Insights

E-learning isn't what employees need right now

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Paul Harrison

One of the key things we’re seeing corporate learning and development departments ask for most at Junction-18 is quick communication pieces for their employees about health and safety, working from home, and return to work policies.

As the way we work changes, organisations are having to make difficult choices and cuts throughout their businesses. Pre-pandemic we saw many corporate clients increasing the size of their learning and development departments and the technical depth and capability of their teams.

Government guidelines around the virus are constantly changing and these changes have an immediate impact, not only on your customers and suppliers but your employees as well.

Particularly in the UK, there's a lot of uncertainty about what to expect as we close out Q4. Communications about health and safety, remote working, and return to work are crucial and the guidance can feel like a moving target with small, but critical projects necessary for quick deployment to the organisation.

L&D departments are well-positioned to create content around these changes and support business continuity and there are several ways that they can have a positive impact.

Remote onboarding makes it harder to establish trust with new hires

Despite continued news of redundancies from the high street and hospitality industries, hiring hasn’t stopped in the UK. But employee recruitment and onboarding looks and feels much different.

In most organisations, onboarding would happen in a face-to-face setting, or at the very least, a job candidate would have ideally had some face-to-face interactions with the employer prior to joining the company.

From the employee's perspective, he or she would ideally have the opportunity to look a hiring manager in the eyes, tour the office, meet other team members, and generally get a feel for the culture before agreeing to come on board.

Obviously, with the current “situation” (i.e. the virus-that-shall-not-be-named), new employees are having to take a lot of things on trust. Many are interviewing for jobs via Zoom, never meeting their managers or colleagues before starting a new job.

I spoke with one of my colleagues, developer Paul Reynolds (arguably the best 'Paul' at Junction-18) about his experience with our remote onboarding. He said that it was more important than ever for him to rely on our company’s own communications about workplace culture and to ask more questions about the work environment during the interview process because he was unable to get a feel for the business culture in more traditional ways. This echoes my own experience joining the company earlier this year.

Once making the decision to join a company, there's still a struggle to build rapport. Employees at other organisations I spoke to brought up difficulties in establishing trust with new teams and subordinates and also feeling more apprehensive generally about their relationship with their new employer when starting a new role, compared to roles taken on prior to the pandemic.

These feelings of unease can be minimized, if not eliminated if internal communications around onboarding and work-from-home policies are clear, concise, and proactive.

These pieces can include welcome videos from key corporate representatives, onboarding checklists, and adding interactive elements to the employee handbooks.

Handling onboarding effectively will also undoubtedly impact future recruiting. Expect recruiters and potential new hires to ask pointed questions about how the staff was treated during the pandemic as a litmus test on how they will be treated.

Clear communication minimizes uncertainty and anxiety in employees

It isn’t just new employees in need of reassurance, however. Early research from several sources indicates that COVID-19 and return-to-work schemes are increasing stress, though the long-term mental health impact of the virus in the workplace is still unknown.

According to the British Psychological Society, communication is a keyway for employers to ease distress at this time.

Once it is safe to do so, policies around return-to-work procedures including social distancing and health and safety measures being taken by the employer should be communicated as quickly as possible to prepare and reduce uncertainty in the minds of staff. Again, these can be brief videos.

Staff who are customer facing need proper training on the latest government guidance to minimise transmission of the virus. As second-wave lockdowns resume, they may need refresher documents or additional checklists on how to safely resume operations after a period of working from home.

Giving more and asking less

In the holiday spirit, companies may be better off in the short-term spending more time focussing on these internal messaging and communications. With budgets and talent stretched, that may be all your L&D department has the resources for, but it’s still a worthy pursuit that will strengthen the employer and employee relationship and ensure minimal disruption if an appropriate and safe return to work guidelines are followed.

If your company’s learning and development department needs swift support on turning around brief messaging and policy communications around coronavirus, remote onboarding, or conversions of legacy learning content, please don’t hesitate to contact me at paul.harrison@junction-18.com, and ask about our new, budget-friendly Fast-Track service.