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Optimise hybrid working using essential skills

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a lasting impact upon the workplace. In response to lockdowns and social distancing rules, businesses quickly shifted their working patterns from an office-based approach to working from home; since the start of the pandemic it is reported that 46% of employees have worked from home all or most of the time.

Homebased working doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon. Increasing numbers of businesses are now adopting a hybrid approach – a combination of home and on-site working – with almost two-fifths of employers putting in place additional measures or investment to enable more hybrid or homeworking in the next 6-12 months.

What are the benefits and challenges of hybrid working?

Hybrid working certainly presents a number of appealing benefits. Employees have reported improvements to their work-life balance, general wellbeing and ability to focus. Meanwhile, organisations have seen an increase in employee productivity and overall business flexibility, such as being able to recruit from a wider geographical talent pool. 

However, hybrid working does not come without its challenges. For some individuals, hybrid working practices have contributed to increased stress levels, difficulties working as expected (for example due to a lack of space, appropriate technology or privacy), as well as an increase in conflict with colleagues due to the challenges of communication and fostering team relationships.

There are also barriers for businesses to contend with, including differences in opinion between employer expectations for on-site work and employee preferences. Some employees have also expressed a concern around being treated less favourably if working in a hybrid way, compared with colleagues in the office full time. This presents an inclusion risk to employers.

What role do essential skills play within hybrid working?

Essential skills are defined by Skills Builder as the highly transferable skills that everyone needs to do almost any job. These skills support the application of technical skills and knowledge in any context. They include: listening and speaking; creativity and problem solving; aiming high and staying positive; and teamwork and leadership. 

By introducing a common language for these skills in the workplace, businesses can mitigate some of the challenges and barriers that arise from hybrid working. For example, by developing skills such as teamwork, speaking and listening, staff are better equipped to manage new styles of communication that could otherwise result in conflict. 

There are benefits for line managers too: identifying areas within the leadership skill, such as ‘recognising the strengths and weaknesses of others in my team’, supports feedback processes by using a shared criterion for all. This ensures fairness and consistency between those who are office based and those working flexibly.

How can the Universal Framework for essential skills support a hybrid work environment?

The Skills Builder Universal Framework provides a roadmap for the development of essential skills. The Framework breaks down each of the eight essential skills into a sequence of 16 measurable, teachable steps, supporting individuals, line managers and organisations to develop the skills needed for success.

Finding ways to introduce the essential skills into your hybrid working approach may not seem straightforward initially, but there are some quick wins that can be easily integrated into existing staff development practices:

  1. For an individual – use language from the Universal Framework to facilitate a discussion with your line manager on your approach to hybrid working. Consider the essential skills you use regularly to support working in this way.
  2. For a line manager – consider what you want direct reports to be doing better, for example more effective decision making as part of a team working remotely. Identify current barriers to this and share learning materials from the Universal Framework to support skill development.
  3. For an organisation – introduce essential skills through your flexible working policy so support is available for all members of staff.

Want to find out more?

Attend our virtual workshop ‘Optimise hybrid working using essential skills’, where we:

  • Explore the benefits and challenges surrounding hybrid working, share research from the CIPD and hear from our guest speaker at Lloyds Banking Group
  • Learn more about the value of the essential skill Framework and how these skills can be used to support a hybrid work environment
  • Share practical tips for your business, identifying the skills needed for effective hybrid working and guidance on how you can develop these amongst individuals, line managers and at an organisational level

You can find out more about the 120 employers who are already members of the Skills Builder Partnership, and how the Employer Programme is supporting them to transform the impact of their staff development, outreach and recruitment at www.skillsbuilder.org/employers.

Watch the recording of the webinar here: