Founder and Business Director, Digital Learning and Apprenticeship Expert Quantum Rise Talent Group Ltd
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Hybrid working
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Adjusting the lens: How L&D can support junior talent with hybrid working

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Aligning something as structured, impactful, and sustainable as an apprenticeship, to a hybrid model of working will take a totally new leadership mindset, says Erica Farmer.

18th Nov 2021
Founder and Business Director, Digital Learning and Apprenticeship Expert Quantum Rise Talent Group Ltd
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Two years ago, when we heard the term ‘hybrid’ we were probably starting to think about hybrid cars, or at a push, some kind of scientific definition of the weird and the wonderful. However, log on to any business-related website today, including LinkedIn, and you cannot fail to spot various articles talking about hybrid working or hybrid learning.

According to Google, one definition is: ‘In a hybrid work model, employees have more flexibility to get work done when they're most productive. For example, some people work best early in the morning while others do better in the evening. They can also choose to work with teammates on-site or do heads-down work from a remote location. But what would our generation of apprentices and graduates think of this definition and how would they change it?

‘Hybrid’ is still a relatively new term, and with this can come ambiguity and vagueness. Ask your junior talent, what are they looking for in a hybrid working strategy?

Changing our view

To be able to support our new generation of talent, we need to think about this definition more widely, and apply the human lens to it, as opposed to just consider it as a logistical, technological, or geographical concept.

We know that generation Z have taken up the baton passed on from millennials and have expectations of their employers and workplaces which align to their values, ethical stance, and personal requirements. Now more than ever we need to consider the concept of personalisation – enabling and empowering the workforce to take control of their working lives, through expression of preferences, personality, wants and needs.

So how do we align something as structured, impactful, and sustainable as an apprenticeship, to a style of living of working which favours a more flexible, fluid and on demand culture?

Time to part the ‘what’ and move to the ‘how’. You could argue that this applies to all leadership and management, however we seem to, as managers and leaders, sometimes find this concept tricky to translate into the real world. Here are my top tips to help this happen.

Reframe what hybrid means to your organisation

Consider how your junior talent is looking to live and work. ‘Hybrid’ is still a relatively new term, and with this can come ambiguity and vagueness so ask them what are they looking for in a hybrid working strategy. What support do they need, and what does this look and feel like? There is often a gap between the C-suite and front line when it comes to this all-important insight.

Understanding that junior team members won’t often have the experience to draw from is also key, and providing check ins, both virtually and in-person is fundamental

Develop frameworks around behaviour and value rather than the where and when

Providing leaders with a decision-making framework to help managers collaborate and make joint decisions with early talent team members will create a more open and inclusive culture (as opposed to having to tell people how many days they should be in an office). Start with the required output and work backwards, to save feelings of presenteeism, guilt, obligation, and micromanagement.

Life experience is lacking

Understanding that junior team members won’t often have the experience to draw from is also key, and providing check ins, both virtually and in-person is fundamental. This isn’t just the ‘how’s is going’ conversation, but schedule in wellbeing walks which prompts the use of a phone rather than a screen (remember those days) or if you’re both in the office on the same day make time for a walking coaching session, or outside programme review with the trainer, assessor, or mentor. Making sure you are co-owning these fundamental reviews and not just relying on the support team or training partner is key too.

Provide plenty of training

If managers and leaders are new to managing early careers, ensure support and training is there for them too. Providing support to junior team members often requires more pastoral support, including life skills, numeracy, literacy, very detailed feedback, and of course mental wellness. Don’t let this become a surprise for managers to deal with in the moment and enable them to feel comfortable in doing this remotely. Have managers and leaders really understand the programme of learning and think about how to weave in ‘real life’ and on the job opportunities to embed the collaborative behaviours and partnering opportunities which make hybrid working really fly.

We have an opportunity to become the managers and leaders we might have wished for at the start of our career

Hybrid isn't for everyone

Building on the last point, make sure everyone is comfortable working in the remote and virtual space. This might seem obvious based on the previous two years however remote leadership is still a relatively new concept and requires a change of both mindset and skillset. Again, it’s not just the technology which counts, but how it is used, considering engagement, interactive, empowerment and creativity. There’s a ton of digital tools to help with everything from meetings, one-to-ones and events, as well as learning.

Fundamentally, supporting your junior talent with hybrid will be challenging, and rewarding, and creating a leadership climate, through our own behaviours, will set the culture and tone for those individuals to shape their own leadership style of the future. We have an opportunity to become the managers and leaders we might have wished for at the start of our career, also having the benefit of structured and sponsored learning programmes such as apprenticeships and graduate schemes to lean on. 

Become an expert in not only the what, but more importantly the how, and by challenging some of your own leadership assumptions and preferences, you will both go on a great journey of learning and development.

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