One of the biggest impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic for many organizations and individuals was the sudden introduction of full-time remote working, for many companies with thousands of employees and complicated information technology (IT) infrastructures that had never even considered it a possibility. Working patterns, locations, and roles and responsibilities all faced a sudden change as the workforce began its move toward a hybrid working model.

What do these changes mean for the future of the workplace? And how can learning and development (L&D) professionals alter their training resources and programs accordingly? Technology — and data in particular — is essential for making every hybrid working model a success.

Listening to Data

After a couple of weeks, or months, of remote work, many employees and employers found a rhythm that worked for them. From virtual team lunches to virtual performance appraisals, videoconferencing quickly became the norm. Unsurprisingly, many businesses are now wondering whether hybrid work is, or should be, here to stay. Research shows that employees now expect to have more choice over where they work, with over half of employees wanting to work remotely at least three days per week after the pandemic, according to a January 2021 PwC survey.

Meeting the needs and preferences of these employees requires using data and technology to ensure the hybrid working model can continue seamlessly through the changes we will undoubtedly see in the coming months. Using data to understand employees and their new habits has never been more important. But what’s the best way to do so? Data always tells a story; from how motivated or engaged an employee is to the performance metrics of a team and the return on investment (ROI) of a particular L&D investment, there is so much that we can unpack from human resources (HR) and L&D data alone.

By leveraging the power of organization-wide data, L&D professionals can unlock new themes for training programs, new methods for implementing training, and new methods of evaluating the effectiveness of the training and reporting back to senior management or the board. After all, it is unlikely that face-to-face, large-group training sessions will resume in the first half of this year, so L&D teams should continue to use data to inform their decisions and explore how they can adapt or improve their processes.

Driving Employee Development

Research by NordVPN shows that since the pandemic started, employee workloads have increased by as much as 2.5 hours per day. Many employees are filling the time that they would ordinarily have spent commuting to tick tasks off their to-do list. Despite the fact that many employees feel pressured and busier than ever, it is important for them to spend time on learning and development to make sure their skills remain an asset to the business and to stay engaged and motivated.

By using data to uncover where employees are spending their time, L&D teams can identify areas where they may need to upskill employees to improve efficiencies or where learning a new skill or topic could boost an employee’s morale. Furthermore, L&D and HR teams can use people analytics platforms to understand discrepancies between pre-pandemic and current working habits.

By bringing data to the forefront, organizations can make data-driven decisions about the future of their hybrid work model, its impact on employees, and how they may need to adjust HR initiatives and L&D programs as a result. This situation has been unprecedented for the majority of organizations, and many are still finding their footing a year after the pandemic began. But the data is there for the taking, and by making and reporting on data-driven decisions, rather than relying on gut feelings, organizations can reap the benefits of a happy, motivated and engaged workforce.