon as a position becomes available.

The benefits of regular performance reviews speak for themselves. Training departments can use these reviews for targeted development, and team managers can provide mentorship or coaching options as needed. Companies spend 20 percent of the annual salary for a position when looking to hire externally, but external hires make 20 percent more each year and are more likely to leave the company, according to Northeastern University. This makes identifying internal candidates for promotion a major cost-saving strategy as well as a smart one for morale and engagement.

Top apps for regular reviews include:

Google Calendar – a way to schedule regular reviews and sync calendars across multiple time zones. Google Calendar supports instant import of events from Gmail. Schedule view simplifies tracking daily meetings and tasks.

Impraise - a full-featured performance review app. Impraise lets you enter and score metrics, schedule reviews and track guidance received from teams or individuals. The system includes tools for instant feedback and tracking. Impraise is the only tool on this list that isn’t free to use; there is a free trial.

Savvy managers understand that talent development continues to change as technology develops. Staying on top of these developments and using them to enhance teamwork as well as coach individual employees leads to success in the modern, multinational business world. From instant messaging to real-time collaborative programs, these tools give companies an edge that cannot be ignored.

About the Author

Georgiana Beech is a writer and marketing expert based in Boise, Idaho. Georgiana can be found sipping beer at one of the many popular and expanding breweries in Boise while, more than likely, petting puppies.

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