A year ago at this time, we looked ahead to a year that was predicted to be more polarized, more distributed, and marked by more objections to training content. Last year undeniably delivered on that prediction – whether it was training about diversity, harassment, workplace violence and abusive conduct, active shooter training, or COVID-19 health and safety protocols, employees had opinions. The continuation of remote and hybrid work pressed organizations to move from a “wait and see” approach, to a “we must figure out how to train in this new environment” initiative.
As we look forward to 2022, employers will need to focus on distribution of policies and training in the “new normal” state. The problem is it’s still not entirely clear what characteristics will define normal. And even when we feel like we have it all figured out, there is a high likelihood it will change again.
Although the future of work in the long term remains fluid, focusing on these three strategies will help your organization weather 2022 much more successfully.
Prioritize Access to Technology
Two forces are at play – remote work is here to stay for many workplaces, and in those workplaces where on-premises work is essential (such as service, manufacturing, hospitality and transportation) gathering people in one location for in-person training is in decline. To support this new normal, employers must focus on getting all employees access to the technology necessary to access training and policies. This includes employees who have no other need for technology in their work and don’t have corporate email addresses or personal devices. Without a commitment to providing access and an investment in technology, employers will continue to struggle with delivering training to all those who need it, or who are required by law to receive it?
Once employers recognize the need to provide easy access for all employees, they will reap significant training benefits. Key among those benefits are more efficient learners, and delivery of a more controlled, consistent message around topics that are critical to the organization.
This approach to training delivery helps ensure it is completed successfully, risks are discussed appropriately, and individual instructors do not influence the content with personal opinion or bias.
Adapt to Emerging and Evolving Risks
The risk profile of most organizations has evolved significantly in the past 1-2 years. New risks have emerged, and existing risks have become more profound. COVID-19 protocols and compliance requirements; wage and hour off-clock work by remote workers; the growing need for active shooter training; harassment and discrimination with a focus on contemporary examples; and purposeful, deliberate approaches to diversity and inclusion are but a few of the topics that have taken on a new level of importance for all organizations. Addressing these risk areas successfully is not just about covering the topic, it is all about covering it properly. A course you may have deployed years ago is likely in need of new content, new approaches, and new messaging – and it should reflect where your organization is today with respect to the risk.
Other risks continue to evolve and gain attention too. For example, the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) frameworks that are rapidly evolving have brought new focus on the global impact that businesses have on the world around them. But like any other area of risk and responsibility, employers will need to assess and determine what kind of training they need to do to support their organization’s ESG program.
Clarity of Expectations
Living in uncertainty is difficult for many people, and 2022 will be marked by ongoing uncertainty. Employers should do what they can to create certainty for their employees – even if it means some employees won’t agree with the position being taken.
Policies and your Code of Conduct are a great place to set expectations and give employees a bit of clarity about the consequences they will face for their actions. Current policies may reflect what was good enough yesterday but are no longer sufficient in the new normal.
Policies should be viewed as a cornerstone for employees relating to conduct and performance – and consequences for their actions. Organizations must make a plan to critically assess and update key policies with the goal of making them more clear, usable and accessible.
Think about what kind of content not only should be in your policy, but also needs to be in your policies in light of the shifts we have been experiencing. After which, it is critical to ensure to update appropriate training to include the most current reflection of your policy and key expectations. As you update policies, think about the events challenging the company, and consider whether your policy provides enough guidance for managers and employees to respond appropriately.
There are many contemporary examples of employee behavior that may seemingly fall into a gray area of where an employer can or should take a stand, for example:
- A racist rant posted on social media that was recorded while an employee was out with friends
- A manager who refuses to enforce the organization’s policy relating to vaccine or face covering requirements
- An employee who posts threatening memes on a social media page not related to work
- A manager who holds personal beliefs that are contrary to the core values of your organization
Your policy and training may not lay out specific examples such as those listed above, but the language should contemplate the potential for events such as these. We will continue to see swift calls for employer justice when misconduct and misdeeds caught on video are posted on social media. But most importantly, employees should not be surprised when corrective action for behavior is issued.
In many ways this year will be a continuation of the last several, where employers work to continue to evolve and adapt training and policy to a highly polarized environment while also investing in technology and resources to ensure equity in education and enforcement across the workforce. Employers will continue to navigate a variety of training and conduct enforcement challenges. Effectively managing training and code of conduct policy requires a thoughtful approach and dedicated resources to ensure employees are reached equally.