With so many organizations turning to hybrid workplace models, it’s time to evolve your learning strategy. Hybrid working is expected to boost productivity by 4.6% and 63% of high-growth businesses are already using the model. Understanding the challenges faced by this new dispersed workforce and developing a hybrid learning strategy that anticipates their changing needs is the new L&D frontier. And, learning and development teams need to adjust to thrive.
But first, let’s start with the basics: what is hybrid working and why does it matter to learning and development professionals?
What is a hybrid workplace model & why does it matter to L&D?
Hybrid working, or the hybrid workplace model, is generally defined as splitting your work hours between office work and home working environments – some employees may work from home most or all of the time, while others prefer an office environment. But it’s not just the binary model of office vs home. It also implies different work hours, workspaces, technologies and time zones.
Hybrid working is moving away from the typical 9 to 5 day. It’s also catering to a more dispersed, global workforce. And, while working arrangements might differ based on organizational and individual needs, the common thread is: hybrid working gives flexibility providing improved work life balance for employees.
Of course, there are drawbacks felt by employees when it comes to working from home, but the benefits of blended working outweigh the challenges.
Source: Business and individual attitudes towards the future of homeworking, UK: April to May 2021, Office for National Statistics
The biggest benefit of hybrid working is the opportunity for employees to strike a work-life balance. Working in a hybrid way means you are able to fit your work around your life, not the other way around. This in turn reduces stress and empowers employees to work to their full potential when they feel most productive.
For employees, flexible hybrid working also brings more time for family and friends. And for some, there is even significant cost saving as they reduce their daily commutes into the office. Overall, a hybrid workforce has the potential to be happier, more motivated and healthier.
“My physical health has never been better. I can manage my time in a way I have never been able to do before, my commute to work has given me three hours per day back into my life, and I use them to be more physically active and physically present with my family,” Rebecca Fry, Manager of People Enablement at AIG in a recent Howspace workplace survey.
Contrary to traditional beliefs, productivity does not suffer when employees work from home. In fact, World Economic Forum estimates hybrid working will boost productivity by 4.6%. And, unsurprisingly, people want the opportunity to work from home.
And, 63% of high-growth companies have already adopted a “productivity anywhere” workforce model.
There is no doubt that this monumental shift in working patterns has rippling effects across business departments. And, nowhere has this been more evident than in learning and development.
Whilst productivity may have increased during the pandemic, there are costs of working at home too: many employees are complaining of Zoom fatigue, burn out or other health issues. Under those circumstances, it is not surprising that we are in the midst of the ‘the great resignation’ with 40% of employees** globally thinking about leaving their jobs.
As organizations look to sustain blended working, ways to combat these problems must be part of the model. To be happy and productive in the hybrid workplace people need a desire to participate in learning, a high degree of digital skills and strong social bonds.
Now that the dust has settled, learning and development departments can no longer rely on simply “getting people online”. To survive the shift to hybrid working and to respond to the needs of their learners, L&D departments need to future-proof their blended learning and training strategies.
Six hybrid work challenges current L&D models can’t fix
In order for learning professionals to develop a bulletproof hybrid L&D strategy, they first need to recognize some of the top challenges involved with this “new normal”. Specifically:
1. The emergence of extra knowledge silos
Working remotely can be a very isolating experience in many ways. There is a wealth of knowledge transfer that happens in the office space – formal and informal. Fewer opportunities to meet coworkers face-to-face means fewer chances for discovering this knowledge. Ultimately, this reduces the ability of the workforce to develop true collaboration.
This in turn has a negative impact on retention. Helping colleagues feel more connected even when hybrid working, keeps the employee more focused, driven to do a great job and less likely to quit their jobs.
2. Leaders struggling to build trust digitally
A hybrid workplace demands a shift in leadership development models. What works for an office workforce does not translate as easily in a digital format. And, often leaders simply lack the skills and technology needed to effectively build the same trust online.
3. Locked up tacit knowledge impacting productivity
Technology has proven to be a great way to maintain productivity during the pandemic, but the rush towards synchronous digital channels like Zoom and Slack has its drawbacks. While instant communication is certainly a benefit, it often fails to fully capture vital tacit knowledge.
4. High productivity at cost of employee wellbeing
The pandemic has given rise to what has been coined as “The Wellbeing-Engagement Paradox”. For the first time ever, employee engagement and wellbeing became disconnected. As we know, higher productivity did not correlate with higher well-being – quite the opposite happened and many employees suffered from burnout.
5. New starters feeling isolated
Feeling connected and being part of the team is particularly important when it comes to onboarding. Making sure new starters are introduced to company values, understand the vision and feel like they are empowered to hit the ground running from day 1 has never been more important.
Induction programmes are currently too time-intensive and reliant on real-time meetings, as well as not being clear enough when it comes to job roles. When your employees don’t have a clear understanding of their role, they tend to get discouraged & often complacent.
6. Democratizing strong soft skills for all
94% of business leaders expect employees to pick up new skills on the job and yet the process of gaining those skills is far from democratized. With the rise of blended working the danger is that the gap will only get wider.
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Hybrid workplace learning strategy – best practices
A new approach to working, needs a new approach to training. Learning and development teams will need to not only adjust their content but fundamentally shift their approach to accommodate how a hybrid workforce learns.
This new hybrid L&D strategy needs to think about:
Making your hybrid workforce feel connected
As mentioned, distributed teams need to feel they are a part of an organization’s culture and align to your shared mission and purpose. For this to happen, L&D teams need to supplement the usual suspects, such as Slack and Zoom, with technology that engages and connects your remote workforce in asynchronous ways, like video storytelling.
Focusing on developing future skills
The future skills you need to start developing today are cognitive and interpersonal. This includes communication skills, critical thinking, active learning, social influence and emotional intelligence. And, while these skills can be taught face-to-face and online, they are best learned on the job.
This is why L&D strategies for the remote workforce need to extract hard-won experiences from the front line, spread good practice from high performers and tease out tacit knowledge. One of the best mediums to do this is through video storytelling with tools like StoryTagger that guides users to tell their story when and where it’s convenient for them.
Eliminating distraction and allowing focused learning time
Let’s face it, working from home can be very distracting. Part of this is the previously mentioned prevalence of communication tools such as Slack that often distract learners from their training. Raise your hand if you’ve wasted time on long Slack threads when you should have been focusing on learning and development. This coupled with a distraction of our personal lives (all the laundry that needs doing!) is a potential recipe for disaster.
What you choose to lighten the cognitive load and help retain focus is important. Mixing text-based learning with formats like video help break learning into smaller, more manageable parts and make it easier for employees to absorb valuable information.
Always keep accessibility in mind
More than anyone, remote workers need to access useful performance support, learning resources and opportunities to practice skills. Hybrid workforce employees are spread out, often across geographic areas and time zones. This is where asynchronous learning comes in. While live video will continue to play a central role in digital learning, blending the experience with asynchronous video storytelling is a much more accessible way to engage your dispersed workforce. L&D teams will need to rethink learning and development programmes to put accessibility at the heart of the hybrid training strategy.
Reviving apprenticeships as the means to scale skill development
More than 80% of organizations face critical gaps and with the rapid pace of change in the technology market, this gap will only grow unless we make a fundamental shift in how we approach developing skills. Sometimes, innovation means going back and adjusting tried and tested models of the past. Learning and development teams should consider the need to revive and scale an apprenticeship model.
In practice, this means creating a targeted learning programme which aims to enable people from across the organization to become ‘teachers’, coaches and mentors. For this to happen, learning and development teams need to make it easy for all employees to participate. At a basic level, the reason why most managers end up just “doing the task themselves” (rather than developing an employee’s skill) is time. “Doing it yourself” is the quick alternative. But this is where video storytelling can help.
At its core, video storytelling enables everyone to easily reflect on and codify their work experiences. And, the best storytelling platforms will guide employees to create concise, on-point content, save valuable time and enable all employees to participate in this modern apprenticeship model.
Managing learning in today’s ever-changing corporate environment is not an easy task. While hybrid working is not a new workplace model, only recently has it become so widespread. The changes caused by the pandemic are here to stay and learning and development teams have no choice but to adjust.
Unfortunately, the initial reactive strategy born out of the pandemic is not a long-term fix. To thrive in a hybrid workplace, learning and development managers need to fully understand the challenges faced by their dispersed workforce and develop a hybrid training strategy that responds to their needs.
Any new learning strategy customised for the hybrid workforce can be effectively supported by video storytelling. The value of employee-generated videos lies in reinforcing learning and communication in the hybrid workplace. By allowing employees to reflect on their experiences and share stories in a format others can learn from, employees feel connected, develop vital interpersonal and cognitive skills, and improve their focus and performance.