Even Before COVID
Even before COVID-19 coronavirus disrupted the planet, remote work had gone from that rare perk of workforce arrangement to a standard component of many people's workweek. According to a recent Gallup poll, 43% of employed Americans log at least some out-of-office, on-the-clock time. A full 31% of those who work remotely at least some of the time spend four or five days a week out of the office. But things have dramatically changed for our entire workforce over the past few weeks and companies that had been enhancing or even just exploring remote and telework options for their employees are being forced to quickly make it a workplace protocol.
This sudden introduction of unfamiliar technologies to newly remote employees has quickly exposed the digital gaps in the workplace. Based on recent, but pre-coronavirus data from an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development adult skills survey, there are tens of millions of workers in this country who have very limited or no digital skills. The report went on to further state that 39% of U.S. nonmanagerial employees surveyed said they aren’t getting the training and skill development needed to meet technological advancements. Fancy survey data aside, we’ve all found out the hard way over the past few weeks how good or bad our existing technology is and how well or poorly our employees are at using it.
Acknowledging that the future will demand constant upskilling and reskilling of your employees and an ongoing process to evaluate existing available technology, but in light of the current circumstances, it’s crucially important to ensure your new remote workers quickly get and remain well informed. Employers need to welcome complete transparency making sure that employees should not fear admitting when they don’t know how to use a certain technology. We’ve seen this situation get exacerbated in companies where there is a broad range of age within that workforce where millennials or Gen Zers are perceived as having more technical skills or just plain technological confidence than baby boomer employees. Like in so many other areas of your business, it’s all about establishing a culture that is conducive to learning.
Generally speaking, technologies used to work remotely, such as video conferencing, don’t require a large amount of training for familiarity. Further, when companies have had to introduce these products so abruptly it’s common for employees of all ages to experience a minimal learning curve adapting to remote user-friendly digital tools like Google Hangouts, Skype and Zoom.
As we transitioning out of survival mode and back to our normal lives we all need to make sure that moving forward we prioritize training and development programs for our employees that can successfully educate a broad audience and equip them with the skills to be productive using digital technologies.