It seems as if the world of talent attraction, management and human resources is rejoicing as more company stakeholders embrace the idea that flexible and fluid workforces are viable business options. We’ve all long called for wider adoption of these employment options as more employees and candidates demand it, but the struggle has always been getting buy in from across the organisation. The global pandemic and subsequent requirement for firms to completely change how they work meant that true flexibility has been achieved for many businesses.

And it looks set to continue. As most of the HR community is already aware, some organisations such as Twitter, Facebook, Barclays Bank, Lloyds and HSBC have announced that they will allow staff to work remotely permanently – and more employers are certainly likely to follow suit. In fact, in our own survey of staffing companies, we found that 79% of recruitment firms were planning to review their need for office space with a further 31% stating they plan to downsize.

However, while this is welcome news for most, it does create numerous challenges. Most companies have adjusted to allow staff to work virtually, but on a longer-term basis, recruiting, on-boarding and training staff will need to be re-configured. It’s simply not possible to take pre-existing processes and put them online. Training courses that have been developed for in-person delivery, for example, aren’t going to be fit for purpose in an online world.

Delivering content in video format has its pros and cons, but for training, simply regurgitating the same thing but through a Zoom call won’t allow managers to effectively deliver the interaction and engagement that you would normally get in an office environment. And for those organisations planning a hybrid of remote and in-office training, there will need to be variations in any processes. Now, those reading this will certainly be well aware of this, but the challenge is that those delivering the training and managing staff are likely to be less educated on this matter.

It would appear, then, that we’re facing a whole new barrier in making remote and flexible working efficient: re-training corporate mindsets to make it work for everyone. In fact, this is one of the reasons that APSCo launched an HR & Training hub to provide company owners with the resources needed to hire, manage and train staff in today’s business environment.

If we’re all going to really make the new normal work for us on a longer-term basis, it is crucial to capitalise on the current sentiment before momentum slows and we need to prepare hiring teams and line managers to handle the combination of on and offline training programmes. And this certainly needs to be extended beyond training. As we begin on-boarding individuals who, in some cases, have never met those they will be working with, there will be several nuances in how normal processes are managed. Communication with new hires ahead of their start-date, for example will need to be much more frequent in a virtual world to keep them engaged.

We have reached an exciting point for talent management, but we’re not completely there in terms of truly effective flexible people development models. However, as the HR community has always demonstrated, sharing best practice is certainly going to be hugely valuable for us all – and the APSCo team will certainly continue with this approach in the future.