While remote working is now largely considered a norm, employees are increasingly choosing to return to the office more regularly. As of December 2022, workers in the UK acquired the right to request flexible working from their first day of employment with a new company, reaffirming the belief in the hybrid model.
What does this mean for the development of new skills? Largely, hybrid working means that employees will need to focus on developing strong communication skills for both in-person and remote working. Leaders have a pivotal role to play in ensuring their teams develop the skills required to work successfully across the two environments.
What Do We Mean by Interpersonal Skills?
When an employee participates in a personalized professional development program, they have the flexibility to choose from a range of aptitudes to develop. According to CoachHub platform insights, which highlight the key focus areas for coachees across the globe, employees in the UK placed conflict management, communication and emotional regulation at the top of their priority topics for coaching last year. All three subjects can be categorized as interpersonal skills — the skills that we use every day when we communicate with others.
Active listening, problem-solving and team-working, among others, are all included within the umbrella term of interpersonal skills. These skills are critical to becoming an effective communicator and interacting with colleagues in a way that fosters both productivity and personal development. This can contribute to higher levels of employee retention, as employees enjoy a more welcoming and interactive workplace environment. Externally, communicating effectively can result in more effective negotiation with clients, which may in turn help organizations reach their business objectives, perhaps even leading to higher profits.
Interpersonal skills are paramount — hence why so many employees are prioritizing them. Yet teaching such skills can be difficult, particularly in a hybrid environment with limited in-person interaction with colleagues.
Facing the Challenge of Building Interpersonal Skills
Interpersonal skills can be much harder to teach. Often, such skills do not come into traditional approaches to education and training, as they aren’t considered as high priority as hard skills for becoming employable. Some may also have a natural aptitude for interpersonal communication, leadership and empathy for others. Even so, that doesn’t mean that everyone can’t benefit from resources and learning that helps them to improve.
Within the hybrid environment, it can be much more difficult to handle conflict through a screen, as managers cannot necessarily pick up on body language. On the other hand, when working in the office some may have to adapt their response to situations, as they must react more quickly when faced with a colleague at their desk than when communicating asynchronously online.
It is crucial that organizations equip their employees for whatever the future of work may look like, ensuring that they can continue to collaborate and communicate with each other seamlessly.
Prioritizing People Development for the Hybrid Work Era
The insights demonstrate that it is certainly not a matter of driving appetite when it comes to nurturing interpersonal skills. CoachHub’s insights found that employees are already prioritizing the development of interpersonal skills like conflict management, so now it’s up to employers and managers to give people the tools they need to succeed.
Organizations should provide training to their managers on how to facilitate open communication. In addition, businesses can move beyond traditional approaches to skill development and introduce a digital coaching platform. This will allow employees to connect with a coach through regular sessions that take place via video call. This approach allows employees to focus on their specific priorities in a way that is both convenient and cost-effective. Consequently, organizations have the capacity to offer coaching to their full workforce, allowing every employee to work towards their own personalized goals.
Building a people development program that is unique to each employee and providing in-depth learning opportunities for all on interpersonal skills is an urgent requirement for organizations that offer hybrid working. Not only are employees requesting such development opportunities, there are benefits for the business too, including improved talent attraction and, ultimately, better talent retention. Digital coaching is an effective tool that allows employees to work on topics including conflict management and beyond.