Future of Work Series: Professional Development

Vivian Guo | May 6, 2022

Given highly personalized career goals and a desire across the workforce for more balance and meaning, HR leaders and managers across all parts of the organization will need to practice imagination to redefine what professional development looks like.

The new Future of Work will be defined by a shift in the social contract between employers and employees. HR teams (and managers of all teams) will need to practice imagination to redefine what professional development and performance management look like given highly personalized career goals and a desire across the workforce for more balance and meaning.  Topics covered in this study include:

  • Shifting Career Goals:
    As the divide between work and home narrows, instead of the expectation that employers solely need to focus on supporting an employee’s life in the office, additional programs to help employees balance life outside of the office will be needed to retain and attract talent. While 97% of employees surveyed cite career advancement or professional development as a reason to stay at a company, what employees mean by professional development is often nuanced and encompass areas like balance and passion / meaning. In coaching conversations, employees are increasingly valuing goals like work-life balance and passion over career advancement. These needs are even more relevant for women and younger employees who increasingly make up a larger portion of the workforce.

  • The Importance of 360-Feedback:
    Based on BetterUp data from manager assessments collected in 2022, remote employees took a significant hit in performance review ratings across dimensions like authenticity, job performance, executive presence relative to in-office counterparts. This is likely due to proximity and responsiveness biases causing managers to view in-person employees in a more favorable light. However, when looking at the same individuals who participated in peer feedback, there was a significantly smaller performance gap between in-office and hybrid / remote peers which remote employees actually scoring higher on many skills like relationship building, network leadership and resilience.

  • Performance Management as a Tool for Engagement:
    Performance management should be seen as a tool for employee engagement rather than evaluation in a post-COVID world. Companies with strong org health are planning to not only increase the frequency of reviews next year but also solicit upwards and peer feedback as part of formal performance reviews. Rather than a rigid or point in time view of performance which can often be incomplete for distributed employees, it will be important for HR leaders and managers to shift to ongoing conversations around goals and wellbeing.

  • Upskilling for the Future:
    The top requested professional development goals for tech employees include improving on a skill, developing functional expertise, and learning a new skill/technology. Conversely, the lowest requested goal is to take on more leadership responsibilities.  As we think about the types of leaders that will be successful in the workplace of tomorrow, new leadership skills that allow employees to effectively bring alignment, presence, authenticity, and connection across the remote / office divide will be critical.  It could also be argued that remote employees will need upskilling to manage up and help team leads work through any potential biases. While tech companies are expecting to increase L&D spend per employee next year, given these highly personalized needs, companies will also need to rethink their L&D programs and think more expansively about what L&D needs to accomplish vs. rolling out fixed programs.