What does remote working mean for L&D

Among the twists and turns of 2020, businesses have been forced to adapt quickly to remote working. Running a remote workforce may have its initial challenges, but it also provides a number of opportunities for Learning and Development that will help your employees (and your business) thrive.

With remote working now becoming the norm for many organisations, it is imperative to continue to upskill and invest in your people through learning and development programmes in order to maintain engagement and increase performance.  

Here are five tips that will help you make the most of Learning and Development with a remote workforce.

Prioritise vital learning and development

Ensure that your L&D plans make sense for the time we’re in. Begin by assessing what additional skills or upskilling your team will need in order to work more productively from home. These will vary according to your sector and your IT systems, but make sure that all your relevant teams are properly equipped to do their best work remotely.

Strengthen management skills

Remote teams need well trained managers. Particularly in the uncertain waters of 2020, strong leadership is essential. So focus a good amount of L&D on strengthening management skills to develop high performing teams remotely.

Make sure your leaders are fully equipped to delegate, manage and review work remotely, of course. And also work to bolster people-focused skills like communication, emotional intelligence and motivating teams.

Investing in your team leaders will reap dividends.

Flexibility is key

Just as working patterns have changed, in-work training and development also needs to adapt to your present situation.

Create (or curate) training material and courses that your employees can carry out flexibly, and create space to fit L&D around their workload.

Embrace the opportunities of remote L&D to streamline and adapt your training. If a previous course consisted of hour-long presentations or workshops, consider how you could split these into training modules for staff to undertake at their own pace.

Don’t forget the human touch

For all the talk of embracing systems and software, don’t forget that your team is made up of real human beings.

Check in regularly with employees, listen to their training needs and where they perceive skills gaps, provide encouragement and support where you can.

At 1850 we know that your people are the heartbeat of your business. We’ve created a series of HR Guidance documents, including flexible working and training and employee issues.  

Available to purchase here

Re-onboarding your employees back to work after furlough

Onboarding — the process of welcoming and equipping new employees — can make a huge impact on your employee retention rates and productivity levels. 

But what about re-onboarding after a period of absence or time away from the physical workplace? If your business will be welcoming back staff who had been furloughed during 2020, then handling the process well can result in boosted morale and engagement – and better results for your business.

Notice period

You’ll need to provide furloughed staff with written notice about the end of their furlough period. This needs to be in line with the furlough agreement you’ve made with them.

This written notice should also explain the where, when and how of returning to work. As many things will probably have changed in the past few months, you should assume nothing and include as much information as you can.

Follow this up with a phone call to make sure employees are comfortable with the details of heading back to work.

Don’t forget the basics

If employees are heading back to an office or shared environment, you’ll need to cover all the essentials of safe working, social distancing and any new procedures you’ve brought in.

If they’ll be working remotely, make sure you have health and safety protocols in place to ensure their work environment will be well equipped, conducive to good work and productivity. 

Time to re-envision

But remember this is also a time to motivate, engage and envision team members who’ve been furloughed. Reiterate your company culture and values in every way you can. Make sure that staff have a clear idea of the big picture, and how their work is helping to achieve it.

Communicate any changes that may have happened as a result of the pandemic; processes or systems that you now do differently, and ensure staff are fully trained in these changes. 

Provide support as employees adapt

This year has forced us all to adapt in some way, and the workplace is no different. Remember to be flexible and available to listen as employees adapt back into work. 

Book regular check-ins, and be aware that even very independent, self-starting employees might need more support and assurance than usual during this time.

Consider specific skills gaps

If this season has flagged up any obvious skills gaps, then this could be the perfect time to address them. Providing re-onboarded staff with training can help fill your skills gaps, while motivating and engaging returning workers.

Are you bringing employees back from furlough? If you’re looking for the tools and strategies to make it as effective as possible, our brand new HR Guidance documents contain everything you need to know about reboarding and engaging your employees so that they hit the ground running on their return to the workplace.

Flexible working is here to stay — here’s how to make it successful

Has there ever been a year with a greater impact on the workplace than 2020? For starters, what is the workplace? An office? A hotdesking space? Converted garage? Hot tub?!

Flexible working isn’t going anywhere. As businesses and employees are quickly realising the benefits of less time commuting, lower overheads and working in your joggers, here are some top tips to make flexible working a success for your business.

Figure out the essentials

While a lot of our work lives have shifted online in 2020, there are some things that can’t be done as effectively over Zoom or email (like dental procedures, MOTs, swimming lessons…).

Figure out the essentials for your business. What are the tasks that need to happen in real life? Perhaps it’s a physical tour for key clients, or specific in-person training. Every organisation is different, so what’s key to one won’t be to another. Of course, ensure that all the relevant social distancing protocols are adhered to.

Look after your people

Generally, workspaces are designed to help your team perform at their best, and to look after them while they do so. That’s why we have computer monitors at eye level, supportive office chairs and other equipment to help us do our jobs efficiently. 

If your team are working from their homes, make sure they’re properly kitted out to do so safely and effectively. Consider hardware and equipment, and also specific software and subscriptions they’ll need to work well.

Mental wellbeing is key too. You can’t send home your staff at 5pm if they’re already at home, but you can help to create healthy boundaries and expectations to make sure employees are resting.

Recognise the potential for conflict

If you’re operating a mixed workforce, with some employees in the office and some remote, then recognise the potential for confusion and conflict.

This can be stemmed with clear and regular communication among all staff. Be sure to reinforce your company values and culture at every opportunity to remind teams they’re all in this together.

Celebrate outcomes

Finally, make sure you’re continuing to recognise and celebrate great work from all your teams. Drawing attention to great outcomes will not only boost morale and motivation, but helps move your employees away from a ‘presenteeism’ mindset.

At 1850, we specialise in helping organisations thrive in the modern workplace and we’ve created some handy and practical HR guides to help you navigate the ‘new normal’ and ensure your staff stay productive, wherever they’re working.  Download them here >>

Five hard lessons I’ve learned from my first year in business. (The last one may shock you.)

Kick off your best house slippers and crack open the bubbly, because we’re celebrating one whole year of 1850. That’s three-hundred-and-sixty-six days (thank you, leap year) of providing HR support, business improvement and project management.

I think we can all agree that 2020 was the ideal year to grow a business… (yeah, right.) When I launched in September 2019, there was no way anyone could know what lay ahead. But here I am, alive and kicking, and grateful for all the clients and friends we’ve made in the last year.

Here are five hard lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Building relationships is key

‘Networking’ is awful. Building supportive, meaningful relationships is brilliant — both for your business, and for you as a business owner.

LinkedIn has been a surprising source of support and connection with lots of wonderful people, and many of them have become genuine friends. I’m also very grateful to the Business Network Chester for the business connections I’ve made that have helped to grow my business. 

You need to be comfortable with who you are

Leading a service business like 1850 means I need to be open to sharing about myself — through blogs, social and video. Contacts and clients want to know more about me, to build trust and assurance.

I was confident about the skills and experience I had to help businesses thrive. But I had to learn to be confident in sharing more of myself online. I overcame my initial reluctance, and I’m so glad I did! 

I’m super grateful to Chris Williams for helping me through this process, because it’s changed my business for the better.

Target mindset > target market

You all know the drill. Early on in business planning you need to establish your ‘target market’ — the people and industries that are going to benefit from your services. “We’re going to target SMEs in the Chester area…”

What I realised early on with 1850 is that our ideal customers don’t come from a single area, or from one particular sector. What I discovered was that I was aiming for a target mindset. The businesses we wanted to work with, and the ones we could help the most, were the ones who aligned with a way of thinking, of having strong company values and wanting to do right by their people.

Working that out has brought a real freedom in how we find and work with clients.

Patience, patience, patience (and cost planning)

Some recent business books would have you believe you can start out any business with £100 and a can-do attitude. The reality is that launching any business requires patience, patience and more patience — particularly when it comes to cashflow.

I began with a reasonable idea of costs and a forecast for income, but some things took longer than I thought. I realised early on that I’d need to boost our marketing spend and invest in a new website if we were going to see the growth we wanted.

That paid off, and the business grew from there. But if you’re launching a business, make sure you’re prepared to be patient, and able to spend some money upfront.

I don’t want to spend all day with my children

Alright, I said it may shock you. (Although after six months of lockdown, it may not!)

There’s a reason we don’t employ two-year-olds. Work and kids don’t really mix. 

I put my youngest into nursery in order to start 1850. It was the right decision. He has a whale of a time, socialising, eating breadsticks, making those handprint paintings (seriously, where are parents supposed to put all of those?!). And I get to follow my dream, and help other business owners to follow theirs.

While I’m making confessions, here’s another: I was never going to be happy and satisfied as a full-time stay-at-home mum. Some people are, and that’s brilliant! But for me I’m so happy I could get over any parental guilt or expectation, and make the decision to do what I love.

Thanks!

Thanks to everyone who’s worked with 1850, supported me, got in touch, read our blogs and followed our socials over the last year. Here’s to the next one!