As offices re-open and companies are requiring employees to spend at least a few days per week back in their former workspaces, managing training for this hybrid work environment will be a challenge.
Even with virtual or eLearning in place, the hybrid work environment presents several obstacles to training delivery:
- For classroom-based learning, some learners will be in the room with the instructor while others will be watching and listening from home. As such, participation and engagement levels will be uneven.
- For eLearning, or self-directed digital learning experiences, employees working from home may have been able to concentrate more or use a different room to learn. In the office, it might be difficult to concentrate on learning as there are now new distractions.
- Casual learning cannot be captured and entered into the LMS. Such off-the-cuff, seemingly random learning interactions, such as those gleaned from meetings or small impromptu group discussions, cannot be gathered via the xAPI protocol.
What can learning leaders do to ensure the delivery of more effective learning experiences in a hybrid work environment?
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Connectivity and devices
A perennial concern for learning leaders is whether the technology is working, regardless of location. In hybrid work environments, where it might not be known where learners are learning, L&D needs to ensure that the learning experience will not be interrupted or impacted in any way by the device, platform, browser, or Internet service provider used by the learner.
L&D should work with IT to do regular check-ins to determine if there are any technical issues that particular learners may need to be aware of.
Training the trainer
Subject matter experts accustomed to leading classroom-based training may need some coaching once they are asked to deliver their courses via live virtual or recorded video lessons.
In addition to the learners being in a hybrid work environment, the course itself might be hybrid: the expert will deliver the lecture live in front of a small group of in-person learners; some will be watching on video simultaneously while at home or in other offices; then once the lesson is over, a recording will be made available to yet another group of other learners who couldn’t be present for the live presentation.
This varied format will require that the subject matter expert be trained so as to deliver content that will be easily digestible in various formats, and not favor any one group over another.
Engagement is a continuing issue for learning leaders. Increasing learner engagement topped the list of priorities for leaders in LinkedIn Learning’s 2020 Workplace Learning report.
L&D might not know whether particular courses resonate more strongly with learners whether they are working from home or from the office. As such, L&D should capture this data in the LMS—whether courses or assessments are taken at home or the office—and determine whether there are dramatic differences in the results between the two environments.
Remote and hybrid work environments—especially for organizations that did not have them before the pandemic—have ushered in the need for brand-new skill sets that employees may not have needed in the past.
These skill sets are related to so-called soft skills, including empathy, that can help improve interactions in both small groups and across the entire organization so that managers and employees can better manage disruptions and changes in the way work is carried out.
Empathy training is more important than ever because live, in-person interactions are scant, and body language or facial expressions that may have signaled feelings in the past might not be able to be carried out under current circumstances.
Indeed, in a world of Zoom calls—and the ability to turn one’s camera and microphone off—a greater understanding of people, even electronically, goes a long way in harmonizing the team and increasing productivity and effectiveness.
Finally, seek feedback from learners on what’s working and what isn’t. While feedback loops are already built into the training, as they are a crucial component of instructional design, learning leaders should add questions about the learning experience at home vs. in the office, to determine whether significant, disruptive changes occur.
This feedback will be useful when developing future learning experiences, or in re-designing current ones to better fit the hybrid work environment.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to hybrid work environments, and as such, developing and delivering training for such environments will require a learning curve, flexibility, and some trial and error.
Learning leaders and their teams can keep a close watch on what’s working and what’s not, and harness resources for those strategies that show promise. Continuous feedback loops from learners, subject matter experts, even the IT staff, will help L&D teams find the best fit for training in hybrid environments.
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