Shifting trends in a post-pandemic workplace
Learning and development initiatives continue to gravitate online – a trend that existed before the coronavirus pandemic and one that has only accelerated since companies have had to quickly shift all in-person interactions, including in-person learning, into virtual formats.
But that is not the only way that L&D programs must adapt to a post-coronavirus world: Their very structure and content must also shift to fit workers’ evolving needs.
Remote Workplaces as a Standard
The pandemic is likely to have long-lasting changes in workplace culture, including more widespread openness to remote work. McKinsey found that 80% of people say they enjoy working from home and 69% believe they are as productive as they were in the office or more so. According to Gallup, 52% of managers say they plan to allow their employees to work from home more often now that they have seen it in action.
Different approaches are necessary to maintain productivity, collaborate with teams, and communicate effectively in a remote setting. Rather than popping into someone’s cubicle with a quick question, workers must assess which digital tools are best depending on the query.
For example, Skylum CEO Alex Tsepko has noticed that his employees are sending fewer emails among themselves because emails take longer to draft and it has been quicker to send a chat message or video invite.
“Many have never worked from home before, which comes with a unique learning curve," he wrote on Minutes.
For learning programs, that means it is just as important to teach employees skills about how to work remotely as it is to teach the technical skills they need to complete their jobs.
Holistic Programs for Mental Health
Another challenge of remote work that L&D programs can meet is its isolating nature. The pandemic has encouraged companies to focus more on the mental health of employees, RJ Cheremond notes on Gartner.
As the crisis fades, employers should also be prepared for the reality that some of their workers may undergo post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of this experience, Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, told World Economic Forum. Others may question how meaningful their work is as their career and home lives blur together.
L&D programs can take a more holistic approach to addressing such challenges by offering modules that address mental health and wellbeing alongside more technical skills.
Task-Oriented Productivity Measurement
Companies that once measured how hard employees worked based on the hours they clocked in at their desk now need to assess productivity in new ways. In most cases, it is less important when workers complete tasks than whether they complete them effectively.
This approach will push more workplaces to focus on skills rather than roles, and that will have an impact on learning initiatives.
“To build the workforce you’ll need post-pandemic, focus less on roles -- which group unrelated skills -- than on the skills needed to drive the organization’s competitive advantage and the workflows that fuel that advantage,” Cheremond advises.
Companies such as Cisco and Allianz Global Investors have already shifted towards a skills-based approach to work, sharing tasks and projects in an internal project marketplace that any employee with the skills and availability can take on, according to Harvard Business Review.
Such an approach requires rethinking how employees are trained so that they can continue to excel and drive value for their companies.
No one knows with certainty what the future of work will look like post-pandemic, although it is clear by now that there will be dramatic and lasting shifts as a result of it. L&D professionals should be prepared to reshape their programs to fit the emerging needs of workers as those shifts become clear.
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