Designing Hybrid Learning and Development Tracks for Your Workforce
The skills, abilities and competencies businesses need are evolving daily. One of the most significant workforce changes has been the shift to hybrid work environments. A robust hybrid learning and development (L&D) program is a powerful resource for helping employees overcome challenges and optimize work.
Hybrid work — a mix of office and remote work — offers increased flexibility to team members. When employees work from home, they have more control over when and how they get things done. At the office or job site, employees can interact with and learn from each other in person. That creates advantages for organizational learning and development strategies.
Your L&D program itself is fundamentally changed by the shift to hybrid work. The outcomes you need to achieve and how you deliver that educational content are different. It’s time to redesign learning and development in a hybrid workplace so you can keep your business moving forward.
Update Content to Reflect the Hybrid Environment
Revisit Learning and Development Goals
Your talent strategy is a significant factor in achieving your business plan. Shifting to hybrid work introduces new challenges and spurs new ways of working. What role can learning and development play in helping employees acclimate to this change in order to perform at their best?
Consider the impact hybrid work has had on your business and talent strategies. Employees might have different levels of autonomy, for example. To optimize work when employees are often self-managing their daily workloads, they need to learn to use soft skills more than they did in a fully in-person work environment. They need better judgment to prioritize their tasks, and they need accountability to complete everything on their plate.
Learning tracks have to evolve along with your HR processes. As the business strategy changes, the L&D goals you previously set need to be updated, too.
Partner With Business Leaders on Regular Needs Analysis
Work with business leaders to understand the direction the organization wants to go. Based on the available workforce data, determine whether you have the skills needed to reach those goals or whether there are gaps to fill. In the latter case, your priority is to develop L&D programs to fill them.
To build a workforce that’s flexible and resilient to change, reassess what the organization needs from L&D as often as business leaders reassess the business plan. This is especially important in a hybrid environment. Most organizations are new to hybrid work and still learning what skills are needed for maximum effectiveness.
A regular needs assessment can help your organization refine its long-term hybrid talent strategy. By participating in business planning meetings, you get a better sense of what the business and the workforce need from L&D.
Refresh Learning Tracks to Align With Changing Roles
Hybrid work structures are resulting in changes to many job descriptions. Managers, for example, historically gauged productivity by seeing employees at work. In a hybrid environment, that isn’t always possible (nor is that a good indicator of productivity).
Managers in hybrid workplaces have to learn to manage their teams based on outcomes, or the actual work completed. These managers need new ways to stay alert to productivity declines. They have to be able to probe why an employee is struggling and help them.
Managing in a hybrid environment requires a different skill set from what managers historically learned in leadership development. They need to learn to support team members by managing the work and strengthening their emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. When you’re developing L&D tracks for management candidates, you need to focus on those skills — critical thinking, communication, empathy — rather than what many management courses historically taught.
Collaborate with your human resources team to understand how hybrid work has changed your job roles and how your content tracks need to change to support that shift. As your HR peers review and revise job descriptions, they should list the skills and abilities each role needs moving forward.
Reassess Learning and Development Delivery
Beyond content changes, the biggest change when developing L&D for a hybrid workplace is how you deliver content. Take advantage of the hybrid environment to mix up learning opportunities.
Take a Hybrid Approach to Instructor-Led Learning
For decades, we’ve relied on in-person training to deliver educational content to employees. But the shift to remote and hybrid work is revolutionizing traditional instructor-led learning. It’s time to revisit how we deliver corporate training.
There are alternatives to the traditional classroom model that are better geared to a hybrid environment. Models like the flipped classroom, for example, can help L&D professionals make the most of their time with employees.
Traditional classroom models use lectures to deliver core concepts and assign homework. In the flipped classroom model, students learn the concepts through self-directed learning, such as online training modules, then learn to apply them in the classroom under the teacher’s supervision.
This allows L&D professionals to gauge how employees are internalizing larger concepts. Instructors can provide guidance in a synchronous format, whether in-person or through videoconferencing, so they can ensure that employees understand how the concepts affect practice.
Offer Self-Directed Learning Opportunities
Self-directed learning is a powerful model for empowering employees to take ownership of their continuing education. When employees can learn independently, on their own time, they gain a sense of control over what and how they’re learning.
Develop a learning resource library to give employees a variety of learning opportunities. Learning management systems typically include multiple types of course offerings that employees can take on their own. Microlearning is an especially useful learning tool. These brief modules are designed to be completed quickly. Their brevity offers greater flexibility for employees to complete them without blocking out large amounts of time.
Not all self-directed learning has to be delivered through online modules. Reading a relevant book or working a gig that applies learning concepts are valid ways for employees to take control of their learning.
Enable Learning in the Flow of Work
Learning in the flow of work empowers employees to apply what they’ve learned through instructor-led and self-directed learning in a practical, hands-on way — ensuring stronger learning outcomes.
Develop on-the-job activities and clear learning outcomes that enrich the experience and build the employee’s knowledge, skills and abilities. Identifying on-the-job learning opportunities requires deep familiarity with organizational roles. Work with HR leaders and direct managers to map roles to opportunities for achieving particular learning outcomes.
Managers play an important role in this approach because the learning happens in the flow of work. Train managers to monitor learning outcomes and provide feedback and support to employees while they learn.
Develop a Culture of Curiosity
A culture of curiosity and learning is integral to creating a successful hybrid learning experience. Your culture reinforces what you prioritize and what you value most. You need to develop and communicate a culture that prioritizes learning among your hybrid workforce.
Give Employees Permission to Focus on Learning
Many organizations are fixated on producing products, assets or deliverables, and other work is devalued. Employees need to feel confident that on-the-clock learning activities are allowed and encouraged. If not, they’re less likely to take advantage of your learning resources.
Have managers emphasize the importance of continuing education as part of a well-rounded employee experience. Build learning outcomes into performance management so employees feel more accountability for learning and understand that learning is a business priority.
Normalize Asking Questions and Sharing Ideas
Hybrid employees need to feel like it’s OK to ask questions and share ideas with their manager and colleagues. Designate opportunities where employees can ask questions of their peers and share their learning experiences.
Managers and other leaders can also use this space to recognize employees for their initiative and celebrate learning achievements.
Develop Channels for Communicating About Learning
One of the best ways to create a culture that reinforces the value of learning is to establish channels where employees can discuss what they’re learning.
Consider dedicating a communications channel, such as in Slack or Microsoft Teams, to conversations about L&D. Or set up a companywide book club with designated times and places for employees to share what they’ve learned.
These companywide learning activities can support higher engagement and help team members stay excited about what they’re learning.
Advance Your Workforce Through Hybrid Learning and Development
When you offer learning resources and make it safe for employees to learn on the job, they’re more likely to develop and grow, which produces better individual and business outcomes.
Learning and development for a hybrid workplace is a significant challenge, but doing it right will create ongoing positive effects for your business.