Following a volatile two years, people professionals have been responsible for adapting to and managing the effects of first Brexit, then the pandemic, but now find themselves faced with a tangled web of new issues related to rising business and living costs, fierce competition for talent, widening skills gaps and making hybrid working a permanent reality for those who choose to work remotely.
The pandemic radically changed the role of People Teams, possibly for good as they became increasingly central to how businesses navigated through unprecedented times, with employees- and businesses alike- looking to their people professionals to set new policies and create new procedures that reflected the new ways of working. The initial crisis response was largely led by HR but the way this function has continued to re-organise workforce resources and provide support has remained critical to on-going business success.
This article explores how apprenticeship training can be a highly effective way of upskilling your People Professionals to tackle some of the key challenges they face in the current working landscape.
In a competitive marketplace, demand for talent is consistently outstripping supply. The Great Resignation has led to severe labour shortages in certain sectors as seismic contractions caused by furloughs and lockdowns have been followed by great booms in growth as industries rebounded, in some cases even stronger than before.
So many organisations struggle to attract candidates while others, fighting to retain what talent they have, are forced to make generous counter offers. This isn’t as simple as it sounds. Often giving an individual a massive pay increase creates an imbalance in the pay structure. Businesses cannot afford to compete on inflated wages alone and need to make greater adjustments to their wider reward structures going forwards.
In addition, so much evidence concludes that a diverse workforce is a prosperous one. So in addition to recruiting the right skills, People Teams also needs to pay close attention to their EDI initiatives in relation to recruiting from different cultures and backgrounds in order to create a safe and inclusive workspace for their teams.
How can HR apprenticeships support recruitment challenges?
An HR apprenticeship considers the role of People Professionals within a business or industry context to explore some of the factors, both internal and external, that have an impact on the role. The apprenticeship allows learners to think more strategically about the environment they operate in, not just focus on the daily tasks they are involved in which helps develop the courage and influencing skills to recognise challenges and find ways to still move forward. An apprentice in a recruitment administrator role, for example, that sees a number of applicants turn down roles in favour of counter offers from their current employers, will recognise the potential broader impact of that trend on the business and be able to influence a discussion around company reward structures to help attract more candidates.
Hybrid working and adopting technology
Over the past two and a half years, how and where many of us worked has changed dramatically, as the majority of workers switched the office for a home desk and adapted to more digital ways of working. The pandemic forced lots of companies that lacked a home-working policy or whose leadership were against the idea to come to the table and allow it to happen, because it was the only way the business could continue to operate. Flexible working patterns are here to stay but this shift means that People Professionals have to continually adapt and support this ongoing change. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to hybrid or remote working and companies that try to be prescriptive about what their hybrid world looks like without any form of employee consultation are soon going to find that their employees are leaving to find somewhere else that gives them the flexibility they want.
How can HR apprenticeships support hybrid working?
HR apprenticeships have evolved in line with what has been a massive acceleration of change in the working environment and perhaps quicker than many company’s people policies. The CIPD diploma syllabus focuses on the way we can embrace technology to help support new ways of working. This includes the use of virtual platforms for interviews, recruitment and onboarding, along with employee relations and conflict resolution, and how to effectively navigate these areas on virtual platforms too.
In the war on talent, one of the overriding messages is that strong company cultures will always attract better talent. The topic was brought to a head last year following the publication of an open letter to the co-founder of BrewDog James Watt from ex-employees, accusing him of creating a culture of fear in the workplace. Employee retention is fast becoming a key competitive advantage. A company’s ability to retain its talent — especially in competitive markets — has clear implications for its ability to operate at a high level, without the disruptions caused by employee turnover and the resultant knowledge and skill loss.
Money isn’t the only factor in an employee’s decision to leave a company. Research shows that between 80-90% of people who accept a counter offer from their employers leave within 12 months. They decide to stay initially, but realise that actually the new wage wasn’t enough, because the issues they were experiencing before are still there. Writing your company culture on the walls of your office isn’t enough, if when it comes down to it, people don’t live and breathe it and it’s just not visible.
How HR apprenticeships support company culture
To truly embed your values across your organisation, it shouldn’t just be a presentation delivered by a Chief People Officer or an HR Business Partner; it has to involve your employees in some sort of consultation and engagement process to actually define what those values are in the first place. An HR apprenticeship discusses culture, inclusive workplaces and organisational values and the mechanisms used to bring employees into the process and how to communicate and engage with them, to find out what they want. Understanding these types of activities and how to run them in the right way will help make them truly successful.
Despite the challenges they face recruiting for the here and now, the best People teams are looking at the future horizon because so many businesses, across a range of sectors, are experiencing severe skills gaps. And as the impact of any new training may last less than five years in a role, so many that have not received regular personal development will find that their skills sets are becoming more and more outdated. Amidst the daily recruitment firefight, what’s really important for People teams is not just thinking about what they need to recruit or develop to fill the immediate skills gaps but also review their recruitment strategy to consider the more long-term business needs.
How can a HR Apprenticeship help fill skills gaps?
More advanced training, such as the HR Consultant Level 5 apprenticeship, equips senior professionals with the skills to evaluate skill gaps, and identify suitable training opportunities, meaning companies can upskill current employees and offer valuable opportunities to their workforce. Both HR Support Level 3 apprenticeships and HR Consultant Level 5 apprenticeships also cover employee Personal Development, so that learners have opportunities to progress and grow within their roles. Learners will also develop first-hand experience of working collaboratively through virtual workshops and networking with peers, meaning these skills will then be transferable to the rest of the business.
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 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.
How HR apprenticeships can support mental health
HR apprentices at Level 3 and Level 5 include modules on employee wellbeing and how to support employees with long-term mental ill-health. HR apprentices will also learn to advise employees on how to create a healthy work/life balance whilst working remotely, to reduce the chances of mental health conditions arising. These apprenticeships will also help the learner to manage their own wellbeing, as HR as a profession continues to suffer from burnout caused by the impact of COVID-19 and many other ongoing factors.
Training your People Professionals through apprenticeships
The benefit of investing in your People Professionals is that you are developing your people, as well as your approach to your support for all employees. The changes brought about by the pandemic are only some of the key areas that HR apprenticeships can address, as the programmes are designed to develop fully rounded People Professionals from day one.HR Apprenticeships require 20% off-the-job learning along with regular checkpoints where apprentices are supported to put theory into practice as well as discuss the latest trends and techniques with industry peers. Designed by experts from the industry, our programmes are created to equip delegates with the skills, knowledge and behaviours to truly excel in their roles.