MNP Business Insights

Upskilling: Adapting to a Changed Workplace

June 13, 2021
Presented by:

An interview with Jim Cruickshank, MNP, National Leader, Human Capital Consulting

Rapid Change

As a result of reacting to COVID pandemic, the cultural change in organizations that would normally have taken years to implement was done in weeks. With so many people working remotely from home, managers need to manage their people differently because they are never together in person. Conducting an effective virtual meeting is something many leaders are still figuring out.  Many people have had to learn to use video conference technology. Now imagine the reaction you’d get if you asked someone to meet in person? We need to look at what the benefits of remote working have been. What were the surprise competitive advantages? What can we keep? And what shouldn’t we keep?

Adjusting to Change

Leaders have had to learn to facilitate meetings differently, and to engage staff, customers, and clients differently. This is especially true for retail and customer service companies because there is no person-to-person interaction anymore. When you’re talking about upskilling, you’re talking about building on a skill or a capability that you already have in some way. Now we need to structure our conversation with groups differently. Maybe you adapt by using a virtual whiteboard. That is an enhancement of a skill that someone already had. People need to work differently in different environments. Do they have the right ability to do digital sales? Do they have the right ability to manage inventory? Do they recruit differently? Do you teach differently? Do you manage people’s performance differently? Do we standardize working hours?

Training Ground

Once we get past the pandemic the working world may be different, but it might not be as significantly different as we originally thought. There will be more of a hybrid working model. Of the things many companies are going to have to do is assess their skill shortages and develop training to address them. Upskilling should not be a one off but an ongoing thing because, over time, change is inevitable. A lot of companies put emphasis on training, but they leave it up to the staff to do. But they’re busy with their day-to-day tasks so they’re not going to do it unless they’re mandated to. Companies will have to create time in people’s days to engage in training. There’s a shift that’s gone on in a lot of organizations that now see the importance of training as a real advantage for them in the market and advantage for them going forward. In the past there was a concern that by investing in teaching new skills, employees could leave and take it somewhere else. That’s a risk more companies are willing to in today’s market, and they’re starting to invest in redesigned training programs.

Recognizing Employees’ Needs

Your ongoing success is dependent on your people, and employers need to understand that what their employees’ value now is different than it was a year ago, and the way that we need to support employees is different. If you looked at the top cultural traits that that people had in their workplace a year ago and compared them to today, probably half of them have changed. People value much more flexibility than they used to. Personal safety, communications, connectivity, and the need for clarity have all risen to the top, where a year ago people were looking at rigidity, budget, profitability, and productivity. People really crave contact and they crave communication, and it is so much more of a part of people’s days. Employers need to find a balance between the employee needs for flexibility and needs to effectively get work done.  Especially in those jobs that require team collaboration.

A Structured Day

Burnout is a huge HR issue. I think we’re all Zoomed out. Everyone seems to be booking Zoom calls after Zoom calls, and no one’s taking a break to think anymore. And the days get longer. I’m the type a guy that likes to walk down a hallway, stick my head in someone’s door, talk to them for five minutes about something and walk away. Well, that interaction now has to be likely in a half hour zoom call. I don’t know anybody that books 15-minute Zoom calls. People no longer have an official start to their day, and they don’t have official end to their day because their laptop sitting on their desk they can’t get away from work. People need to have an actual a start and a stop point.

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