Crucial job skills are at risk during widespread remote working

TRUMBULL, CT USA — October 1, 2020 — Remote workers could stall their personal development and fall behind in crucial skills they need to do their jobs due to a loss of ‘organic learning.’  As social distancing measures tighten and employers delay plans to bring workers back to the office, leaders must act to replace the ‘water cooler moment’ where so much on-the-job training usually occurs.

Questionmark, the online assessment provider, is urging employers to answer five crucial questions about how they will continue to manage and develop staff without spontaneous moments that enable organic learning.  

Drawing on external research sources and conversations with customers, the Questionmark Viewpoint report ‘Workplace training without the water cooler’ found that empathy, communication and creativity are all crucial skills that are put in jeopardy when workers do not physically spend time together.  In many industries, workers learn how to perform basic functions of their jobs by observing colleagues.  This organic coaching is hard to replicate in a remote working environment.

Five crucial questions

  1. What skills do employers need most and which are at risk?  What skills were most in jeopardy during the last lockdown?  What qualities and attributes do employers need to ensure they can thrive in the next period of uncertainty?
  • Who needs to meet and when?  Teams understand each other’s struggles and pain points when they see them first-hand.  If some physical working together is possible, which teams are worth getting together at the same time?
  • What management processes need to be reimagined remotely?  Much management used to happen organically.  In a world where leaders cannot physically keep an eye on the people they manage, what new processes need to be in place?
  • What training does each employee need?  The wealth of online training means that it’s possible to provide each employee with tailored training.  But do employers understand the needs of each team member?
  • How will new starters be onboarded?  People are beginning their career with an employer without ever having met any of their co-workers.  For many employers, much of the onboarding process has always been informal.  What crucial knowledge and cultural understanding are new starters missing out on?

Online skills and attitude assessments of the workforce can give employers the information they need to answer these questions and to make better people-decisions.  They can reveal which skills are missing and where a lack of understanding is developing among teams and business functions.  They can identify the training needs of each employee and help leaders create individual development programs. This is especially so in times of rapid change. 

Lars Pedersen, CEO of Questionmark, said: “In the first lockdown, it was a great achievement for so many employers to switch overnight to home working and to keep the ship afloat.  But with a second wave the crisis could go on for a year and staying afloat is not enough.

“Good employers realize that, despite the challenges when the workforce is remote, formal training remains essential.  But when the world shifted to working from home, it became clear how much management and training had been organic rather than intentional.  It’s not easy to replace ‘the water cooler moment’ when teams are scattered.  But with valuable information from online tests and assessments, employers can make better decisions around training, management and development.”

Download the Questionmark Viewpoint report ‘Workplace training without the water cooler’. The ‘Questionmark Viewpoint’ series explores the challenges that Questionmark customers face, and how Questionmark helps address them.