Hybrid working has changed the nature of student development programmes, explain Ghazal Vahidi and Tristram Hooley from the University of Derby.
Hybrid development programmes, which combine in-person and virtual components, have become increasingly popular in recent years, following the Covid-19 pandemic.
ISE Development Survey 2023 shows that most graduates and apprentices are now working from home one to two days a week.
While only a small proportion (2%) are working fully from home, the shift away from fully office-based working has taken place, with hybrid learning now the new normal. In almost a quarter of organisations, graduates are working from home for at least three days a week.
This trend towards hybrid and home working is consistent with wider data from the Office for National Statistics, which also suggests that there has been a huge growth in hybrid working since the pandemic.
Higher-skilled and higher-paid workers are more likely to engage in hybrid working and this is born out in the ISE survey which finds that 96% of graduates in the legal sector work from home one or two days per week.
Hybrid onboarding and development programmes
During the pandemic we saw a substantial shift in employers’ practices around onboarding and development programmes. Whereas in the past, face-to-face approaches had dominated delivery, the pandemic years saw the wholesale adoption of online development.
As the pandemic comes to an end there has been a move away from fully online approaches to onboarding and development. But rather than returning to online only approaches, most employers are using hybrid approaches which combine face-to-face and online approaches.
The majority of respondents to the survey (62%) are now using hybrid onboarding approaches. Almost half of respondents (49%) reported that hybrid approaches offered the highest quality experience for student development, with 33% arguing that face-to-face is best, while almost none (1%) believe that fully online delivery is the best approach.
We are clearly now in the age of hybrid working, hybrid onboarding and hybrid student development. But what are the implications for equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI)?
Do hybrid approaches endanger EDI?
Hybrid development programmes can potentially help to promote EDI by increasing access, providing more flexibility, reducing bias, and providing additional support for graduates and apprentices.
By offering both online and in-person training, these programmes can help overcome geographical barriers and provide equal access to learning opportunities.
This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with disabilities or caregiving responsibilities, who may need to work around other commitments. By creating more equitable and inclusive training and development opportunities, these programmes can help build a more diverse and skilled workforce.
But, hybrid development programmes can also create new challenges for EDI in the workplace. For example, hybrid working can create a ‘two-tier’ workforce, where remote early career hires may feel excluded from important conversations or opportunities for advancement.
The data from ISE’s Student Development Survey 2023 showed that relatively few employers provide additional support for those who are struggling with hybrid and remote onboarding.
The results of the survey also demonstrated that the number of graduates and apprentices experiencing mental health issues has also risen, with 64% of employers reporting an increase compared to previous years.
Promoting EDI in a hybrid working environment
To address these challenges, employers can take a range of actions to promote EDI in a hybrid working environment, including:
- Developing policies and practices that support equitable access to hybrid work, such as providing employees with access to the necessary technology and infrastructure to work effectively from home.
- Providing training and resources to support effective communication and collaboration in a hybrid working environment, including the use of technology tools and virtual team-building activities.
- Ensuring that all student hires have equal access to opportunities for career development and advancement, such as mentoring and coaching programmes.
- Fostering a culture of inclusion and belonging in a hybrid working environment, including regular check-ins, face-to-face meetings, mental health counselling and support for employee wellbeing.
- Collecting data on the impact of hybrid development programmes on new hire retention and using this data to inform decisions that promote equity and inclusion.
You can read more advice for how to support hybrid workers from less privileged backgrounds.
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