Are your employees training whilst on furlough?

Never has there been a better time to upskill your team without it affecting productivity. With almost 9 million people having been furloughed this is a great opportunity for employers to use this time wisely. Perhaps now, we have come to terms with our new lockdown lives and the novelty of staying at home with no work is starting to wear thin. Employees may not only welcome some development to keep them occupied but also to bring them some sense of security that their employer is investing in them for the future. Not to mention the rebuilding of trust and engagement with the workplace. So, it seems it’s a win/win situation for both employer and employee!

What are the rules on training during furlough?

The UK Government wants employers to actively encourage furloughed employees to undertake training. They state that furloughed employees can engage in training as long as the employee does not provide services to or generate revenue for the organisation.  So, employers can take advantage of this and look to upskill and develop their employees whilst they are away from the workplace.

How can training furloughed employees benefit your business?

Training without business interruption and travel costs

Whilst businesses are keen to develop their workforce it is not without disruption on the day-to-day job. Prior to lockdown, attending a training or coaching session could have meant arranging cover, or lost productivity. As well as the additional costs of travel and expenses if the course is off-site.

Today, with staff at home, training can happen without any impact on the business. This means it is an ideal opportunity to identify areas for staff development and work on getting them completed.  As most training has now moved online there are also no travel costs to consider. Many training providers offer flexible solutions so that most employees should be able to find something that suits their schedule.

Rebuilding employee trust and engagement

Lockdown and the subsequent furloughing of staff has been a very testing time for everyone. Some companies made redundancies early on whilst others are having to consider restructuring as the furlough scheme comes to an end. Some staff have been kept on enabling businesses to continue to trade and have felt the pressures of the work as well as mitigating the risks of the spread of the virus. Anxieties and worries are high for all. Many employees have lost trust in their employer and disengaged with them. Uncertainty over job security, feelings of isolation and being out of the loop have meant that many furloughed employees are not feeling the love for their employers, despite being some of the lucky ones to still be employed.  

By investing in employee development, employers can demonstrate commitment and start to rebuild the trust that may have been lost. Thinking about the future will bring hope to those that have been furloughed since the scheme began.

Upskilling or reskilling?

Businesses are having to make some difficult decisions and consider whether their focus should be to stick with their work as it was before lockdown, or to pivot to a new offering. This could result in the need to not only upskill but to reskill their workforce. This will depend on the expectations of how specific businesses and wider industries will survive following the lift of the lockdown. A decision would need to be made as to whether this is a time to build on existing knowledge or to reskill employees for a new direction. Furloughed employees can then be trained to deliver the skills needed for the return to work.

What training could you be doing during furlough?

With no opportunity to do face-to-face training because of social distancing measures, training companies like ours have had to move training online. There are a wide range of options available. Many will find this time useful to consider some management development training. Particularly considering expected employee relations issues with requests for flexible working, reluctance to return to work, bereavements and workplace conflicts. Knowing how best to handle these situations will stand managers and leaders in good stead.

Being able to support employee wellbeing will become ever more important as furlough continues and also people are reintroduced back into the workplace. Those at home may be facing feelings of isolation, loneliness, depression, or anxiety. Those employees returning to work may have anxiety about the safety of the workplace or may have suffered a bereavement. Supporting wellbeing for all employees will become high on the agenda to ensure absence is reduced and productivity is maintained.  Therefore, training for business leaders and managers on how to support their teams will be important as well as practical wellbeing advice for all staff.

If you are planning your return to ‘the new normal’ as we all seem to be calling it, then your staff need to be part of that plan. What skills do you need to deliver on your plan? Do you have the right skills available? Do your managers have the right skills to support their teams? Why not use this time productively for those employees that want to, to make some headway into your staff development plans.

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