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What happens to career support in this evolving time of hybrid working?

As we enter this new hybrid world of working arrangements, between the office and remote, the thinking on supporting careers and talent management will have to evolve too

For most, it was simpler and neater before remote working became a widespread reality. But what happens to career support and talent management in this new reality? Well, we’re finding out right now as companies and individuals adjust for the longer term.

The changes are likely to be permanent too, as we move to and mitigate these new work environments. So, what are the continuing implications for leaders, talent professionals, and, of course, those seeking to build their careers?

Digital advances accelerate

Of course, it was increasing digitization that allowed whole organisations to go virtual within a matter of days of lockdown. Back in 2018, PWC’s Work Force of the Future 2030 forecast that technological innovation, and specifically digital platforms, were one of the five megatrends upending work and employment as we know it. Evidently, this prediction was realised.

What’s more, before this accelerated reality, the way we engaged with talent and developed leaders had already started to progress. Virtual interviews were becoming more common, and the need to provide more personalised tools and digital processes for onboarding, training and other functions was greatly increasing.

The rise of AI-powered recruiting and VR-enabled candidate assessment was finding favour with early adopters, well before Covid.

Researchers at the ‘HITLAB’ Human Interface Technology Lab at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, found that virtual humans with realistic characteristics can be equally effective in leadership training scenarios. This was especially the case in mixed reality setting where real and digital worlds are blended.

Remote challenges

At the same time as surfing a new wave of digital innovation that is giving us today’s powerful tools to work anywhere at anytime, we have discovered that remote working challenges some very basic concepts.

How do you bring a new talent onboard to really experience what an organisation is all about?

How do you keep talent engaged when they are working on their own?
What kind of training works best to ensure a career develops in an optimal way?
How do you get feedback that is valuable to design a career path?
What does online mentorship look like, and how should progress be assessed?

Some things may be better done face to face

McKinsey has confirmed that employers have found during the pandemic, that although some tasks can be done remotely in a crisis, they are much more effectively done in person.

These activities include coaching, counselling, providing advice and feedback, building relationships, new company joiners, negotiating and making critical decisions, and training. If onboarding is to be done remotely, it requires a significant rethinking of the activity to produce similar outcomes to those achieved in person.

New thoughts on developing people

One response to this new world is a tool like Lattice; a digital platform for employee development and the emerging, new trend of continuous performance management.

Their idea is to break up the standard once-a-year, long and arduous performance review, into several little pieces and scatter them across the year, refocusing on the employee, not the employer. 2,500+ leaders, such as Reddit, Slack, Asana and Cruise use this platform to manage and drive performance, set goals and map out career trajectories.

Learning from the culture

Of course, one of the key issues that impacts career development is culture. How do you integrate a newcomer and ensure they really work to their potential if they can’t absorb the information and guidance when you aren’t physically sitting or socialising together?

The Harvard Business Review’s response is:

‘Culture doesn’t exist within walls; it exists within people, so you have to build culture through people, wherever they sit.’

Fundamentally, culture is ‘how we do things around here’, and is the sum of default behaviours, preferences, values, and decisions that make each organisation a unique habitat, regardless of whether people frequent an office or not.

Trust, data and humanity

So, there’s a lesson there for company leaders: focus on building culture anywhere. Measure what your employees produce and contribute with a judicial mixture of data and humanity. Make ‘trust and fairness’ the watchword – virtual or real world; it’s the rock on which all careers can be built, and key talent can stay focused on what matters.

The truth is, however sophisticated the digital tools, this does not remove the optimal desire for 1:1 human interaction, and that is as true for the career of the newcomer and the experienced colleague. We are all only human, after all. Good leaders know that better than anyone.

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