Out of the office, for good?

As far as proofs of concepts go, the last four months of mass home working has been pretty conclusive. Certainly, that is the impression we have been got from our own network. And this view is backed up by the results of our ETS Quick Poll too. A headline finding was 72% of respondents saying they feel more positive about different ways of working in the future. And this, alongside an ever-growing list of ‘big corporates’ revealing their plans and expectations around future flexible and home working, is surely proof enough that the return to office 9-5 Mon-Fri is something neither organisations nor employees wants or expects.But when considering how our people plans and organisation design should change, we need to go back to basics. Start by pinpointing what you most need from employees - and indeed what employees need from the organisation. Below we've outlined four things in particular to think about for businesses.For more on what organisations ought to be thinking about for their people, have a look at another article we published on the employee experience.

1. Mind the (skills) gap

One of the biggest repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic for organisations is that they will need employees to learn some different skills and to hone other existing ones. McKinsey just released an interesting report looking at this.To understand exactly where your own organisation’s skills gaps and priority employee development needs are, consider running a training needs analysis (or similar exercise).A training needs analysis does, to a very large extent, exactly what it says on the tin. It can be a short survey designed to measure and provide an overview of a team’s or organisation’s collective strengths and development needs. This data is then used to help an organisation devise and tailor a training strategy that supports delivery of their strategy and key performance objectives.

2. Get on the front foot

In this knowledge, we can shape training and L&D strategy accordingly and, importantly, allocate the right budget to the right areas and groups.The prospect of a global depression and its knock-on effect on jobs and budgets is a grim but inevitable reality. But this must not lead to a lack of development for employees (as McKinsey point out in their report).Even in good times this is a risky strategy, but particularly now. The months ahead may well lead to a case of survival of the fittest for organisations in some sectors – and that’s why we all need to be developing the skills most needed to get our organisations on the front foot.

3. New ways of learning (and a tailored approach)

The digitisation of training and learning was, of course, already well underway before COVID-19. But in the current context, this means that we will be more reliant on e-learning than ever. And, even in a post pandemic world, we may well find that this mode of learning is becoming the norm thanks to the disparate make-up of workforces and the sophistication of tech. Live video as a means of delivering training to teams can create shared learning experiences and encourage collaboration and cohesion in a way that e-learning of old never could.It is important though to take a tailored approach, be that for teams, job functions or levels. The training needs to meet the priority development needs of that group, based on an earlier diagnosis of these (as touched on earlier), and be 100% aligned with the organisation’s strategy and workforce plan.

4. Building transferrable skills

Now, as well as tailoring your L&D strategy to make sure it is supporting those strategically and functionally imperative needs for teams, there are also some skills to consider that are universally important in the ‘new normal’ – something McKinsey also alludes to in their report. These key transferable skills can help employees and organisations to thrive now and in the future:

  • Cognitive-based skills such project management and decision-making. With more of us working remotely and, as such, more independently, we need greater proficiency to keep projects on track, to analyse, question, innovate and adapt, where needed.
  • Emotional intelligence and social skills, particularly for people managers. These are more important than ever in the ‘new normal’ and managers need to develop their emotional intelligence to become more effective in leading and engaging remote teams.
  • Resilience. Against such a changeable backdrop, we all need to work on being more self-aware, understanding our emotions and social style, and to look after our mental wellbeing. This also means leaders supporting their teams to be resilient by adopting more of a coaching approach to their day-to-day leadership style.