How training for HR employees can support people professionals in a dynamic workplace

7 mins read time

The role of HR and people professionals has changed. Set in motion by the COVID-19 pandemic, working practices have shifted in recent years and show no signs of returning. It’s the role of people professionals to ensure that existing and new staff understand and are comfortable with these new ways of working.

In this article, we explore how the role of HR has rapidly changed, and how apprenticeship training can be a highly effective way of upskilling your people professionals to suit the new working landscape

What are people professionals?

A people professional works with and supports the employees of an organisation in a range of ways, including recruitment, employee engagement and retention, as well as many of the other functions traditionally associated with HR.

People professionals have strong interpersonal and problem-solving skills, and are able to effectively promote the values and goals of a business by ensuring its employees are adequately supported. They work with various teams and stakeholders, working closely to implement new policies that contribute to a better working environment.

How have the roles of people professionals changed?

Over the past few years, where and how many of us work has changed dramatically. COVID-19 forced many organisations to quickly pivot their operations and work remotely - something which has now become the norm for many. While these restrictions have long since been lifted, more than three-quarters of employers now offer their staff a hybrid working working pattern, involving working from home and in the office, and have adapted to digital ways of working.

Research by the Office For National Statistics (2021) shows that the vast majority of employees support these new working arrangements, with a significant 85% of people in favour of a hybrid approach to office working. So, rather than a full return to the office in the future, it looks like flexible working is here to stay for the long-term.

As a result, HR people professionals will need to understand the challenges presented by hybrid working and how they can help their workplace adapt and support employees with these changes. We’ll explore these in more detail below.

Video conferencing is here to stay

For most workers, one of the biggest changes to working life is that video conferencing has become the norm. With so many people now following a hybrid working pattern, day-to-day communication is continuing to rely on technology.

For example, in 2021, 86% of job interviews took place online - a stark contrast to the 79% being held in person before the pandemic, And this trend is looking likely to continue, with more than half of UK employers still conducting virtual interviews. Other areas that are likely to continue to be partly or fully virtual are company inductions, onboarding processes and digital learning.

Wellbeing and mental health

Although many people have stated that working from home has helped them achieve a better work-life balance, the negative effects that remote working can have on employees’ mental health have also been well documented. A 2021 study found that 67% felt less connected to their colleagues, and 57% found it harder to switch off as a result of working from home.

Many companies have increased their focus on mental health and wellbeing, with people professionals the driving force behind implementing this into company culture. To support employees, an increasing number of organisations are offering free emotional support services via third parties, with Gartner (2021) finding nearly half (49%) of employees who reported having a mental well-being program participated during 2020.

Learning and development opportunities

The pandemic has caused many people to reassess their career. Research by PWC (2021) found that 77% of employees were ready to learn new skills or completely re-train. This indicates a demand for learning and development opportunities within organisations, which HR professionals will need to make sure is available. Supporting career and personal development opportunities is becoming increasingly important to employees, with 78% saying they are looking for a job with career and training opportunities ClearCompany (2021).

Apprenticeships are a great way for employees to build their leadership skills and for HR people professionals, these qualities are essential. At Lifetime, our apprenticeships help to deliver leadership skills that encourage people to come together, deliver their best and drive organisational change. Read more about using apprenticeships for developing leadership skills here.

Inclusion and diversity

Covid-19 highlighted inequality issues, some of which still remain in today’s working world. Women’s jobs were more vulnerable during the pandemic, with the burden of unpaid care (such as home-schooling and childcare) being the main reasons, and, according to PWC’s 2023 Women in Work report, we’re still behind pre-pandemic levels of equality. Now that we’ve retained the new ways of working, it’s more important than ever that these problems aren’t perpetuated.

Research by PwC (2021) also found that 13% of employees have been discriminated against because of their ethnicity, and 13% because of class background. Younger people are the most likely to feel discriminated against, with 49% of 25 – 34-year-olds feeling they have been discriminated against in the workplace, compared to 23% of those over the age of 55 (Workplace Insights, 2021).

How training for HR employees can help organisations adapt to new ways of working

As we’ve discussed, the changes that have taken place in the workplace are wide-ranging and encompass everything from adopting new technology to wellbeing, opportunity and diversity. These are important issues, and it’s important that the HR people professionals at your organisation must be able to deal with them.

Apprenticeships can help your HR teams adapt by helping them to understand how these new ways of working can impact the employees at your business, and the practical skills needed to help your organisation adapt. Below we take a detailed look at the benefits our HR apprenticeship training can deliver to your HR employees.

Virtual interview training for HR professionals

HR training is essential to make sure HR professionals are able to transfer their existing skills and fully utilise virtual platforms when conducting online interviews. Lifetime’s HR Support Level 3 apprenticeship covers the recruitment process, with advice on how to conduct virtual interviews, and how to select the right candidate through virtual communication.

The more advanced apprenticeship, HR Partner Level 5, covers employee relations and conflict resolution and how to effectively navigate these areas on virtual platforms. Our HR apprenticeships also equip people professionals with the skills to use online portals and HR systems to provide a fully effective online service.

Delivering effective employee wellbeing programs

HR training, such as Level 3 and Level 5 apprenticeships, are beneficial in educating people professionals on employee wellbeing, supporting workers when adapting to new ways of working. Teams will also help advise employees on creating a healthy work/life balance whilst working remotely, reducing the chances of mental health problem conditions.

With employees increasingly working collaboratively, yet physically apart, it can be highly beneficial for HR professionals to work towards increasing team morale through workplace initiatives and activities. These can be both virtually and in-person, and apprenticeship training can help learn how to best organise activities for maximum benefit.

These apprenticeships will also help the learner manage their own wellbeing, as HR as an industry continues to suffer from burnout. At Lifetime, our coaches are always on-hand for their apprentices to ensure they feel fully supported as they undertake their learning journey.

Delivering engaging career development

Research by ClearCompany (2021) shows that 68% of people state that training and development is the most important policy when choosing a company to work for. Lifetime’s HR apprenticeships not only offer opportunities for employees to upskill and develop within their roles, but people professionals learn how to support and motivate employee’s career advancement opportunities to create a happier and more fulfilled workforce. HR employees will also learn how to work with their Learning and Development department to create employee engagement around professional development.

More advanced training, such as the HR Level 5 apprenticeship, equips senior professionals with the skills to evaluate skill-gaps, and identify training opportunities, meaning companies can upskill current employees and offer valuable opportunities to their workforce. Both Level 3 and Level 5 apprenticeships also cover employee Personal Development, so that learners have opportunities to progress and grow within their roles. Learners on our HR apprenticeships will also develop first-hand experience of working collaboratively through virtual workshops and networking, meaning these skills will then be transferable to the rest of the business, helping communication between employees on virtual platforms and real-life settings.

Creating a truly diverse and inclusive workforce

Many job seekers say they would want to work for a company that demonstrates a commitment to diversity and inclusion. With this in mind, businesses must demonstrate that they are working towards creating a diverse and inclusive workforce.

HR training is an excellent way to ensure that people professionals are up to date with the Equality Act, and are actively working towards creating a culture that promotes diversity and inclusivity. Lifetime’s HR programmes  educate delegates about associated grievances, such as discrimination of protected characteristics, promoting diversity and inclusivity and challenging controversy in the workplace.

Variety of training, happy employees in meeting

Training your people professionals through apprenticeships

The benefits of investing in your HR professionals means you are developing your people, as well as your approach to HR for all employees. Apprenticeship programmes are designed to develop fully rounded people professionals from day one. Designed by HR experts from the industry, our programmes are created to equip delegates with the skills, knowledge and behaviours to truly excel in their roles.

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