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Flexible Learning as the Key to Wales’ Public Sector Talent Retention Challenge

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The Open University’s new report into public sector skills, 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 UK-wide public sector employee surveys.

In Wales, Welsh Government has already laid out its plans for a post-Covid-19 remote working strategy which aims to see 30% of the Welsh workforce working at home or near home on a regular basis.

According to this report, adapting to a flexible hybrid working model is key to staff retention within the public sector, indicating the pandemic’s effect on ways of working is here to stay.

It revealed that three quarters (75%) of public sector employees in Wales state they are more likely to stay in a job that allowed remote or hybrid working options.

Public sector workers also emphasised the importance of learning and development opportunities. The new survey revealed that out of 488 Welsh public sector employees, 8 in 10 public sector cite learning and development as key to job satisfaction in the public sector.

However, a lack of flexibility is hindering training, with a quarter (27%) of respondents cite a lack of flexible working hours as a factor preventing public sector employees from participating in training opportunities.

A desire for flexibility is even carried through to learning, with blended learning shown 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 traditionally been at the forefront of workplace change. From flexible working, to creches, to job shares, many employees have been able to build long-lasting careers and fulfil their ambitions around their personal responsibilities.

But two years ago, the UK employer landscape was forced to adapt to the pandemic, leading to a rapid acceleration of this change, with public sector employers and employees still trying to understand what increased hybrid and flexible working means in the future.

Our survey reflects the desire for flexible learning, hybrid models and remote working, suggesting they are here for the long-term in many job roles, but employees still want to engage in learning and development to reach their full potential.

This report outlines the challenge for public sector leaders and L&D teams. The future will require more choice, driving better awareness, and rethinking the way learning is delivered in the workplace.

The report further demonstrates a lack of awareness of training amongst employees with 15% of respondents feeling unsure about the training that was available for their role.

This highlights a missed opportunity for employers, suggesting that public sector organisations need to communicate more clearly to remote and hybrid workers about training offerings to aid retention.

Public sector employees also expressed a desire to upskill on technology and leadership. The combination of digital services and remote working makes technology skills essential.

The report suggests more than a third (37%) of Welsh public sector employees would like to improve their digital skills. Leadership and management training showed to be the most popular area of learning in this survey, favoured by almost half (49%) of public sector employees in Wales.

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.