Regardless of when the COVID-19 pandemic ends, many agencies are teleworking more than ever now. With many workforces not just teleworking, but teleworking effectively, attitudes about telework are changing. Long a boogeyman among agency leaders, telework might be here to stay.
But telework’s transformative powers are not stopping there. For decades, government workforces have learned and developed in-person. In a world where social distancing takes top priority, however, employee education may have to evolve for the future.
On Thursday, two government thought leaders predicted where remote learning and development might head next. Speaking during GovLoop’s latest online training, the pair also explained how agencies can deliver engaging education to their staff over long distances.
Kara Veitch, Executive Director at Colorado’s Department of Personnel & Administration (DPA), represented the public sector.
Steve Dobberowsky, Senior Principal for Talent Management and Thought Leadership at Cornerstone, OnDemand, Inc., appeared on the private sector’s behalf. Cornerstone, OnDemand, Inc. provides cloud-based people development software.
Here are three cheat codes for permanently unlocking remote learning and development’s potential at your agency:
1. Put people first
Nationwide, the sad truth is that COVID-19 has caused many agencies to neglect the human element of their work. According to Veitch, the pandemic has made people skills crucial for agencies such as DPA.
“Understand on an individual basis where they want to go with their careers and what skills they’ll need to advance,” she said of employees. “Make sure the time is more personal.”
Veitch estimated 63% of DPA’s staff is remote for the pandemic. Subsequently, she also recommended people practice more empathy while teleworking.
“People at home may have someone they need to take care of,” Veitch said. “What do they need to be empowered to do that?”
2. Upgrade technology
Veitch added not all teleworking environments are created equal, so agencies should give their workforces the tools they need to succeed.
“Just because I have Wi-Fi at my house doesn’t mean everyone has Wi-Fi,” she said. “Trust is absolutely critical in this environment. How do you manage time differently?”
3. Emphasize engagement
According to Dobberowsky, learning is either declarative or procedural. Typically, declarative learning involves working alone with educational tools. For instance, someone learning about data entry might practice it using spreadsheets.
Procedural learning, meanwhile, involves developing with groups of people. Traditionally, procedural learning includes coaching, collaboration and other interpersonal activities.
“To change behavior, you must approach it from a procedural manner,” Dobberowsky said. “Find ways to let people see your personality. Find ways to reinforce your culture and beliefs.”
Agencies with teleworking employees can use games, polls and teambuilding exercises to keep them engaged.
Readying for tomorrow
Dobberowsky and Veitch agreed telework may become a long-term trend for agencies. Should workforces fully embrace telework, agencies may want to consider how they can swiftly meet employee needs wherever they are.
“This forced us to be more agile, more responsive, more elastic,” Dobberowsky said of COVID-19. “I don’t think we’re going to see a return to the previous, pre-COVID normal.”
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