Hybrid work can completely transform the strategy, employee experience and management style of a business. This is made even more difficult by the required adoption of new technologies and further requirements for employees and management to learn new skills.
Despite the obvious challenges of a hybrid work environment, it could also be argued there are plenty of fresh opportunities for businesses to broaden their horizons. Employees may end up learning new skills and utilising tools that they otherwise may have never looked into, thanks to the requirements of hybrid working.
Upskilling is required for employees to be successful in this modern hybrid work environment. But what exactly is upskilling, and how can organisations implement it into a hybrid working model? Let’s discuss how to upskill your employees for hybrid work and the challenges associated with it.
What is Upskilling?
In 2019, before the pandemic, 56% of companies described the skills gap of their employees as ranging from a moderate gap to a severe gap. This gap has the potential to significantly widen even further if employees and their managers do not take control of the many new systems, technologies and processes which have become more prevalent due to the pandemic.
But, what exactly is upskilling? Upskilling is the process of elevating people beyond just being ‘OK’ in a skill and aims for higher performance levels. This involves an increase in critical thinking, results appraisal and problem-solving. The key benefit for a business that works on upskilling with their employees is there is generally a result of greater performance and innovation amongst staff.
Upskilling isn’t necessarily about taking on new technology or skills, but bringing a higher level of skill in the performance of staff members and encouraging them to think more critically, optimise processes and push to bring additional value to the company.
Upskilling is challenging within a hybrid work model due to its virtual nature. Upskilling is generally simpler to implement with human interaction and the ability to resonate emotional intelligence with one another. Therefore, it may be required to plan purposeful in-person interactions in order to properly implement upskilling, although these learnings can be further solidified virtually.
Common Upskilling Mistakes in a Hybrid work environment
There are some common upskilling mistakes when companies try to implement it, especially in a hybrid work environment. Here are some core issues that you may face:
It is easy to focus on the skills themselves initially, rather than looking at the results you wish to achieve and what is needed to get to those results. A significant amount of effort can be wasted on upskilling an area that does not really feed into the desired results.
It would help if you sit back and fully understand the problem before deciding the approach to take. For example, your overall problem may be that your staff are struggling to work effectively from their remote environments. But what is the actual problem here? It could be that your staff are struggling to utilise the new technology (Teams, Skype etc) or it could be that they are struggling with the reduced interactions in person. Once you have realised the core of the problem, you can then navigate the required skill set to overcome that problem and reach your target outcome.
Expectations of Technology
It can be easy to have overly high expectations of technology and assume that a tool can solve everything. Many businesses invest in tools that are never used because, in reality, what is stated on paper as a tool that solves all of your problems may not actually be practical. Or, more commonly, employees may not be willing to adopt a new tool.
A study by WestMonroe found that employee adoption is actually the biggest difficulty when it comes to implementing new technology.
Hybrid work needs to be considered as well when it comes to technology and expectations. Tools which are simple and practical to use in the office can become tedious while working remotely
Not Setting a Budget
It is easy to underestimate the cost implications of training expenditures. There has also been a general downtrend in the amount of expenditure that companies put towards the overall training of their staff. Upskilling can be perceived as a highly costly programme that is difficult to maintain and measure the success of. However, studies have also shown that not upskilling can cost on average 3.5x the cost of upskilling to hire a new employee, rather than simply upskilling someone already employed at the company.
It is always important to understand the expectations of expenditure when upskilling. And to lay the groundwork for a plan which results in the best return on investment possible for both the company as a whole, and the best improvement for the individual(s) themselves.
How to get started with Upskilling
Hybrid working has added another aspect of complexity to what is an already difficult thing to implement. Upskilling isn’t easy, and most managers do not actually know how to upskill their employees. However, the uptake in hybrid working really emphasises the core need for upskilling employees.
Here are some core tips to upskill your employees for hybrid work
- Gain a core understanding of how upskilling differs from ‘skilling’ and ‘reskilling’
- Understand the importance of upskilling in a hybrid work environment, and do not underestimate the added difficulties a hybrid environment adds
- Get a clear understanding of what you want to achieve before you implement an upskilling approach
- There is not a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to upskilling. Understanding that upskilling for one individual may be great, but a waste of time for another
- Optimise your learning programs in order to streamline the upskilling process
Now that you know how to upskill the right way, it is important to lay the groundwork so that your workplace is thriving during and after the pandemic.