the Open University new public sector skills report, Embracing Flexibility, published in partnership with Public Sector Executive, highlights a desire for more flexibility and learning and development opportunities in one of the largest recent surveys of public sector employees across the UK.
In Wales, the Welsh Government has already outlined its plans for a post-Covid-19 remote working strategy which aims to see 30% of the Welsh workforce working from or near home on a regular basis.
According to this report, adapting to a flexible hybrid working model is essential for staff retention in the public sector, indicating that the effect of the pandemic on working methods is here to stay.
It revealed that three-quarters (75%) of public sector employees in Wales say they are more likely to stay in a job that allows remote or hybrid working options.
Public sector workers also highlighted the importance of learning and development opportunities. The new survey found that out of 488 Welsh public sector employees, 8 in 10 public sector employees cite learning and development as key to job satisfaction in the public sector.
However, lack of flexibility hinders training, with a quarter (27%) of respondents citing the lack of flexible working hours as a factor preventing public sector employees from participating in training opportunities.
A desire for flexibility is found even in learning, with blended learning proving to be the preferred learning style at 51% and distance learning at 24%.
Rhys Griffiths. Business relationship manager, The open university in Wales said:
The public sector has always been at the forefront of workplace change. From flexible working, to crèches, via job sharing, many employees have been able to build lasting careers and achieve their ambitions around their personal responsibilities.
But two years ago, the UK employer landscape was forced to adapt to the pandemic, and this has led to a rapid acceleration of this change, with public sector employers and employees still trying to figure out what the increase in hybrid and flexible working means in the future.
Our survey reflects the desire for flexible learning, blended models and remote working, suggesting they’re in it for the long haul in many roles, but employees still want to engage in learning and development to reach their full potential.
This report describes the challenge for public sector leaders and L&D teams. The future will demand more choice, better awareness and a rethinking of the way learning is delivered in the workplace.
The report further demonstrates a lack of training awareness among employees, with 15% of respondents feeling unsure of the training available for their role.
This highlights a missed opportunity for employers, suggesting that public sector organizations need to communicate more clearly to remote and hybrid workers about training offerings to drive retention.
Public sector employees also expressed a desire to improve their technology and leadership skills. The combination of digital services and remote work makes technology skills essential.
The report suggests that more than a third (37%) of Welsh public sector employees would like to improve their digital skills. Leadership and management training proved to be the most popular area of learning in this survey, favored by almost half (49%) of public sector employees in Wales.
To visit https://www.open.ac.uk/business/embracing-flexibility-report to download the report Embracing Flexibility: How can L&D service new hybrid working and learning models in the public sector.