The COVID-19 cloud has brought uncertainty among almost every industry and showed us that one of the areas that need further thought is how to implement and encourage learning and development (L&D) in a new remote workplace.

Onboarding new employees and setting up new development objectives have not stopped as the pandemic has swept across the globe; instead, we have had to adapt to remote lifestyles. Learning and development personnel have had to prioritise remote working environments and adapt processes to become more personal in a remote world. But what changes do human resource (HR) departments and L&D professionals need to consider in a remote world?

This is the right time to start running regular employee engagement and satisfaction surveys. In this blog, we listed eight challenges that can be tackled by asking your workforce what they want during the pandemic and in a post-COVID-19 world.

🤝 Onboarding new starters

When we look at traditional onboarding, there are questions we need to ask first in order to adapt the process. With more remote and flexible working, how can we ensure calendars align for training and monitor engagement during onboarding sessions? This is one of the easier areas, but with more flexible working comes an increased likelihood of calendar overlap. We’ve all had a day in back-to-back Zoom meetings clogging up calendars, so how can we avoid this and train personnel?

Often during onboarding, there is also the social element that needs to be considered, like getting to know the person you are going to be working with to ensure they’re the right cultural fit in the organisation. Technology can help with this, but it’s far from perfect and should be a key consideration and process change for HR and L&D departments.

🤝 Internships and apprenticeships

Coming straight out of the bookcase to the workplace brings a heap of challenges. Applying learning to practice in a remote setting will be a challenge for a lot of apprentices, graduates and interns, especially if the new workplace is fully remote. As well as the individual ‘role-based’ skills, these less experienced workers need to develop, there are social elements we may forget to remember to include in the training, which can damage the team morale.

There are also questions around maintaining these individuals’ engagement levels, with a large proportion of individuals coming out of learning environments being younger and previously prioritising the right cultural fit.

🤝 Continuous learning

When people learn, some learn through experiences. The huge question with this element is how can continuous on-the-job learning happen naturally when teams are more detached?

There is less crossover between teams, and on some days, we probably aren’t even talking to some of our colleagues. A major challenge here for learning and development individuals is how can we keep experience-led working in a remote workplace.

In-person training courses, events and mentoring have all made the slow transition to online, and in some aspects this has been effective. For other individuals, this content is not particularly engaging – this tells us that a balance must be struck so no professional is left behind.

🤝 Collaborative learning

Without being surrounded by a team, there is a distinct lack of collaboration in remote work environments. This can lead to an increase in individual productivity, but it does also decrease collaborative learning and can lead to disjointed plans and agendas.

Staff cannot exclusively learn from themselves via online portals. With softer skills, like client and stakeholder management, these come from being involved in wider discussions where teams can identify triggers and pain points to get information through as quickly and effectively as possible.

Mentoring, managing, and motivating are becoming even more sparse as we’re seeing companies decide to delay returning to a fixed location in 2021. This is a short-term problem with the opportunity to increase depending on whether workplaces are even considering to return to an office.

🤝 A cohesive vision

This is a huge problem within creative departments of organisations. Individuals have responsibilities and accountabilities in companies that mean they need to collaborate. Maintaining this collaboration and wider vision can be hard for specific teams when focusing on wider projects. Sure, there is technology to help us achieve this – tools like Balsamiq, Conceptboard and Moqups all serve a purpose for collaboration –, but there is something more rounded about in-person collaboration.

Not only are all teams missing this in-person approach, but leadership teams in organisations are becoming less engaged with their employees and these departments are becoming increasingly siloed. Communicating vision organisation-wide is critical to businesses during this time of uncertainty.

🤝 Managing employee turnover

As these priorities change and businesses shift focus to remote, questions are raised about maintaining employee engagement and motivation. All of these factors will contribute to an increase in employee turnover. This may not seem like an immediate issue, but as remote working becomes a must for most workers, workplaces will lose that important social working environment and need to consider other ways of treating team members as people and not faces on a Zoom screen.

An increase in employee turnover for a lot of businesses will mean inconsistency of service, and ensuring the organisation can retain, attract and engage the right people in this post-pandemic world is a must.

🤝 Employer branding

Before the pandemic, there was a skills gap in specific industries; and this problem remains. Attracting talented and engaged recruits is another uncertain area post-lockdown. As people have experienced a more work-life balanced lifestyle, they will start to appreciate the same values from their employers.

What people perceive as values and benefits has changed significantly in the last six months, and the idea of a team building weekend with 50 colleagues that people have had little to no interaction with may be a cause of anxiety for some individuals, especially given the current situation with social distancing. Instead, try to find out what exactly each team member is looking for and try to group these benefits into packages that people can customise for their needs.

🤝 Measuring existing employees

At this strange time, it’s not just about furlough and staff retention; there are more important elements of support people will need and it’s essential for businesses to understand how their employees’ priorities have changed. It’s also an essential time to look at how people’s mental health is affecting their motivation levels and productivity.

How are you finding employee engagement, and have you found people’s motivations to work have changed since the beginning of the pandemic? If you do not know the answer to these and other relevant questions, this might be the right time to start thinking about running regular surveys with your workforce.

You can do this yourself or instruct your HR department to run these engagement studies with your employees, but there are advantages when working on this with a third-party like People for Research.

👉 A usual problem with employee satisfaction surveys run by an employer is that workers don’t feel like they can be completely honest. By working with a third-party like PFR, there is a guarantee of anonymity that will lead to more accurate and representative feedback.

👉 Our team has worked on thousands of online questionnaires, surveys and screeners for several clients and industries, so we have extensive experience that allows us to create the perfect engagement survey to fit your needs, as well as the technical knowledge and access to the right tools.

👉 Finally, the third main benefit is that you don’t need to worry about compliance and data protection. A third-party should have all the necessary GDPR protocols in place to keep your data secure and make sure you only receive pseudonymised or anonymised information, depending on your requirements.

If you are considering running employee engagement surveys with your workforce and would like to find out more about our services, fill out the form here, email with any questions, or find out more about our service here.



Jason Stockwell, Digital Insight Lead

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At People for Research, we recruit participants for UX and usability testing and market research. We work with award winning UX agencies across the UK and partner up with a number of end clients who are leading the way with in-house user experience and insight.