As we approach the one-year mark since the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizations around the world to quickly transition to remote work, many HR leaders continue to navigate how to best support employees and drive engagement in a virtual environment.
While remote work was available to some prior to the pandemic, it is likely to be more widely accepted in the long run. According to a recent survey from Gartner, 90% of HR leaders plan to allow employees to work remotely at least part of the time, even after vaccines are widely adopted.
Remote work can offer organizations and employees a variety of benefits. For organizations, it can lead to reduced operating costs, the opportunity to reach a broader talent pool when hiring for open roles and increased productivity. For employees, the benefits of remote work include access to job openings outside their geographic location, more flexible scheduling and saving time and money that would have otherwise been spent on commuting. However, it can also pose a risk for employee burnout and decreased engagement.
A 2020 study from Monster found that 69% of employees are facing burnout symptoms while working from home during the pandemic. Some factors that contribute to this include the added stressors of the pandemic, decreased time off – with travel and other activities limited due to the pandemic – and blurred boundaries between work and home life.
Another recent study from LinkedIn revealed that 74% of employees are simply ‘sheltering in job,’ meaning they’re only staying with their current employers to maintain a steady paycheck, are waiting until there’s a more favorable job market or do not have the time and energy to focus on a career transition. On a more favorable note, the LinkedIn study also found that 24% of employees are motivated to stay in their current roles because of the opportunity to apply or grow their existing skills.
Not only can offering reskilling and upskilling opportunities help employees stay motivated and engaged while working from home during these challenging times, but an ‘always-learning’ mindset is critical to both your business success and team members’ long-term employability. When employees are continually learning, they adopt a growth mindset, which is critical to organizations when they – and their employees – must rapidly adapt to address evolving business demands. According to Gartner, the total number of skills required for a single job has increased by 10% year-over-year since 2017 – and the pandemic has only accelerated the need for employees to learn new skills.
Below, we’ve outlined how you can encourage employees to adopt a continuous learning mindset by taking a strategic approach to reskilling and upskilling.
support equal skilling opportunities for all
Many employers are likely quick to offer skilling and training to managers and other high-potential employees, but the most agile organizations understand the importance of democratizing skilling across the organization, whether employees are working in an office or remotely. A recent Gartner survey reveals 64% of managers believe that office workers are higher performers than remote workers and are likely to give in-office workers a higher raise than those who work from home. However, Gartner analysis found that full-time remote workers are 5% more likely to be high performers than those who work full-time from the office.
As organizations gradually return to the office or adopt hybrid models post-pandemic, it’s critical to ensure remote employees don’t get left behind when it comes to skilling, career development and growth opportunities. CHROs report that among their workforce, men are more likely to return to the workplace as offices reopen while women are more likely to continue working in a remote capacity. The pandemic has already disproportionately impacted women, with 2.5 million women leaving the US workforce, compared to 1.8 million men. If equal opportunities for growth aren’t offered to both remote and in-office employees, this can lead to an increased gender pay gap and have a negative impact on women’s long-term career potential.
At your organization, you can even the playing field by not only offering courses and more formal skilling resources but also through internal project teams and gig work. By encouraging all employees to challenge themselves with new projects and stretch assignments, you can help support your evolving business needs and uncover untapped skills, while also enabling all individuals on your team to broaden their skills and gain more visibility internally.
In the absence of such opportunities, gaining visibility across the organization is in some ways more challenging in a remote environment, since employees might otherwise only interact directly with their own team members. Encouraging cross-team collaboration – and even talent sharing and career transitions across the organization – can help employees grow their skill sets, stay relevant in the job market and help prevent feelings of isolation that some remote workers face.
empower employees to learn on their own time
The pandemic has upended our lives. Our homes now also serve as our offices, classrooms, fitness centers and more. Many employees have had to make the switch to more flexible schedules to attend to personal priorities – such as overseeing virtual learning with their children or running errands for at-risk relatives.
Rather than requiring employees to attend scheduled learning and development sessions, an effective skilling strategy will enable employees to learn on their own time. This approach might include offering longer-term projects and stretch assignments – rather than those with tight deadlines – and encouraging employees to take courses focused on new skills that are both relevant to the business and their career passions.
Flexible skilling opportunities enable employees to fit career development into their busy personal and work schedules, which can also boost engagement and retention. When employees take time away from simply putting their heads down and getting work done to focus more on their long-term career goals, they break up their day-to-day work-from home routine and will likely feel more motivated to continue driving positive results for your organization.
offer strategic guidance
To set-up employees for success on their skilling journeys, it isn’t enough to simply provide a list of open internal opportunities, projects, online courses and other resources to pick and choose from. This approach can get overwhelming quickly. Employees need more direction for their skilling efforts to be mutually beneficial to both their career goals and your organization. Strategic upskilling and reskilling require guidance and a learning plan – what we call a strategic skilling roadmap – for employees to align their interests and capabilities with business needs and to optimize their approach as well as your organization’s investment.
An effective skill-building strategy combines technology such as job market data and access to online courses with personal guidance from a career coach, a career concierge and a certified learning advisor. A career coach can help an employee make sense of job data and assessments to determine what career paths and skills to build. A career concierge can provide handpicked courses and experiential learning opportunities that are tailored to the needs of an employee, while a learning advisor can help employees stay on track with their learning plan. With this approach, employees are more likely to meet their goals and close skills gaps efficiently – promoting both your success as a business and individuals’ long-term employability.
As the world of work continues to evolve, skilling isn’t simply a nice-to-have or perk for employees. It’s a must-have for long-term workforce agility. All employees can benefit from continuous development and it’s important to ensure remote team members have just as many opportunities for skilling as their in-office counterparts. Otherwise, you’ll risk these employees getting left behind, which can lead to disengagement and lost productivity.
Learn how Randstad RiseSmart Skilling can empower your employees to follow a strategic skilling roadmap. Watch the video here.