Since 2020, the stratospheric rise of remote-working, followed by the stickiness of hybrid-working, has inspired discussions around the effects of proximity bias on the ability of employees to grow and succeed in their roles on a long-term basis, with concerns that it can give rise to favouritism.
What is proximity bias?
Proximity bias can be defined as the idea that employees in close physical proximity to colleagues and company leaders will be perceived as better workers, and therefore have access to better opportunities for growth, promotion and success in their roles.
It’s clear to see how this could affect remote employees, or even hybrid employees who spend less time in the office or workplace. This impact makes it imperative that organisations invest in their employees’ tech skills to help overcome this proximity bias and thrive wherever and however they work.
Much has been written about this already, as organisations across different sectors ponder what kind of structure to return to. For employees, the case is clear: many reports have shown that a majority of employees would like to either continue working remotely or becoming hybrid workers, splitting time between the workplace and home. However, many UK workers are worried about the effect remote work or hybrid patterns could have on their career – and tackling this concern is set to be a key priority for firms as they look to acquire and retain the best talent going forward.
How to overcome proximity bias
A vital step in overcoming proximity bias is to invest in tech skills development. Remote-working has caused many organisations to put skills development on hold, but this becomes a false economy as employees’ capabilities start to lag behind the competition, particularly in fast-moving technology areas such as cloud infrastructure, data and AI, and software engineering. As technology has facilitated the ability of many to work remotely, so it also demands new skills that are, in many cases, in short supply.
By establishing a learning and development culture that helps employees to continuously build the key tech skills vital for success in the new work ecosystem, companies can ensure that remote or hybrid employees continue to grow their skills at the same pace as those who are office based.
An equally important benefit of this is ensuring that remote or hybrid workers can maintain a sense of engagement with their colleagues and the organisation they work with, enhancing a sense of value and fulfillment that is often hard to come by when you’re working alone in your living room or home office.
While some leaders may still feel that productivity and engagement begin and end in the office, there does now seem to be a general acceptance that hybrid-working is set to become the new reality for many businesses going forward. Not only do employees want it, but most business leaders recognise the benefits it can have. But in order to ensure this is a successful model going forward, companies need to design and establish programmes that help to upskill or reskill existing employees for this new working environment.
The right programmes, delivered in the right format, can ultimately make employees more productive, and deliver benefits to the business as well as to the trajectory of the individual employee’s career. Recent innovations in learning pedagogy mean companies can blend digital learning and virtual live learning to create learning experiences that are ideally suited to the modern remote or hybrid worker.
QA Total Learning™
QA’s Total Learning is one such example. Combining the best of digital, self-paced learning and interactive live virtual sessions, Total Learning focuses on making sure employees can learn flexibly and, most importantly, apply their learning to drive impactful results. Every programme delivered on Total Learning is underpinned by QA’s Cloud Academy digital platform, allowing employees to complete their learning flexibly around their new work schedule.
The versatility of new skills development platforms like Total Learning is tailor made for the tech-driven world in which most workplaces now operate, where digital skills are the bedrock of success. Using a mix of labs, Miro boards, expert masterclasses and interactive virtual technology, learning can be made varied and collaborative even when conducted remotely.
The virtual nature of such programmes is also perfect for the development of technical skills, such as software engineering, data literacy and proficiency with any of the digital tools used to facilitate distributed working in the first place. It’s also crucial that remote or hybrid workers are aware of and able to implement cybersecurity and information protection policies when working remotely.
Businesses need to react to these evolutions if they are to succeed in a future made up largely of hybrid workers. Equally as importantly, remote and hybrid employees need their organisations to invest in training that helps them to grow and overcome the quiet creep of proximity bias. With this investment, team leaders can help to bring everyone along together in this new working environment, while also ensuring long-term, continuous growth for the wider organisation.
Find out how you can introduce effective skills development to help achieve continuous growth for your employees and organisation. Contact QA today.
Stuart MartinStuart Martin is QA's Chief Client Officer for Learning and Apprenticeships, and has been a part of QA's success for more than 20 years.
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