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Distance Economy

Upskilling your team for the new ‘Distance Economy'

Siobhan Rourke

The term ‘distance economy’ refers to our new way of working – with remote workers now playing a significant part in many organisations for the first time.

How has the way your business operates daily changed since Covid-19? Aside from social distancing measures, are there members of your team who now work full or part-time from home?

After months of people working remotely and seemingly coping well, the longer-term effects of such a dramatic shift are now being realised.

Recent research shows that remote workers are more productive by as much as 13%, as found in this BBC article, and this recent study by Australian outsourcing company Airtasker.
But if your employees are now working from home, this might mean that they need to upskill in some areas, especially if it is going to be for the long term.

Three areas that you should bear in mind when thinking about the upskilling of your remote employees include:

  • Communication skills – it is a fact that distance increases communication challenges. To succeed in the distance economy, your team will need to possess the sharpest communication skills. This HubSpot blog contains some excellent ideas on how to improve communication skills in your team. 
  • Create a learning culture – encourage learning in your remote team to create a culture where training is always present. Allow your team allotted times each day or week to use for training in areas they have chosen themselves.
  • Working from home support – many organisations have invested in digital tools to help their teams undertake remote work. How much time or resources have you invested in helping newly remote workers get to grips with new technology (such as Slack, Zoom & Teams?)

Training and developing your team in a remote world is going to be a learning curve for you and your employees, but from challenges always comes growth.

Timing is Key

Time is of the essence when it comes to upskilling your workforce.

Never before has it been so essential to act quickly when making decisions which will impact your business in the future. The organisations that wait for the ‘right’ moment to act could be losing valuable time and end up suffering because of it.

There is a real need to get your team back into their roles, with the added challenge of them returning to a changed environment.

A positive that can be drawn from the pandemic is how quickly people acted in pivoting to accommodate new needs.

By many accounts, the pandemic has only accelerated changes that would have occurred anyway, in the form of new digital transformation, new products and services and changes to many teams.

Employees generally coped well with the crisis stage of the pandemic, learning new skills quickly but possibly crudely.

To build on the momentum of your team adapting to the way that Covid changed your business, act quickly and offer new skills training over the coming few months. Leaving it up to another six months or more to help your team develop the new skills they will need can put you at a disadvantage.

Don’t be afraid to be continually reviewing the skills that your team need but might be lacking.

You might have employees taking on different roles, new talent to train or the entire team needing to learn about new products and services. Speed is key when it comes to upskilling your workforce to succeed in the new normal.

It is important to remember the issue of time when your team are returning to work after furlough. For some, the time spent away from their role could have been up to six months long.  So, as well as upskilling for the new normal, you might have to reskill some of your team, too.

A sense of urgency is needed to implement the rapid innovation that will carry your business’ momentum forwards.

You might have a skills gap in your team now that wasn’t there before the pandemic – do you have a plan in place to give current team members the skills they need now, or to bring in new talent that can fill these gaps? We are here to help if you need any advice.