4 critical skills graduates need to thrive in a hybrid work environment

Sep 20, 2023 | Development, Home Featured, Research

Research provides an insight into the skills graduates need to thrive in hybrid work and how employers are supporting them, explains ISE head of insights, Georgia Greer.

While some employers are encouraging people back in to the office, the ISE Student Development Survey found the majority of employers want graduates to work at home one or two days a week.

We’ve heard many benefits of hybrid work such as people enjoying the flexibility and feeling more productive, however there are also reports of isolation and problems ‘switching off’. Prospects Early Careers Survey highlights some of the experiences of young people.

Are graduates prepared for hybrid work?

A lack of skills and behaviours graduates need to thrive in the hybrid world of work is a concern to employers.

Just over half (54%) of employers told us in the Development Survey that their graduates arrive career ready.

The decline in work experiences during the pandemic has had a clear impact. Most employers (72%) agree that graduates who complete an internship or placement arrive with better skills and attitudes.

4 critical skills graduates need to thrive in a hybrid work environment

We have identified four critical skills graduates need to thrive in a hybrid working environment:

1. Self-awareness

Self-awareness is critical for graduates to be able to thrive in a hybrid working environment. The ability to ask for feedback and learn from experiences can support accelerated personal and professional growth.

While being more aware of one’s own mental health and wellbeing needs, monitoring and managing them as well as asking for help as needed will enable them to thrive personally and professionally.

Building self-awareness also helps graduates maximise their development through effective engagement with training. It helps them to become strong team players and collaborate effectively with others both when in the office as well as when working at home.

2. Self-direction

The need for self-direction is acutely apparent in the hybrid working environment. Increased levels of flexibility and autonomy mean graduates need to find ways of working that can ensure they are productive and are managing their time efficiently both when in the office and when working at home.

A consequence of strong self-direction may also be a good work life balance and improved mental health and wellbeing.

Graduates need strong communication, organisational, and time management skills, as well as focus and determination, to effectively self-direct their work.

It can be challenging and take time to develop these skills in a hybrid working environment but the personal and professional benefits of being able to work in a self-directed way are worth the effort.

3. Resilience

Resilience is a key strength for graduates to develop to thrive not only in the hybrid working environment, but in today’s world of work where change is a constant.

The ability to receive constructive feedback, to overcome setbacks and to adapt and continue to progress is imperative to success both now and in the future.

While there is much a graduate can do to build their own resilience, employers also need to support them through strong empathetic leadership and the creation of psychological safety so mistakes are seen as opportunities to learn rather than failures.

4. Communication

Strong written and verbal communication skills have been deemed essential to thriving in a hybrid working environment.

Strong communication skills will help graduates to engage with co-workers, collaborate efficiently on projects, have impact in their work, and build trusted relationships both when in the office and when working at home.

Honed communication skills will also help a graduate’s personal and professional development and growth, especially when combined with self-awareness. It will help them understand and use feedback to progress and also help them articulate challenges and ask for support in more effective ways.

There are many communication channels available to graduates in a hybrid working environment and it can sometimes be difficult for graduates to gauge which channel is most appropriate for each communication need.

Employers can support graduates in deciphering which channels are deemed professionally appropriate by their organisation, with many now offering this guidance as part of the onboarding or development programme.

Supporting graduates to thrive

Employers are looking at the design of their onboarding and development programmes to ensure they are effective in supporting graduates in a hybrid work environment.

There has been a move away from fully online approaches to onboarding and development, with only 1% of employers believing that fully online delivery provides the best experience for graduates.

While almost half (49%) of employers report that development programmes that were delivered through a hybrid approach offer the highest quality experience, virtual training has to be carefully designed.

A trend to watch is that a third of employers reported that fully face-to-face onboarding and development activities offered the best experience for their graduates.

There are things the employer can do to help their graduates navigate and thrive, and there are skills and behaviours graduates can seek to hone to help their development and success in a hybrid work environment. ISE will continue to share data and experiences to promote best practice.

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