When we are working back ‘normally’ we must remember to learn.

5th July 2021

When we are working back ‘normally’ we must remember to learn.

I was speaking to a friend a few weeks ago about their business and how they were approaching a ‘return to normal’ working. Interestingly, with an agile approach to working enabling employees to work in ways that’s best for them, it wasn’t the concerns about opening offices or managing hybrid workers that was a worry. So, what is the post-lockdown headache I asked?

Surprisingly the response was “how do I ensure all staff have access to learning? How can I make sure employees continue to develop themselves and implement what they learn for the betterment of themselves and my business?” She felt the pressure as the owner/manager to book in Learning and Development (L&D) and to reassure staff, some returning from furlough, that taking time out for L&D was as just as important as frenetically trying to make up for lost time by working longer hours and chasing sales.

The need to push ahead with post-lockdown learning and development is reflected nationally. According to the CIPD, research in 2020 found that 54% of employers surveyed had used digital and online learning during lockdown, and 80% planned to increase this over the next 12 months. They summarised that: “the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a faster and more widespread shift to digital learning, driven by the rise in homeworking and the need for new forms of training and support”.

Thinking about this more we informally chatted to a few of the businesses we have supported at Chwarae Teg; they too saw learning and development as a key challenge. Maybe, being enlightened businesses who have already implemented flexible working changes, they felt no fear at balancing home and office workers and were already actively supporting their female employees. However, L&D was a hot topic, with businesses seeing the benefits of digital learning, for example, for collaboration, accessibility and inclusion.

It would feel that now is a prescient time for businesses to learn how to manage L&D in a business environment that will be different from what we were used to pre-pandemic. Joining our Agile Nation 2 programme can support managers to improve the recruitment, progression and retention of women and can offer opportunities for female staff to learn and develop the skills needed to drive the business forward – a win-win situation, especially with AN2 being delivered digitally.

The CIPD’s study highlighted that a ‘dramatic overnight shift’ characterised by a ‘catastrophic’ cancellation of most or all formal learning work had a huge impact on organisations, its employees and how L&D was implemented. Key insights emerged from the research especially the idea that new learner priorities and challenges are emerging in the digital age. The CIPD suggest that there will be increased focus on inducting and onboarding employees digitally, developing a healthy and productive team culture when team members are dispersed, promoting employee health and wellbeing, and employing core management skills remotely. These are areas that are central to the Agile Nation 2 business programme and in ensuring that gender inequality is eradicated and that everyone, regardless of who they are, has the chance to be the best they can.

Reflecting back on my chat with the businesses I’ve spoken to recently brought home that these extraordinary pandemic times have demonstrated that it is vital to have resilient and knowledgeable employees and a management vision that embraces flexibility and on-going learning and development. Through using the resources picked up on the Agile Nation 2 programmes, it will strengthen individuals and make them more ready for the demands that lie ahead; indeed our message is be brave, curious and prioritise your own continual learning and development. As for businesses, it is time to embrace online learning, and identify new ways to cultivate relationships with all employees that are open, collaborative, supportive and real.

Chwarae Teg’s Agile Nation2 is funded by the European Social Fund through Welsh Government and has been developed to improve the position of women working in the private or third/voluntary sector, as women continue to be underrepresented at a managerial level across Wales. It is designed to improve this situation by:
  • Working with employed women working or living in Wales to develop skills, and confidence to progress in the workplace.
  • Working with small to medium sized businesses to develop effective recruitment, working practices for better retention and progression and developing a diverse workforce.