Professional Partner Content

How to not lose sight of employee development in the virtual workplace

Today’s leaders have new responsibilities. Many have had to hire and support remote teams. Additionally, they’ve had to find new ways to demonstrate leadership, team building, communication, and decision-making skills during a time of uncertainty and discord. Companies must make sure their leaders have the skills they need now and in the future. Employees don’t want to wait to gain skills either. They want to learn and grow, not only for professional development but also for personal satisfaction.

To have an agile staff, supporting the development of both hard and soft skills is a key part of organizational culture that helps companies succeed. Instead of offering periodic upskilling or reskilling, companies must ensure employees learn continually.

Most organizations have by now adjusted to either fully remote or hybrid working environments. And for organizations that have remained working in person, the ability to work remotely, even occasionally, is an expectation more than a perk. In this new environment, how can businesses ensure L&D strategies are delivered in a convenient format for employees wherever they are?

How Digital Libraries Can Augment L&D
Traditional L&D takes place in person via classroom instruction, one-on-one coaching, or on-the-job training. Amy Bladen Shatto, PhD, global head of leadership development at W.L. Gore & Associates, said that her company, known for its expertise in delivering in-person L&D, was initially hesitant about virtual learning and concerned the process wouldn’t translate well online. Eventually, the company realized the benefits of remote learning, such as the ability to scale for more people than the in-person format allowed.

Remote learning doesn’t have to be limited to one-to-one or one-to-many instruction either. It can involve learning opportunities that employees engage with at their own pace, making their own selections about topics that interest them. Often, it can be difficult to offer L&D opportunities that appeal to all levels and roles in an organization. A digital library is one helpful tool.

OverDrive Professional, for instance, offers a custom collection of e-books and audiobooks—as well as magazines, videos, and company documents—selected based on the unique interests of an organization. A digital library gives organizations the ability to provide books on topics for upskilling and reskilling hard skills in business, IT, and accounting, and soft skills in leadership, workplace relationships, and communication. It also provides tools for personal development, from leisure to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and mental health topics—areas that are sometimes overlooked in virtual environments due to the prioritization of business needs.

Rapid7, a cybersecurity company, uses a digital library to better support its remote workforce. Katie Almanzan, senior people development specialist at Rapid7, initially reconfigured training for the temporarily remote employee population during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The big shifts for us fell into three buckets: accessibility, flexibility, and connection,” she said.

Accounting for these buckets when implementing employee development opportunities in the virtual workplace is as important as the content of each development opportunity. Employees needed to access all the learning materials regardless of where they were in the world. They also needed flexibility to learn when it was convenient and ways to connect, such as through partner activities or shared reading, to help them feel less isolated, Almanzan explained.

Traditional methods of providing professional development do not account for these key characteristics of remote teams. And the ability to offer digital learning opportunities, from top to bottom, is no longer a nice option to have but a necessity.

Many organizations have successfully navigated the shift to effective remote work. But if employee development opportunities took a back seat during that shift, it’s time to bring them into focus.

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