How HR training can support People Professionals in a post-pandemic world

7 mins read time

Over the past 18-months, the role of HR has radically changed. During the events of 2020, HR became central to how businesses navigated through unprecedented times, with employees looking to HR to set procedures on how to adapt to the pandemic. Josh Bersin of Bersin & Associates (known as the leading research and advisory company in corporate HR) said "We are in a heroic role in the business. The crisis response will be led by HR, and the way we organise ourselves is really important"

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 adapt to the new working landscape.

Hybrid working and adopting technology

Over the past 18 months, the way many of us work and where we work has changed dramatically, as the majority of workers switched the office for homeworking and adapted to digital ways of working. With research by the Office For National Statistics (2021) showing that a significant 85% of people would like a hybrid approach to office working, rather than a full return to the office in the future, it looks like flexible ways of working are here to stay for the long-term.

This shift in working means that HR People Professionals will need to reflect on how their roles adapt to this new way of working and how they adapt and support their workplaces with this change

Video conferencing is here to stay

For most workers one of the biggest changes has been that video conferencing has become the norm. With many preferring a hybrid return to work, day-to-day communication will likely continue to rely on technology. This includes job interviews. Before the pandemic, most interviews were face-to-face, with 79% of first stage interviews were in-person. However, during 2021, a significant 86% of interviews have been virtual (Gartner, 2021) – and this trend is looking likely to continue, with a recent LinkedIn Survey (2021) finding that 70% of businesses will continue to include virtual interviews in at least part of their interview process. Other areas which are likely to continue to be partly or fully virtual are company inductions, onboarding processes and digital learning.

Virtual interview training for HR professionals

Training will be essential to make sure employees can transfer their existing skills to virtual platforms, such as for conducting virtual interview processes. Lifetime’s HR Support Level 3 apprenticeship covers the recruitment process, now 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, which now includes how to effectively navigate these areas on virtual platforms. Lifetime’s HR apprenticeships will also equip People Professionals with the skills on how to use online portals and HR systems, to provide a fully effective online HR service.

Wellbeing and mental health

A survey by CIPD (2021) found that 37% of businesses have seen a rise in stress-related absences since the first lockdown in 2020; with a lack of certainty, security and disruption to everyday life being the main triggers. Although the UK has been out of lockdown for a while, the impact of mental health is still being felt, with record numbers of people reporting experiencing mental health issues. Since the pandemic, many companies have increased their focus on mental health and wellbeing, with People Professionals as the driving force behind implementing this into the company culture.

To support employees, many companies are now 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 participating during 2020.

Delivering effective employee wellbeing programs

HR training, such as Level 3 and Level 5 apprenticeships are beneficial in educating HR professionals on employee wellbeing, supporting employees who are suffering and the long-term impact of the pandemic on employee’s wellbeing. HR employees will also learn to help advise employees on how to create a healthy work/life balance whilst working remotely, to reduce the chances of mental health problem conditions. The apprenticeships will also support the learner manage their own wellbeing, as HR as a profession continues to suffer from burnout caused by the impact COVID-19 has had on the profession.

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.

Learning and development opportunities

The pandemic has caused many people to reassess their career. Research by PWC (2021) found that 77% are 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).

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.

Inclusion and Diversity

Covid-19 highlighted inequality issues. Research by McKinsey (2020) found that women’s jobs were 1.8 times more vulnerable than men’s were during the crisis, with the burden of unpaid care (such as home-schooling and childcare) being the main reasons. The pandemic meant that these issues, that have been present in the job market, were more visible than before. 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).

Creating a truly diverse and inclusive workforce

A significant 70% of job seekers say they would want to work for a company that demonstrates a commitment to diversity and inclusion (The Manifest, 2020), meaning businesses need to demonstrate they are working towards creating a diverse and inclusive workforce. HR training is an excellent way to make sure People Professionals are up to date with the Equality Act and are working towards creating a culture that promotes diversity and inclusivity. Lifetime’s HR programmes have been created to educate delegates about associated grievances such as discrimination of protected characteristics, promoting diversity and inclusivity in the workforce 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. The change brought about by the pandemic are only some of the key areas that HR training through apprenticeships can address, as the 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.

"Over the past 18 months, HR has repositioned itself as one of the most vital voices at the table. However, the profession has also had to adapt and show remarkable resilience to support the workplace. Investing in and developing our future HR stars has never been so important. The HR apprenticeships allow HR professionals to develop vital skills, knowledge and behaviours to support both theirs and the workplace’s future potential"

Tesssa James, HR Director at Lifetime Training