Will flexible working obstruct employee development? Not with a blended approach to training says Samantha Caine, Client Services Director at Business Linked Teams.
Flexible working is on the rise as businesses adapt to new demands for policies that allow reduced hours, flexible hours and the option for employees to work remotely. The rising demand for flexible working is being forced on businesses from various directions, most notably from government legislation that supports a greater work-life balance.
But how can a successful training strategy be shaped around a flexible working policy? Here are eight pointers for those who are unsure...
1. Embrace the fact that working patterns are changing
This is widespread and not just unique to your business. By accepting the shift in working patterns, you’ll be keeping pace with the expectations of clients, retaining employees and attracting new talent.
Your training programme must also be tailored to meet these requirements and this can be achieved by increasing the flexibility of training through online platforms, enabling individuals to access learning materials and complete online activities when and where it best suits them.
2. Recognise that it’s no coincidence that we are also witnessing the rapid onset of digitalisation
This can help you to develop an approach to training that is as flexible as the working patterns of your teams. While digitalised training has many advantages, it is also important to incorporate face-to-face learning elements in a blended training approach.
Expecting your employees to train solely online can promote isolationism and negatively impact the learning outcome, whereas a blended approach that provides face-to-face elements and group activities breeds opportunity for collaboration and the formation of support networks among the training participants.
3. Update the way you think about training
Today it’s all about continuous flexible development. A traditional two-day programme as a standalone is unlikely tick all the boxes because your employees will be pressured by the expectation of digesting knowledge and developing new skills and behaviours in such a short time frame.
Add to this the stress of the workload they’ve had to displace to make time for the training, and it’s easy to see why this is an ill-advised approach.
A blended approach with a mix of different development activities spaced out over an extended period of time allows employees to digest and develop new skills and behaviours far more effectively.
4. Incorporate technology into your training
This doesn’t mean switching all your development solutions to eLearning (although you’d be wise to use it from time to time), but working out how you can use virtual systems, online learning and collaborative work spaces to maximise the opportunities for people to learn together or in their own time.
5. Make your trainees accountable
Once training becomes more flexible, it’s inevitable that the accountability for doing it falls more heavily on the individual. Gone are the days when trainers simply ticked registers at the beginning of workshops.
It’s important to make sure development activities contribute to the performance management process and that successful reviews are linked to the completion of the training activities that have been identified in advance.
6. Create support networks
When people are working alone, make sure that they know where to go for help. Set up chat rooms and consider how individuals will access the topic expert for clarification or further input.
A flexible programme will require those experts to be easily contactable online so it’s important to choose a training platform that facilitates this with options such as direct messaging or video calling.
7. Record development and track progress
Line managers will become a key gauge as to whether this new bitesize, continuous approach is working. Providing line managers with easy-to-access, simple-to-read analytics is essential to tracking the development of employees and recognising if and when further support is required.
8. Reward results
Make certain that people know that even if they are working on a particular training activity on their own, it is just as important as attending a face-to-face programme and that as well as being useful to them, their development is also valued by the organisation.
Providing a flexible training solution is one thing, but being able to demonstrate the value of the training itself cannot be overlooked and this is why it is essential to reward results.
As we march towards more flexible working and, almost by default, training, we run a real risk of making learning a solely individual activity. This is because it’s easier for us to find solutions that only concern one person at a time.
At the very least there are less technical challenges and less hassle in coordinating diaries. However, it’s easy to underestimate the power of group learning, sharing ideas, learning from the experiences of others and getting feedback from peers.
In a world of flexible working where people are working in increasingly isolated conditions, it’s essential to make collaborative learning a priority and to recognise the benefits of bringing people together for both the business and the individual.
About Samantha Caine
Samantha Caine is the Client Services Director at Business Linked Teams and has over 20 years experience working as a strategic training and recruitment expert for a variety of international businesses.
Samantha leads our Client Services Design Team who are responsible for working with our clients to develop interactive, training solutions to meet their specific business needs. She oversees the implementation of all of our global sales and leadership programmes and ensures that our tools, processes and methodology are in line with leading edge thinking from across the world.
In addition she has worked in a variety of training roles and as Graduate Recruitment and Development Manager for both Mars Inc. and Tesco, who are two of the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers. Since joining Business Linked Teams she has played an integral role as the Lead Consultant for the Association Graduate Recruiters (AGR), where she was responsible for developing and delivering the AGR Standard Practitioner Development programme – now considered the gold standard of accreditation for graduate recruiters from around the globe.
Samantha has a degree in Business and HR Management and is a fully qualified Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
Samantha is based in the UK.