Managing Employee Learning and Development with Flexible Working
The new way of work is transforming the management of employee learning and development and the future of many businesses. HR has been forced to rethink their roles within the organization and are constantly crafting new strategies to keep up with demands to improve the professional development and well-being of their workforce.
With some employers wishing for their workforce to return to the office, many concerns arise.
Most countries still have social distancing measures in place, meaning that it isn’t entirely possible for all teams to return to the office at once. The reality is that many teams have learned to work well remotely in the past few months and some will need to continue doing so for an unknown time.
Recently, HR developed guidelines on working remotely and they are now switching gears to developing guidelines for employees returning to the office with flexible schedules.
What kind of benefits does flexible working bring, how can employee learning and development remain a priority as organizations work remotely in rapidly evolving times, and what are some employee and employer concerns that HR should consider?
Craft learning and development strategies and communicate them openly
As consumer demands and trends are changing, workers know that priorities are shifting quickly for businesses. They also know this means their roles and jobs are evolving quickly in unforeseen ways, and they want to be prepared.
Now more than ever, employees are constantly seeking information and open communication from HR. Employees want to know what strategies are in place to keep the business going in times of uncertainty. They want to know how they can best align their professional learning and development to fit into the bigger picture of the company’s success while also satisfying their personal, human needs.
Employees need to know that open communication is still possible despite them no longer being in the office daily to communicate with their peers face-to-face or knock on the door of their favorite HR manager when they want to express a concern. Things are changing quickly and the plan you had in place a week ago may already be out the window with another strategy in place to tackle new and ongoing concerns.
Keep your communication open with your staff. Ensure your employees that aside from health and safety issues at the office being a top concern, learning and development strategies are still in place to keep them developing professionally.
Help leaders develop their teams
Good communication and leadership support have proven to be vital in times of a crisis. Team leads and HR will need to lead with empathy and understanding for individual situations each employee may be facing. Ensure your managers are well-equipped with the right soft skills to communicate effectively with their teams. Go through your content library and pull out some of your best lessons available to give managers a refresher on leading and communicating with their teams.
Managers should sit with their teams individually and ask about their concerns, find out which skills their team members wish to develop further (as some roles may require individuals to undergo new training), and develop a plan where learning is allowed to take place flexibly.
Ensure that your workforce is equipped with the proper technology to work and learn flexibly from a remote location and from the office. Some employees may not be as familiar with emerging technology as others and may fear they are not properly equipped to work with virtual learning and digital teams. With a plan in place, employees can feel more at ease knowing that they are less likely to fall behind any new demands for their roles which may suddenly arise.
Lead with soft skills
A study released by Quantam surveyed 470,000 employees in the first five months of 2020 and examined the impact of current economic and labor conditions on employee engagement. It found that employee engagement has increased by 11% this year, despite the crisis. Here are some of the results:
-88% of employees agreed that the frequency of communication from leaders was effective.
-9 out of 10 employees said they felt well-supported by their immediate manager during the crisis.
-83% of respondents surveyed believe that leaders of the organization value their employees as their most important resource.
-77% know where the organization stands and what they are doing to reach their goals.
These positive results point back to the effectiveness of open communication and leadership support – reinforcing that good soft skills are important for employee engagement and keeping teams together.
Flexible working improves well-being
Flexible working schedules have proven to be beneficial for both the employer and employees in many ways. And more flexible work options have also become necessary in recent months as working parents have been forced to homeschool or babysit their children due to school and daycare closures. During this time, organizations have reported higher levels of well-being, employee satisfaction and productivity.
Managing employee learning and development with empathy and open communication
Striking the right work-life balance will be essential for employees to return to the office. Employers will need to keep in mind that the traditional 9-5 will no longer work for most of their workforce. Several concerns come to mind if employers expect their employees to be ready to work in the office each day by 9 a.m. If all businesses expected their employees to return to the old way of work, chaos would ensue. Increased traffic on public transportation would make it impossible for people to commute to work safely while keeping in compliance with social distancing measures. The same goes for the office – social distancing measures must be kept in mind as HR crafts up new plans for employees to return to the office.
Some daycares and schools are opening back up, but with limited hours and changes in schedules. This means parents will also need flexible working schedules to be available to pick up or drop off their children at new times, and possibly end or start the working day at different times. A typical new work day for some employees may mean starting the day at 7 a.m. in the office, leaving for a late lunch to take a longer break to pick up the kids, and then working from home in the afternoon and into the early evening.
To avoid traffic on public transportation, some employees may need to alter their schedules to arrive earlier at the office and leave earlier. Whatever the case may be, team leaders will need to be prepared to communicate openly with their teams, lead with compassion and help their teams communicate openly and effectively with one another to avoid conflict and confusion.
Individual online learning lends itself well to flexible schedules, and also works well with group sessions where employees join each other through virtual classrooms for digital language training train new skills together. Managing employee learning and development with group training sessions can be easily taken online for all team members to participate and can work well with a bit of advanced planning to ensure that everyone is available to join.
Making flexible working and employee learning and development work
Companies are rethinking work schedules that allow their workforce to have more flexibility and autonomy. Many companies are changing their work policies into remote work first – where working remotely is seen as the safest and most reasonable option before working from the office. It is clear the traditional standard of working from 9 – 5 from the office isn’t favorable or possible for all. In some organizations, a completely remote schedule may not be possible and a healthy balance will need to be found between working from the office and remote work.
With the right technology, strategy and communication in place, HR and L&D managers can help their teams successfully adapt to the new ways of flexible work while managing employee learning and development goals.
If you are interested in learning more about digital learning and improving communications for your workforce, contact us.