A cartoon image of a man in a suit climbing a ladder as a large, robotic hand places a new rung above his head, symbolising career progression.
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How does remote working affect career progression in tech?

20 Oct 2021

Hays’ James Milligan explores how remote working and digitisation might affect the careers of tech professionals.

Remote work and digitisation have both skyrocketed during the pandemic, with the adoption of new technologies pushed forward by several years in just a few months.

This situation has created a boom in demand within the tech industry for particular skillsets. There’s currently a huge drive for expertise in cloud and infrastructure, cybersecurity, data science and change management, to name a few.

But, to build the right tech workforce for our future remote and hybrid working world, employers must ensure their people have access to the personal and professional development they need, no matter where they are working.

Don’t let the progression of tech talent stall

Tech workers are worried about advancing their careers while working from home, with women in tech particularly badly affected. Hays research found that more than one-third (39pc) of the tech workforce surveyed said they believe that flexible working limits career development, but that belief varies greatly depending on how senior they are in the industry.

James Hallahan, director of Hays Technology in the UK and Ireland, said that when it came to the impact of flexible working on career progression, there is a “fairly stark disparity” between those more senior and newer members of staff.

Director-level professionals, for example, are least likely to think that flexible working limits their career progression (70pc) – perhaps because they’ve already built a successful career and have strong networks in place. In contrast, just over half of tech graduates are worried about the effect on their careers.

To overcome this, organisations need to prioritise personal and professional development across their workforce, from junior to senior staff. There are many ways to achieve this, from online learning to buddy schemes and professional qualifications.

Prioritise early-career development

MIT Sloan Management Review reports that remote work actually improves confidence among early-career employees by 80pc. Plus, it enables geographically distant colleagues to connect and for leaders to rotate staff across different departments to help early-career employees learn on the job and share knowledge.

This then ultimately helps them to figure out what they’re most interested in, which will enable them to progress at a faster rate.

However, further research reveals that a lack of mentorship and training due to remote work can affect staff, with only 18pc of bosses surveyed scheduling weekly one-to-one meetings during the pandemic, for example.

This kind of regular contact while working remotely is essential for first-time workers, particularly when they don’t have the opportunity to learn by osmosis like they would when working alongside more experienced colleagues in an office.

So, make sure you maintain the support and development of your staff – especially your early-career employees – even when they’re working remotely.

Click here to check out more on the Hays Technology blog.

What employers can do

To tackle the complex issue of career progression for remote staff, online learning initiatives have risen in popularity, with tech companies creating a range of training opportunities for staff, using both remote and in-class resources. Here are a few examples, which highlight some potential options for your business:

Invest in upskilling all of your staff, not just the techies

With advancing digitisation, many non-tech workers may need to switch to more tech-led roles in the future. It’s important to provide training for both these workers and your current tech workforce.

Amazon, for example, pledged $700m in upskilling and training across several departments as part of its Upskilling 2025 initiative. This includes the introduction of a Machine Learning University to help tech workers build their machine learning skills.

Personalise your learning platforms to the individual

Everyone learns in different ways. While some individuals prefer online lessons, others may want to sit in a classroom. Also, everyone’s pace of learning differs. So, it’s important to personalise your learning initiatives to give everyone the best chance of success.

Mastercard, for example, launched its Degreed learning platform to provide personalised learning experiences and help staff access the right resources for their career progression. Launched in 2016, the platform has gone from strength to strength during the pandemic and recently achieved 96pc engagement levels with staff.

Explore tech-forward learning tools

VR, or ‘v-learning’, for example, is growing in popularity within the tech industry. This tool can create virtual learning environments that allow delivery of training and development programmes in an immersive way.

In fact, a PwC study on the use of VR in soft skills training found that learners trained in VR were 275pc more confident to act on what they learned after training, which was a 40pc improvement over similar classroom training and a 35pc improvement over e-learning methods.

Career development is more important than ever

Thanks to the rise in remote working, career ownership now lies with the individual. But in the competitive and dynamic world of technology, organisations must help every member of staff thrive and develop the right skills for the future.

With advancing digitisation and a growing digital skills gap, there has never been a more important time for tech leaders to help their teams develop their careers in the right way – whether they’re working remotely or not.

By James Milligan

James Milligan is the global head of technology at Hays. A version of this article originally appeared on the Hays Technology blog.

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