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How Does Flexibility Benefit Business?

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“May you live in interesting times” is not something you would wish upon a friend. The expression is used ironically - the implication being that times of calm and stability are preferable to times of change and uncertainty.

For many businesses there is some truth in this. Unplanned changes are not desirable; uncertainty can create risk and risk needs careful management to ensure it does not get out of control.

In this article we look at how the rise of flexible training can allow companies to manage a rapidly changing work environment and limited resources, as well as mitigate the risks of busy and changeable times.

The demands of work

Back in 1930, Keynes predicted that the working week would be drastically cut, to perhaps 15 hours, with people choosing to have far more leisure time as their material needs were satisfied.

However in 2016 we are working as hard as ever - over 6 million people in Britain work more than 45 hours a week.

This leaves little time for training and staff development, which itself has to continually evolve to remain relevant and valuable.

Educating the professionals

The need to balance a highly educated, well qualified work force and a viable business can be seen very clearly in traditional professions such as accountancy, law, and medicine. All have to remain technically up to date and yet continue with their day job of servicing customers and clients.

In the world of finance, time and timing is critical. For those working in practice, clients can set difficult deadlines requiring staff to work long, often anti-social hours to complete the job on time. Working in industry is equally challenging, with ‘month end’ requiring Finance Directors and Management Accountants to work similarly long hours to ensure the monthly accounts are out on time.

These working environments are not the result of unscrupulous employers wanting to maximise the work effort of their employees. It is the nature of their business and the demands made by their customers. The challenge for employers is to ensure its workforce is technically qualified and well-educated, but they do not feel that learning is too stressful given the demands of their job.

Scheduled training courses offer set dates that can be put in a diary well in advance and this can work, but what happens when there is an urgent, unplanned job? In most cases, the study time will give way to customer needs.

If you can’t control these events, then you need to have a study method that works with the business, not against it. This is where flexible learning methods are a helpful solution.

Flexibility to the rescue

By its very nature, flexible learning means that staff can study when it is convenient for them, as well as for the business. The rise of online learning has allowed this type of training to become widely available, with all relevant course material available at any time across a wide range of devices.

Furthermore, some flexible courses can also provide tutor support outside of normal working hours, so the quality of information and feedback available is in no way compromised by being out of the classroom.

The key benefit of all this is that even though time has to be set aside to study, if the business requires an employee to return work, they can do so without compromising their studies.

However, this additional flexibility comes with a health warning for the company: they must ensure that the employee gets that study time back at some point.

The primary benefit of flexible learning is not to minimise study time, but to make it work around business needs.

Though there is no longer the need to sit in a traffic jam to get to college, and there is much evidence that courses with an instructional component make learning more efficient, learning still takes time and that must be respected.

Another real positive for the company is that in addition to being able to call on the student when there is a business need, they can plan whole cohorts of students to be off at different times. Using this manpower planning, the increased efficiency can result in a significant saving.

Finally, it is worth adding that many institutes are also moving towards more flexible examining models, so staff can now plan the timing of their examination dates and take more control of their studies. If the examining method is flexible, it makes sense for the learning method to be flexible too.

Too much of a good thing?

Being able to study when convenient sounds ideal, but there is the potential for it to lead to procrastination. There is also a danger that the employee continually puts work first - a commendable quality, but one that in the long run will benefit neither the employee nor the organisation. Dates must be put in diaries that work for both staff and employer, and staff encouraged to stick to them.

This is made easier if support is offered by the course provider. Human interaction often comes by way of a learning coach, who watches the performance of the student as they work through tests, deciding exactly when to intervene to offer words of encouragement or technical advice.

De-stressing staff

Balancing work, life and study can be stressful, and a stressed work force is something no good employer would want. Offering a way for employees to gain new skills, engage in worthwhile work, without putting under so much time pressure that stress levels rise, is very much the end goal for most companies.

Having a more flexible learning environment, sufficient and protected time to study, together with the help and encouragement of trained learning coaches may not be the complete answer, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

About OnDemand

Kaplan now offers a new and exciting way to study for its CIMA examinations - OnDemand for CIMA.

OnDemand is a flexible way of learning that works around your business, combining the benefits of classroom learning with the convenience and flexibility of virtual study.

It can be accessed outside of office hours, or you can set the amount of office time dedicated to study - limiting downtime during business-critical times.

This method of learning is perfect for organisations requiring a consistent and flexible approach across boundaries and time zones, without wishing to risk pass rate success.

To find out more, enter your details below to talk to our team today.

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