Innovation

Shifting to Hybrid Work: 3 things learners need in a post-covid work environment

Does anyone remember the expression, “Two weeks to slow the spread?” It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time when we all thought we’d go back to pre-pandemic life as usual. Over the course of the past 9-12 months, it’s become increasingly obvious that office life is unlikely to ever return to “normal.” Countless companies have set dates for their employees to return, only to push those back as the latest variant emerges or a surge in infections impacts a significant region. Conferences and events have been scheduled, rescheduled, canceled, brought back, and moved online. We’ve all settled in to expecting the unexpected and living with uncertainty while adapting to a hybrid work environment.

Forward-thinking companies have shifted their efforts to building a hybrid work environment that allows the business to be responsive to whatever nature throws our way in the future. What hybrid work looks like will vary from organization to organization, but in most cases it means that individuals and teams will rotate between the office and remote work. Additionally, companies in many industries are increasingly relying on a contingent workforce, rather than traditional employment arrangements. 

Research and experience has shown that the evolutionary path learning has been traveling over the past 20 years will need to accelerate in order to meet the needs of a hybrid workforce. Yes, technology plays an important role, but there are more conceptual issues that will need to be considered. As you build your learning strategy, consider our top three recommendations to address the needs of hybrid learners.

1. Consistency of experience

For the most part, technology issues related to remote and hybrid work have been settled at this point. People have adopted the necessary apps and platforms, upgraded their workstations, and learned new ways of collaborating. Brian Kropp, head of HR at Gartner, recently said that figuring out the way forward with a hybrid work environment isn’t so much an issue of the right tech as it is “ a consistency and evenness-of-experience question.”

The learning industry has struggled to provide a consistent experience between in-person and virtual training for decades. The events of 2020 increased the adoption of virtual learning because it was the only way to continue developing people. As necessity is the mother of invention, companies have found all sorts of ways to make virtual learning work for development projects that were previously relegated to in-person events.

A hybrid work environment, however, throws in a whole new set of challenges. The learning modalities that will prevail in the next year will be those that can offer the same experience to learners located anywhere—in the traditional office, at home, and around the globe.

2. Sensitivity and empathy

While the pandemic escalated mental health issues for countless people, it’s fair to say that many people were dealing with these challenges long before 2020. One outcome of the pandemic is that mental health needs have become part of the public conversation, even in the workplace. Similarly, the work from home environment exposed many details about workers’ personal lives that may not have previously surfaced in the office. Parents and caregivers have been at the forefront of many leaders’ minds, but there are also countless other circumstances that were uncovered as the webcams clicked on at home.

As a result, learning leaders are seeking new ways to provide resources related to emotional intelligence, diversity and inclusion, and other soft skills. Specific interventions in those areas are needed in many organizations, but they should also become an integral part of the overall learning strategy. For a hybrid work environment to succeed, employers simply must continue to accommodate their workers’ personal needs. Recent news headlines have highlighted the damage that can occur in organizations that neglect to be empathetic to their employees. L&D has a huge opportunity to contribute in this area by taking an empathetic approach in the design of every learning intervention.

3. Engagement

The numbers vary, but reports indicate that anywhere from 25%-50% of workers have changed jobs in the past year. We’ve known for a long time that engaged employees are more likely to stick around; what’s quickly changing are the ways we go about keeping people engaged. A hybrid work environment, by nature, is significantly more vulnerable to people slipping through the cracks. Companies have ramped up their efforts to measure engagement consistently, and L&D groups have deployed a slew of interventions designed to help managers combat the factors that lead to disengaged workers.

Investing in employees by developing their skills is a tried-and-true way to increase employee engagement. That said, any initiative must be calibrated to what people really need and deployed via a program that keeps learners engaged enough to actually learn something. Sadly, most learning designed for virtual delivery doesn’t come close to the caliber of pre-pandemic events that were held in person. Those L&D groups that will continue to succeed in moving the needle on employee engagement will have to find ways to deploy learning that engages learners in the hybrid workplace—providing that consistent experience mentioned in item one.

Learning leaders may have a lot on their shoulders, but it’s an exciting time for our profession. We can make significant contributions to the success of a hybrid work environment by designing learning that supports employees in their areas of need. Our team has extensive experience doing just that. Contact us to schedule a new year strategy session.

What is team-based self-discovery learning?

As we continue to navigate the new normal, there’s been no shortage of change initiatives from leaders who recognize a need to make massive shifts in the way their organizations do business. Some of these, such as increased digitization, are tactical projects with well-defined outcomes. Others, such as managing a remote workforce or cultivating a leadership pipeline, are more nebulous and require ongoing efforts. These initiatives have high stakes and complex requirements. The long-term fate of the organization rests on their success; everyone will have to pull together. Team-based self-discovery learning is a powerful tool for a high-stakes change initiative, particularly when the desired end state isn’t so much a destination as it is an ongoing journey.

What does team-based self-discovery learning mean?

To get started, let’s break down the phrase: team-based self-discovery learning. In team-based learning, participants typically work together to solve problems, share stories, identify best practices, and uncover common failure points. While traditionally these experiences occurred in a classroom setting, learning tech has evolved to enable effective team-based learning regardless of whether learners are co-located or remote. Even globally dispersed teams can now benefit from team-based learning initiatives, coming together with audio and video for learning events.

Self-discovery learning is a concept that has been around for a long time and essentially rests on the premise that people are more likely to learn when they figure something out for themselves, as opposed to being taught or told. While highly effective, self-discovery learning requires more nuanced instructional design. The learner must have parameters that enable free thinking and exploration, but also flow toward a desired objective or conclusion.

When you put them together, they can sound like an oxymoron: self-discovery in a team setting? However, it can be done, and leading organizations are already doing it. Team-based self-discovery learning puts a team into a situation where they must work together to discover a solution. Escape rooms are a great example—they require a group of people to collaborate; one person simply can’t solve the escape room puzzle alone. Teams must come up with their own process for solving the puzzle and getting out of the room in time.

Team-based self-discovery learning is:

  • Learner-driven. Rather than a one-way flow of content from trainer to trainee, learners explore concepts themselves. 
  • Engaging. Discovery requires learners to be fully engaged; if they aren’t, they’ll be unable to make much progress.
  • Compatible with your culture. That’s one of the key benefits of self-discovery learning—it doesn’t come with strict parameters. Think of it like a sandbox environment, into which you can bring your unique culture, baggage, and aspirations for the future.
  • An agent for change. We all know we’re more willing to make changes when we’re committed to them. How do you build that commitment? Foster an environment where learners come up with the solution (i.e., change) on their own.

Team-based self-discovery learning isn’t:

  • Read-click. Read-click. Read-click. Keep that Next button unlocked!
  • Linear. Each individual will experience the learning in a unique way, via thoughtful design that enables them to reach the desired end point.
  • Didactic. While some content may lend itself to lengthy, formal presentation, most change initiatives don’t fall into that category.
  • A solo experience. In fact, what makes it so powerful is the team element. As learners are working through key concepts, they’re also building relationships with their colleagues.

How do you create team-based self-discovery learning experiences?

There are many approaches to deploying team-based self-discovery learning; doing it well requires a thorough understanding of the requirements and desired outcomes. Our ExperienceBUILDERTM platform drives team-based self-discovery learning that’s equally effective for teams in the physical workplace as for those dispersed across the globe. Learners are quickly pulled into a scenario in which they must engage in deep discussions to move forward. The answers are unclear; as in real-life scenarios, these simulations offer multiple paths forward. A back-end scoring system with targeted feedback enables competition between teams, furthering their investment in the overall outcome.

Best of all, people are connecting with each other in real time, talking through the same types of issues they’re struggling with on the job, and finding their own path. Although all teams may be working through the same scenarios, each group will have unique discussions. Because it’s a shared experience, the team can take its solutions right back into their work.

Would you like to learn more about how team-based self-discovery learning can support your high-stakes change initiative? Contact us to schedule a consultation. 

Facing a business transformation? Blueline is in your future!

blueline-dialChange creates uncertainty – causing fear and confusion and hurting productivity.  A clearly defined message and communication strategy can dispel doubts and facilitate alignment.  Learn how Blueline supported innovation initiatives at a Fortune 50 Healthcare Company using proven planning and communication strategies.

The outcomes are best summarized by the head of the organization who opined: “the successful outcomes of this initiative are an important lesson in embracing the types of innovation we want to support throughout the organization – through these efforts we got 80% of the way to our destination in 20% of the time it usually takes us.”

LOOK! WE’RE IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL! (KIND OF)

I was talking with a client recently and we were discussing the powerful impact successful change strategies can have on an organization. We were both sharing our continued surprise at how simple strategies can have such far reaching impact. Even though we have both seen and experienced it many times it is still delightful to watch the impact of successful change collaboration unfold. Our discussions led us to a past client experience. One we are proud of and never tire of sharing… Take a look. It’s a great story. And it’s a story I’d love to help create in your organization as well.

A process for collaborative change: Blueline Simulations’ “Voice of the Customer.”voice-customer

1. Listen first. A series of stakeholder interviews reveals prevailing biases and mental models.

2. Build a straw man. We propose a design that is explicitly informed by the client’s own words.

3. Tell the story. We record a webinar and produce an interim report to introduce the design to key organizational influencers.

4. Test and refine the design. Stakeholder response leads us to produce a new iteration in preparation of the next step.

5. Present the big idea. The final report is a testament to the work of the organization’s stakeholders… and becomes a powerful artifact for change.

Brandon Hall Award Application Time!

In our industry there are few awards that matter as much as the Brandon Halls. Last month the 21st Annual Brandon Hall Group HCM Excellence Awards Program opened for applications. The Brandon Hall Awards are “the most prestigious awards program in the industry. Often times called the “Academy Awards” by Learning, Talent and Business Executives, the program was one of the first of its kind in the learning industry.” (http://go.brandonhall.com/Excellence_Awards_Home)

Many prestigious organizations have received awards from Brandon Hall –  Sears, IBM, AT&T, Bank of America, 7-Eleven, Walgreens, Wyndham Hotel Group, American Express, LinkedIN, Bank of America, McDonalds, and Blueline.

Yes, Blueline!

Click here to read how The Talent Management Specialists at Blueline Swept the Brandon Hall Awards.

recent-award