How to Develop Early-Career Talent Virtually

Leaders should consider these five critical steps toward developing early-career talent in a virtual workplace.

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Despite today’s uncertain business environment, it’s critical that companies continue to build their future workforces by investing in early-career talent. The importance of ensuring that entry-level hires are suitably equipped with sufficient developmental opportunities to jump-start, advance, and actualize their potential can’t be overlooked — even in a remote-only workplace.

Internships and graduate programs are favored methods for identifying and nurturing talent. Before the pandemic, top programs typically required substantial face-to-face interactions, providing those new to work with opportunities to shadow senior employees, learn the ropes, and build the confidence to advance into management roles. But since the introduction of widespread remote work, this reliance on in-person interaction has severely limited growth opportunities for entry-level hires, leading companies to halt more than half of their training opportunities and rescind 28% of job offers. In comparison, only 9% of employers withdrew new graduates’ employment offers the year after the 2008 financial crisis.

While some workers are keen to return to their offices, a recent PwC study found that nearly a third (29%) of employees surveyed would prefer an entirely remote arrangement. Companies have no time to waste in offering virtual early-career talent development opportunities. But how exactly can this occur remotely — and successfully? How can those new to the workforce grow and develop behind a screen?

To find out, we led a research study to examine 500 internships and graduate programs at 250 companies around the world (65% from North and South America, and 35% from Europe and Australia), surveying early-career program participants and interviewing the companies’ CEOs. We assessed each organization’s readiness for virtual development and identified the factors — in culture, process, and people — that make or break well-meaning efforts to grow talent and nurture early-career hires successfully. Synthesizing data from participant responses helped us propose five crucial steps leaders must take when developing early-career talent virtually.

1. Set up new employees properly. Ensure that everyone has the technology needed and the training they need to use it. We found that when interns and early-career hires can rely on their remote work setups, it becomes 85% easier for them to connect with peers and to reach out for help when needed.

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