5 Ways to Effectively Train a Hybrid Workforce

The evolution to a hybrid workplace—where team members work on-site or off based on wide ranging organizational guidelines—was still just being tested by forward thinking companies when the global pandemic made it a necessity. Now, organizations and employees around the world are realizing the benefits of hybrid work, such as employee wellness and increased productivity. But what happens to activities that required employees to be on-site, such as synchronous employee training? 

The views of hybrid work advocates have been validated by various studies, such as Owl Labs’ State of Remote Work 2021 report, which found that remote and hybrid employees stayed in their jobs longer and were 22% happier than workers in an on-site office environment. Another study from Ergotron sampled 1,000 previously full-time workers who had become more acclimated to hybrid and remote office environments since the onset of Covid-19. The study found that 88% of employees agreed that the flexibility to work from home or the office had increased their job satisfaction, with 56% of employees citing mental health improvements, better work-life balance and more physical activity. 

A hybrid workplace is an increasingly valuable tool for businesses, and its success will require a lot more than the right tech. Training for hybrid teams needs to take an approach that inspires remote team members to show they are fully engaged with their cameras and mics on, by choice. That’s why HR and management teams need to adopt new learning strategies, putting the right tactics in play so that all employees—whether on-site, remote, or both—can have high-quality learning experiences, and equal opportunities for career development. Read on for five top tips for training today’s hybrid workforce. 

5 ways to effectively train a hybrid workforce 

1. Reduce or eliminate on-site training events

Yes, this is a controversial statement. However, consider that one of the key benefits of the hybrid workforce is the ability to draw talent from a global pool. As workforces become increasingly more dispersed geographically, producing on-site training events becomes more burdensome than ever. Organizations need to cater fairly to those who are unable to be on-site. To avoid proximity bias and promote inclusivity, it’s advisable to go all-in by transitioning most or all of your training to online and hybrid learning platforms. Doing so means staying true to the promise of a flexible workplace where people can choose to work and learn from anywhere.

2. Incorporate empathy training

Remote and hybrid work environments have enhanced the need for emotionally intelligent employees that show empathy toward one another. Developing empathy helps to improve interactions across the entire organization, and is especially important in a hybrid workplace model where on-site interactions are becoming less frequent. Having a greater understanding of people goes a long way in harmonizing the team, and increasing productivity and effectiveness.

Our ExperienceBUILDERTM simulations foster emotional intelligence and encourage empathy by guiding individuals into meaningful conversations to work through complex situations, uncovering biases and judgment, and improving inclusion efforts for a diverse workforce. In an ExperienceBUILDER simulation, teams collaborate to find solutions that balance business needs with other priorities. Working as a team encourages all learners to talk through the various challenges and associated responses, allowing them to explore and appreciate different perspectives and beliefs. 

3. Create immersive learning opportunities 

Using realistic, scenario-based learning allows for enhanced learner engagement, regardless of a learner’s physical location. The need to deliver scenario simulations to a hybrid workforce was one inspiration for ExperienceBUILDER, which delivers highly immersive and engaging synchronous learning experiences to teams of learners, regardless of location. Each immersive learning experience is carefully crafted to maximize participant engagement and drive knowledge retention and skills acquisition. These real-life simulations induce thoughtful conversations, leading learners to share personal experiences and unique points of view, uncover best practices, explore potential pitfalls, and build their skills both as individuals and as part of a team.

4. Keep employees engaged 

It’s no secret that engaged employees are more motivated and productive; they also remain committed to their employers for longer. A hybrid work environment demands new ways to keep people connected and to prevent the risks of proximity bias and polarization. 

One of the tried-and-tested ways to increase employee engagement is to invest in employee development. As we have discussed, the means of doing so has changed in the world of the hybrid workforce. ExperienceBUILDER, delivers immersive and engaging collaborative learning activities that get hybrid and remote teams of learners talking and connecting just as effectively as they would in a traditional classroom. Keeping them engaged in their individual development and with others on their team fosters a culture of commitment. 

5. Harness new tools and technology  

New platforms and innovative ideas for enabling remote collaboration have exploded onto the scene in the last two years. ExperienceBUILDER, is a digital design platform that delivers immersive learning simulations custom-designed for your organization’s needs. Small teams of learners around the world are given the opportunity to explore ways to solve your company’s most pressing challenges regardless of location, device, or language. 

In an ExperienceBUILDER simulation, learners are presented with complex problems based on real-world situations, along with a range of solutions with no clear right or wrong answers. Learners work in teams to make difficult decisions that require them to consider important concepts, determine critical variables, and anticipate the potential impacts on a combination of business metrics. To move forward, learners must engage in deep discussions and vigorous debate to tease out best practices and common mistakes to identify the best possible solution for that specific situation. This collaborative and engaging approach allows for a richer and more relevant learning experience for a hybrid audience. 

Are you faced with the challenge to develop high-quality, effective training for a hybrid workforce? Contact us to see first-hand how our ExperienceBUILDER platform is changing the game.

Making decisions that go beyond the black and white

From the smallest family businesses to the largest blue-chip companies, all organizations live or die based on the effectiveness and quality of daily decisions. Because decision-making and problem-solving processes are not always straightforward, it’s critical to develop employees’ capacity to maximize the impact of decisions that don’t have a single right answer. 

Employees at all levels are regularly called upon to make decisions and solve problems. This process involves identifying issues and/or evaluating situations, considering alternatives, making choices, and following up with the necessary actions. 

There’s greatness in the gray 

Sometimes, there is an obvious choice that will result in a favorable outcome; other times, when there are multiple options with a range of pros and cons, the process requires more information-gathering and mental reflection. Learning to evaluate and select from these different alternatives is a vital business skill that demands high levels of emotional intelligence. Selecting the best answers often requires meaningful dialog that incorporates feelings, ideas, and different perspectives. Successfully navigating these conversations demands empathy.

making decisions

Self-discovery opens the door to see beyond bias

Our personal experiences, the people in our lives, cultural conditioning, and the media we consume are all factors (along with many others) that affect our biases. The problem with bias is that it can negatively impact our ability to empathize. 

Effective leaders tend to be good listeners and readers of people—put another way, they are emotionally intelligent. They have empathy and the ability to hear what people actually mean, forming patterns and connections that others do not. As they process information, they draw on diverse perspectives and their own self-awareness to understand and address their own biases.

But acknowledging biases doesn’t happen without effort. Biases are often deeply rooted, which means that a process of self-discovery must take place in order to help learners overcome them. Teaching empathy in the workplace starts by encouraging robust dialog in a team environment that helps learners to see past their existing beliefs. 

Training simulations can create safe, collaborative environments that enable learners to become aware of possible biases and see situations from multiple points of view. Exploring a wide range of “gray” possibilities within a group environment encourages learners to debate, self-edit, and come up with the best possible outcome. Sometimes that outcome can have both positive and negative consequences—just as our business decisions in the real world can have wide-ranging ripple effects across the organization and its external customers.

Empowering your employees to embrace the gray

Every company has a clear need to develop their employees’ ability to make good decisions. Issues such as managing teams, balancing business goals with values, and dealing with interpersonal dilemmas rarely come with clear-cut, one-size-fits-all solutions. Traditionally, most big companies would seek to develop these skills in an in-person classroom setting. Today’s business world of remote and hybrid work arrangements has led many businesses to explore alternative delivery methods. 

Blueline’s ExperienceBUILDERTM digital learning design platform delivers training simulations in a team-driven format, without learners having to physically be in the same room to collaborate on the problems presented. But the design platform is just one piece; much of the magic is created by Blueline’s team of front-end alignment consultants, simulation designers, and digital producers.

The simulations produced in ExperienceBUILDER foster emotional intelligence and improve decision-making capabilities by presenting learners with realistic, challenging dilemmas that don’t have a single right answer. Potential solutions weave together a combination of good and bad practices. This format forces learners to engage with one another, dig into the content, chew on it, share experiences, and tease out best practices and common mistakes. Such encounters are where learning really happens and behavior change begins. 

Each simulation is scored on select meters that represent real-world metrics. For example, the metrics for a given scenario might be profitability, employee engagement, and productivity. 

Team-based decisions may have a positive impact on some meters and a negative impact on others—with very real consequences. It’s a rich instructional design approach that maximizes retention and application precisely because learners are engaging with one another other about how best to resolve these complex problems.

Organizations are a product of their people’s decisions

That’s why it’s vital to help your employees develop emotional intelligence and empower them to make better decisions when there aren’t clear “right” or “wrong” answers. Reach out to Blueline to learn more about how we can help you achieve better outcomes by developing your team’s decision-making practices. 

Three Types of Learning Simulations

Well-designed simulations offer an engaging way for learners to grasp new concepts, build skills, and transform behavior. Learning simulations utilize a safe environment modeled after the real world to enable learners to experience and evaluate the outcomes of their actions and decisions without risking business consequences. There are various types of simulations, each suited to different learning objectives. The most common fall into three categories: spreadsheet, branching, and scenario simulations.

Spreadsheet Simulations

Spreadsheet simulations are commonly used to teach business acumen and are particularly effective in making complex financial concepts tangible—cash flow, profit and loss, inventory, etc. Modern day “spreadsheet” sims have replaced spreadsheet-based gameboards with complex algorithms delivered via web-based applications. This new generation of spreadsheet simulations creates a safe space for learners to practice applying new strategies and tactics by modeling complex marketplaces that change in real-time based on the participant’s choices.  

For example, a spreadsheet simulation can be a powerful way to model a new product launch. Teams of learners are asked to allocate finite resources to R&D, marketing, human resources, and manufacturing while overcoming very real challenges, such as supply shortages, new entrants into the marketplace, catastrophic events, employee turnover, etc.

These simulations give learners the opportunity to fail forward by experimenting without experiencing real consequences. But don’t be fooled—the best of this class of simulations utilize competitive environments to create real tension between learners, which allows facilitators to identify learner tendencies toward unfavorable behaviors and to provide high-value coaching in the moment.

Branching Simulations

Branching simulations invite learners to explore and experience different decision paths, and in return, see how their decisions affect the outcome. Typically, learners are faced with a series of choices based on the concepts being applied. Like the choose-your-own-adventure books that many of us experienced as children, these simulations give learners the opportunity to discover the implications of their cumulative choices. Once learners have made their best choices and reached the end of the simulation, they have the opportunity to backtrack and see outcomes produced by alternative approaches—all in a safe environment.

Early generations of these simulations were based on hard-coded nodes, or choices, which made them very expensive and time-consuming to create. As a result, many learners experienced simulations with very limited numbers of decisions or faux branching techniques to create the illusion of a learner-controlled environment. Modern-day branching simulations utilize gaming engines to distribute nodes based on complex algorithms. Military-grade versions of these types of simulations deploy thousands of nodes to create highly realistic environments.

Branching simulations are an extremely popular alternative to traditional role-play and are regularly applied to a broad range of interpersonal skills challenges (e.g., leadership, coaching, customer service, sales, etc.). They offer the advantage of a predictable environment, which enables these sims to offer highly accurate and detailed feedback.

Scenario Simulations

Scenario simulations are the most versatile of these three common types of simulations. They can be used to explore a simple dilemma (how should a manager delegate work in a given project?) or a complex challenge (working through a complete Harvard Business School case study). Scenario simulations can be deployed to individuals or teams in synchronous and asynchronous environments; teams can collaborate virtually or be co-located. Scenario simulations have proven effective for developing a wide range of interpersonal and technical skills (e.g., emotional intelligence, leadership, sales, data-driven decision-making, alpha allocation, etc.).

The need to deliver scenario simulations to a hybrid workforce was the initial inspiration for Blueline’s ExperienceBUILDER™ digital learning design platform, which delivers highly immersive and engaging synchronous learning experiences to teams of learners regardless of their physical location. ExperienceBUILDER delivers simulations that induce thoughtful conversations, which in turn lead learners to share personal experiences, identify best practices, and uncover common failure points. Learners have the opportunity to build skills as individuals and as part of a team.

What type of simulation is the most effective?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. Choosing the right category of simulation depends heavily on the type of content and desired learning outcomes. Designing effective learning simulations requires a thorough understanding of the targeted business outcomes and supporting need for behavior change. Our ExperienceBUILDER digital learning design platform gives us the ability to combine elements from all three categories of simulation and makes it possible for us to deploy engaging and immersive training to a hybrid audience.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you take a radically different approach to changing behavior that supports your critical business transformation.

What is a learning simulation?

Learning simulations are a valuable tool for organizations looking to develop their teams. Simulations allow learners to advance their skills in a controlled environment with the use of fictitious scenarios. Using simulations increases the engagement of learners, and also promotes critical thinking and problem-solving capabilities. Simulations can be used in various types of industries, across all departments, in order to provide people with the opportunity to learn and practice a wide variety of skills. 

What is a simulation?

Simulations place learners in lifelike scenarios that often lack clear-cut answers and enable the opportunity to experience the outcomes of choices without invoking real-world consequences. Flight simulations are a classic example, in which pilots can react to various weather, takeoff, and landing challenges. They can discover the consequences of a broad range of actions without literally crashing a plane. The simulation is programmed to react to pilots’ mistakes, allowing them to learn the appropriate and safest solutions to challenges that they are faced with in flight. When they’re later flying real planes, they’re better equipped to make split-second decisions and arrive safely at their destinations. Flight simulations give pilots the opportunity to gain confidence, experience, and knowledge without the cost or possible negative consequences of a real flight. 

Simulations are also commonly known for being used in medical practice, as well as armed forces and police departments. However, they can be applied more broadly than these high-profile examples. The same techniques used to simulate a medical emergency or hostage crisis can also be adapted to interpersonal conflict, leadership skills, and just about any other situation that involves critical thinking and decision making. Sometimes referred to as experiential learning, simulations can take many forms, such as role-play, games, and team-based experiences. A simulation can be equally effective in an in-person learning environment or remote. 

When can a simulation be used?

Organizations have been using simulations as a part of their training programs for decades. They can be a great opportunity for team-based learning across every department. Learning organizations find simulations to be very fitting for developing interpersonal and customer-focused skills. They’re often applied to leadership development, management, sales and marketing, and customer service. While a simulation can be used to teach a consistent process, they’re commonly used for situations with a lot of gray area, lacking clear-cut answers. Simulations can also be very powerful when a decision may have both positive and negative consequences, and they can show the ways that one choice with multiple facets has a wide-ranging impact.

For example, in a customer-focused training simulation, learners can see how their body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions affect their outcomes in customer interactions. What happens when you greet a customer with a friendly smile and welcoming tone of voice, as opposed to folded arms and a negative tone of voice? Rather than telling people to smile and be welcoming, the simulation gives them the opportunity to explore the possibilities and come to the desired conclusion without any real-world consequences of alienated customers. While this example seems like a black-and-white decision, the power of the simulation is that the learners must deal with the consequences of their choices. Can they rescue the customer interaction after a rude greeting? Might there be situations where an over-the-top greeting is actually off-putting to the customer? Simulations enable explorations of many possibilities.

Why use a simulation?

Simulations are used for a variety of purposes and have many benefits. They promote the use of critical thinking and problem-solving skills, both independently and as a team. Simulations force learners to think deeper, have thoughtful conversations, and be open to listening to others’ ideas and points of view because there are often no clear answers. In many cases, learners will be faced with issues that directly concern themselves, but also involve those around them and the organization as a whole. Learners need to be able to think for themselves, but also to be open to working through issues that arise with the help of others. 

Simulations have become a popular learning tool for organizations due to the fact that they allow people to learn from experience without the risk of wasted resources or lost customers. Working through complicated scenarios reduces the need to spend time in real-life situations figuring it out on the spot and learning from (costly) mistakes. These learning experiences can be done in a controlled environment, custom-designed specifically for the organization, desired outcomes, and learning department. 

Our ExperienceBUILDER™ simulation learning platform enables an equally effective experience whether teams are co-located, remote, or both. ExperienceBUILDER sims are custom-built or tailored to suit the needs of the organization, and the platform itself meets the needs of a hybrid workforce by facilitating team collaboration from anywhere. Learners work together on teams to impact such metrics as resolving conflict, allocating resources, increasing engagement, and developing their staff. Multiple teams can go head-to-head, seeing their performance against one another on a live leaderboard.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss how simulations could benefit your organization and the way in which your learners develop their skills. Our custom-designed learning programs have been producing notable business results from some of the leading worldwide organizations for over a decade. Contact us today to schedule a meeting. 

eSimulations: Are You Up to the Challenge?

In my last blog, I outlined the merits of eSimulations and explored some compelling reasons why recent advances have made them more effective than live role-play. In short, today’s eSimulations:

  • Can now contain hundreds (and in some cases thousands) of video-based nodes, meaning they can accurately reflect small changes in tone and language.
  • Deliver a consistent experience for every user, eliminate the variability inherent in a live human role-player and can be scored in such a way that they eliminate rater (coach) bias.
  • Provide significantly more practice opportunities than classroom-based live-role play.

So yes, it’s a great time to consider (or reconsider) bringing eSimulations into your training and development curriculum. Blueline Simulations would be proud to partner with you to find the perfect fit for your organization.

Look before you leap

What if this all sounds good, but your organization isn’t quite ready to make the leap all the way into “intelligent” eSimulations? That’s where Management Challenge™ comes in.

Management Challenge™ offers many of the same benefits in a hybrid solution that utilizes technology to enhance the live role-player experience. It delivers a role-play with the consistency of experience of a well-designed eSimulation that’s responsive to managers in the age of social media and engagement… yet doesn’t sacrifice the individualized feedback and coaching of a live classroom.mgmt-challenge-questions

Working in table teams, learners are quickly drawn into a computer-based simulation in which they must run a fictional organization for three consecutive quarters. They compete to deliver the highest return on human resources by identifying, motivating, coaching and developing talent.

Along the way, they face realistic challenges such as:

  • How do I allocate my resources most effectively across multiple projects?
  • How do I increase employee engagement?
  • How do I handle conflict among coworkers?
  • How do I develop my people – both through assignments and through coaching?

Management Challenge™ delivers a vivid learning experience that parallels the real experiences faced by every manager you know.

I invite you to contact us to learn about any of our custom classroom simulations, Blueline Blueprint™ learning visuals or other innovative delivery methods that have been generating notable business results in leading organizations worldwide for more than 13 years.