We all know that the issues around work-life balance don’t magically disappear after the UK’s National Work Life Week comes to a close, even if that much-publicized week in October is a good exercise in galvanizing decision–makers’ resolve for change, and raising awareness in the process.
Avado, the online training and apprenticeships company, know it’s a long-term, global issue, but are using the industry’s renewed interest thanks to the flurry of recent promotional activity as a jump-off to plan for the future. Dean Corbett, Avado’s Chief People Officer, sets out his stall:
“After so much change to the way we work, National Work Life Week is a great opportunity for businesses to evaluate their working practices and work directly with their people to make the changes needed to foster the best possible working environment.”
Involving the end-user, to use a rather clinical term to describe the employee, is definitely the way forward. Corbett also underlines the importance of both data and learning to inform this slowly coalescing people strategy.
Hybrid working can be successful if people and all aspects of their lives are put at the forefront.
“Generally, everyone has different expectations, ambitions and needs, so in responding to the increased ask for more flexible, remote or hybrid working, businesses need to build models that accommodate what people want and need to both perform at their best today and realize their potential for tomorrow.
“The same applies to how we deploy learning in this way of working; once the chosen model is in place, we need to help our people make the shift in ways of working, and ensure People teams have a long-term, robust and future-proof learning and development (L&D) plan in place.
“This should also be linked directly or indirectly to businesses’ KPIs and/or other hard measures of success.”
Budgets and planning
The COVID-19 pandemic inevitably forced many companies to review their budgets and make cuts in areas that while sensible in the short term, have ended up harming them down the road. Doing away with training and people development budgets is not a future-proof strategy for success, it turns out.
“It was clear [from our research] that businesses who invested in their people in 2020 fared better than their counterparts who did away with training budgets altogether…my advice would be for businesses to continually evaluate and iterate their people development and ways of working more generally to assess whether they are truly fit for purpose – now and for the future.”
Corbett’s attentions then turn to his own company, Avado. They may be L&D experts themselves, but how do Avado and its employees want to exist within the new future of work?
“We asked what our people like and dislike about working from home, and from an office. This gave us enormous insight into the way we can support them in the transition to a more long-term hybrid working environment.
“And going forward, we will be able to develop the capabilities our business needs by focusing our learning agenda on the necessary skills for working well independently with data, continuously improving processes, and gleaning actionable insight – delivered specifically for a hybrid workforce.
“We are confident that these capabilities will contribute to the success of our hybrid working environment, and to both our top and bottom lines.”
Setting the agenda
Getting these changes to bed in requires a learning agenda that is measurable, engaging, and fosters the skills needed to adjust to new expectations, new roles and even new timetables of working.
“Changing the ’time’ of work will require new skills relating to stakeholder management that factors in work-time differences; changing the ‘place’ of work will require new skills of communicating, collaborating, and cooperating with others, enabling them to be effective wherever they choose to work.
“This requires a strong focus on performance outcomes and how people interact with the digital tools, such that everyone has access to relevant, up-to-date material or information, will be critical.
“How to make judgments on the ‘when’ and ‘how’ of work will also be a crucial capability for people in this way of working – being more data literate, understanding the business commercials better and knowing how best to drive efficiencies in business processes are all going to be helpful here.”
Coaching for success
Another new channel of performance support that more and more businesses are working into their set-up is coaching, either through in-house management training or via external providers, both methods in the knowledge that sometimes, management alone isn’t quite enough, and the workforce needs support in its new environment from a new type of guidance.
But it needs to be right for them, individually.
“That coaching is based on what they’re trying to achieve, even if their immediate manager isn’t available at the same time or in the same place. The level of autonomy this provides will drive better outcomes, faster results, and increased value.
“This wouldn’t necessarily work for all environments, which is why I strongly advise looking at what you’re trying to achieve from hybrid working, and building a learning plan – with relevant people products and services – to address the needs.”