3 Virtual Employee Development Program Best Practices

Over the last few years, almost every part of the working world has undergone significant transformation. Employee development is no different. Remote and hybrid work have forced employee development to go remote. That’s why HR leaders need to be flexible with their programs across all ways of working. 

Gone are the days when a one-time, in-person training session was considered sufficient. Today’s virtual employee development demands more innovation, accountability, and customization. This shift challenges long-held beliefs about development programs and necessitates a reimagining of how we cultivate growth and learning in a digital environment.

Here, we explore best practices for virtual employee development programs at forward-thinking organizations. These best practices will unlock a new level of employee engagement to match the new world of worker expectations.

Best Practice #1: Evolve Your Employee Development Programs

The introduction of remote and hybrid workplaces has revolutionized career development. It’s not enough to replicate in-person strategies in a virtual setting. Instead, your focus should be on leveraging the advantages of virtual spaces. 

These environments offer opportunities to create development programs that surpass the limitations of physical settings. By embracing the distinct nature of remote learning, organizations can design employee development programs that are more accessible, engaging, and impactful than ever before. 

Across organizations, there is a widely shared desire to develop employees, yet we’re largely failing in this area. It doesn’t have to be this way. In order for things to change we’ll need to shed old paradigms and approaches.
The future of work is self-directed and our organizations must prepare managers and employees.” Ben Brooks, CEO & Founder, PILOT

But how can you evolve your training programs? The key pillars of a successful employee development program hinge on several components:

  1. Intentional Program Structure: Balance synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous (self-paced) activities to cater to diverse learning styles and schedules.

  2. Individual Work: Encourage self-reflection, assessment, and planning to promote personal and professional growth.

  3. Community Engagement: Ensure manager and leadership buy-in, creating a supportive environment that fosters accountability.

  4. Peer Connection: Facilitate discussions, fun activities, role-playing, and peer group coaching to enhance learning through diverse perspectives.

  5. Use the Right Tech: Opt for accessible and user-friendly technology that supports learning and measurement. 

  6. Measure the Impact: Focus on valuable outcomes like participation, completion, real-world actions taken, satisfaction levels, observed growth, and participant sentiment rather than just completion and participation rates. 

These components help lay a solid foundation for self-directed growth which can also help with low employee engagement scores. This foundation is vital for leaders, as workplace trends are not in your favor. Remote work environments mean more self-direction, and that can add stress and fatigue. A SHRM study found that 45% of employees feel emotionally drained from their work as a result of the impact of COVID-19. 

Moreover, Citrix research shows that 47% of employees think they’ll be less likely to be considered for promotion or advancement opportunities when working remotely. It also finds an additional 38% believe remote employees will be at a disadvantage for not working out of a central office location.

In other words, without a remote development plan of action, your retention rates will suffer, and lead to high recruiting costs.

Best Practice #2: Keep Your Virtual Employee Development Program Simple

Employees want to be developed. Gallup has found that 59% of millennials say they find development opportunities extremely important when deciding whether or not to apply for a position. Are you providing the right tools for your workforce to grow? 

Effective development is akin to forming a habit. It is challenging to establish but highly rewarding once integrated into the daily routine. Keeping the process simple and accessible encourages broader participation and impact. Customization is valuable, but over-customization can dilute the relevance of a program to a larger audience.

To keep it simple, remember these three best practices:

  • Anchor your program design on fundamentals

  • Focus on empathy

  • Test, design, and learn by doing

Simplicity is key from the outset, and that requires discipline. Remember, if you make something simple but it needs more content, that’s a much easier process than trying to declutter a complex program.

Measuring requires going beyond vanity metrics such as participation or completion rates that simply check the box. Focus on the real-world application of learned skills and the long-term growth of participants. 

Best Practice #3: Focus on Active Involvement to Retain Employees

To hold on to top talent, HR leaders must go on the offensive when it comes to designing and enacting employee development programs. Offer diverse growth activities that are accessible to all, regardless of their location, time constraints, or learning style. An inclusive approach ensures that every employee feels valued and has the chance to advance their skills and career. 

Taking an active approach means you’re involved with the development program from the start. You’re not just following a script—you’re writing it with the capability to improv and ad-lib. It’s vital to create adaptable employee development programs. This allows you to switch things up if you find your employees aren’t engaging with sessions or goals aren’t being reached.

Bonus Best Practice: “Boring” topics don’t have to be boring! 

Avoid falling into the trap of dull training programs. Infuse your strategies with engaging and fun elements, and that will significantly enhance their effectiveness. Taking a creative approach to what is traditionally seen as “unsexy” can transform the learning experience. 

Download the free eBook: Five Real Ways to Create Employee Development for Everyone

For Virtual Employee Development Program Success, You Must Focus, Act, and Evolve

The future of work demands a reimagined approach to employee development. When crafting your virtual employee development program, consider impact, simplicity, and inclusivity. If you want to retain your employees, you must focus on providing them with growth opportunities that are provided fairly, regardless of location.

When executed well, these programs will not only cultivate the skills and talents of individual employees, but strengthen your collective workforce as a whole. 

Want to save time and learn about PILOT’s virtual employee development programs? Book a demo today! 


How to Show Employees What to Use Professional Development Stipends On


How to Develop High Potential Employees