Offices remain key for staff development – survey

Over three-quarters (76%) of UK businesses say employers have a learning and development responsibility to encourage office workers back to the office, according to a PwC survey of 150 UK employers. The same number (76%) believe employers have an economic responsibility to encourage workers back.

The survey also found that a large majority (71%) of employers believe being in the office offers employees from less wealthy backgrounds opportunities that wouldn't be accessible if they always worked from home. Employers see the role of the office as multifaceted, with the majority of businesses (72%) saying their offices play a significant role in helping to educate and upskill local communities, showing offices are woven into the fabric of local communities. Additionally, four out of five say that being in the office allows different generations of employees to learn from each other.

The survey of employers found that gender topped the list of learning and development topics in the last year – 62% conducted training or employee education on gender equality, while 58% have offered racial equality training. Almost half (46%) had offered broad climate change awareness training. Digital acceleration is a priority for the majority of businesses with six out of ten (61%) companies offering training targeted at supporting their organisation’s digital transformation.

Over half of organisations (52%) have offered employees who joined during the pandemic training programmes to catch up on missed learning and development opportunities, with a further 31% planning to this year.

Alastair Woods, head of pay and reward at PwC UK, said: “The home vs office debate can be quite divisive, but our research shows that employers agree some face-to-face interaction is crucial for learning and development, particularly for those who are new to the workplace and have had less access to opportunity. While the cost of commuting will be felt more acutely by less wealthy workers, there will be benefits for making this investment.

“Online learning can be an impactful and highly effective platform for some learning, and we are seeing a lot of innovation, including virtual reality here. However, most employees still need to come together to put that learning into practice in a face-to-face setting. Employers are investing more in in-person training sessions to demonstrate their value, and they are becoming events in themselves. Many are adding social elements, which not only makes them more attractive and more appealing to commute for, but also helps employees develop their soft skills and networking abilities – both of which have taken a back seat during Covid.”

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