This isn’t only a message from the government, it’s also common sense. Anecdotal evidence suggests furlough, while under lockdown, leads to a growing sense of isolation.
On television and social media, people talk of boredom, lack of stimulation and loss of self-worth. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) factsheet outlines the issues we are talking about. Identifying the challenges and understanding solutions.
The main rules of furlough and training
Let’s establish the relevant rules of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme first.
The government states: Furloughed employees may engage in training. However, they must not provide services, or generate revenue, on behalf of their company. Where training is undertaken, furloughed employees are entitled to be paid at least their appropriate national minimum wage. The furlough payment of 80% of an employee’s regular wage may be sufficient to cover these training hours. Read more on the gov.uk website.
On 28 April, the government went one step further. They set up online courses to facilitate training for furloughed employees. Education secretary Gavin Williamson launched The Skills Toolkit and said: “I want businesses to encourage their furloughed employees to use The Skills Toolkit. It can improve their knowledge, build their confidence, and support their mental health. We will need them to have the skills to succeed after the coronavirus outbreak ends.”
What are the benefits of furlough training?
- Emotional support helps people to cope with the challenges they face. These may go beyond the normal, day-to-day difficulties. Isolation from loved ones and the anxiety about their welfare can be emotionally draining. Knowing how to cope, having access to other people, even distractions, can help.
- Financial support can appear in the form of online courses which direct employees to websites containing relevant information. A few pages which reassure and organise the options available can be hugely supportive. A helpful place to start.
- Mental health support is essential. The furlough scheme lasts until October. That’s a long time for some people to cope. Even when they return to work, some people may continue to struggle with their experiences. Don’t assume a return to ‘normal’ will make things right, straight away. The mental health charity, Mind, have a useful guide to coping.
- Regular news updates on what’s happening in the company via online delivery, communicating everything from products to people, can be a great way to stimulate employee engagement.
- Fun activities, such as quizzes, help people feel they are not getting left out. Some clients even include competitions and light-hearted “prizes”. Read how insurance management company Trinity Claims has done just that.
- Interactive “games” can communicate valuable information in light-hearted ways to support training and development needs without getting too ‘heavy’.
- The launch of the government’s Skills Toolkit included suggestions for courses which improve valuable, employability skills. Digital literary is a prime example.
- Furloughed employees should take the opportunity to review their skill set and explore ways to improve it. How well equipped is your company to provide help here?
- Broader personal development on ‘soft’ skills is worth considering. How might you offer training on topics such as communication, problem solving and leadership?
- How do you need to respond when things return to ‘normal’? Have you identified what the ‘new normal’ is going to be?
- Similarly, how will your workforce react to the ‘new normal’? What challenges will it provoke and how can training help you remain proactive?
- What HR issues are likely to exist for people returning to work after extended furlough? What training can offset these issues?
These benefits go beyond the immediate challenges we face. They include the means to prepare for whatever the future holds for the company and its economic landscape. With the government, charities, HR legislators and commercial organisations suggesting training for a furloughed workforce brings numerous benefits to the company, remember, proactive management teams will fully understand the benefits of training for their furloughed workforce and plan accordingly.
Phil Parker, Learning and Development Consultant, Nimble Elearning
Nimble Elearning have a full range of ready-made elearning courses to support training.