Leadership

New Leadership Standards for the Future of Work

Introducing new leadership standards and employee behaviors to support the future of work

The pandemic has led to unprecedented changes in the world of work. The skills required for many jobs are changing, and people are rethinking how, where, and why they work. These changes necessitate the introduction of new leadership standards and employee behaviors to support organizational sustainability in a post-covid future. 

In this blog post, we look at some of the challenges today’s leaders face, and how we’ve supported our clients’ needs with team-based learning solutions that help power the future of work. 

Enhancing hybrid working dynamics

One of the biggest demands on leaders is to manage the way remote working has transformed the ways teams innovate, communicate, collaborate, and build relationships. With workers split across virtual and physical spaces, not to mention time zones, leaders need to come up with new ways to build inclusive and connected teams.

One of our clients, a Fortune 150 pharmaceutical company, looked to Blueline for help navigating the new hybrid working environment and defining the future of work. The client needed to prepare leaders to address common challenges, lead hybrid teams effectively, and avoid proximity bias.

Based on insights uncovered through interviews with key stakeholders, we used Blueline’s ExperienceBUILDERTM digital design and delivery platform to produce two robust simulations made up of a total of twelve of the most likely dilemmas that leaders would face, including:

  • Leading teams in the hybrid workplace
  • Ensuring equality of opportunities and information
  • Preventing proximity bias
  • Giving feedback
  • Monitoring performance across physical locations 
  • Concerns from individuals about remote and hybrid work
  • Monitoring team health and members’ wellbeing

By exploring best practices and collaboratively coming up with solutions to these problems in a real-world context, leaders were able to learn to be productive and efficient leading in the new hybrid environment by ensuring fairness and equality in work, development, and career opportunities. The participant response to the immersive and collaborative learning experience was overwhelmingly positive, and the client continues to use the simulations we developed to help leaders prepare for and embrace this new way of working. 

Strengthening company culture 

Culture is critically important to company success; those with more effective and defined cultures realize multiple benefits, such as employee satisfaction, retention, and even revenue growth. But as the workforce became more geographically dispersed, many leaders became concerned about creating and maintaining a company culture across physical distances. Today’s leaders need to continue to foster and nurture company culture, but they need to do so while people are working in multiple places. 

We helped one of the world’s best-known consumer brands transform its culture by ensuring employees at all levels understood and could apply new expectations of leadership standards and employee behaviors. The company had communicated and reinforced the core behaviors and leadership standards the year before, so people knew about the new vision, mission, and behaviors. However, they often struggled to connect these concepts to their daily work. 

Blueline’s goal was to put the company’s vision, mission, values, and behaviors in the context of each individual’s job role, and to help leaders demonstrate the new leadership standards. 

To achieve these objectives, we created two workshops that leveraged a combination of our BlueprintTM learning visuals and our ExperienceBUILDER simulations. The first workshop (for all employees) focused on exploring the company’s vision, values, and behaviors by using a learning visual as a launch pad that invited employees to go on a metaphorical journey. The second workshop was designed specifically for leaders, who needed to be equipped to lead by the key principles and reinforce desired behaviors. The workshop consisted of two parts: a learning visual that invited leaders to explore the new leadership standards, followed by an ExperienceBUILDER simulation in which participants explored ways to apply what they had just learned to the specific challenges they would likely face in the transforming organization.

The program successfully helped to reinforce the company’s culture in a practical way. Leaders assess themselves on their proficiency with the new knowledge and skills before and after the training. Their scores jumped from 51% pre-training to 99% post-training with 91% of leaders stating that they would recommend the program to their peers. 

Key to the success of culture transformation initiatives is the ability to deliver them effectively in a hybrid work environment. Blueline’s team-based, immersive learning experiences are equipped to do just that. In fact, 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 physical location. 

The need for softer skills 

Specialized interpersonal skills will be in high demand in the new hybrid workplace, where on-site interactions are becoming less frequent. The pandemic also highlighted the importance of employees’ mental wellbeing, and training for empathy has taken on a new level of meaning and priority. Empathy training has been proven to drive significant business results through a positive impact on employee motivation, innovation, and retention. Leaders in a post-pandemic working world must be able to empathize with their colleagues to be successful.

Our clients have seen significant improvements in empathy development using our immersive, discovery-based approach. Our ExperienceBUILDER simulations help guide individuals into meaningful conversations, resolve complex interpersonal issues, uncover biases and prejudice, and improve inclusion efforts, all of which are essential to ensuring empathy stays at the forefront in the future of work.

Seize the opportunity to define the future of work

By changing their mindsets, listening to their people, and using different tools and technologies, leaders can create a brighter and more positive future of work in the world of hybrid teams. Contact the Blueline Simulations team to learn more about how we can help. 

Key success factors for workforce transformation 

Increasing labor market volatility, changing employee and customer expectations, rising wage costs and inflation, and other modern challenges sparked by the pandemic are driving organizations across the world to adapt with workforce transformation. Business leaders of today are focusing on and accelerating business value through new products and services, innovation, automation, talent acquisition, and upskilling. 

This workforce transformation is inevitable (and indeed necessary). So, how do organizations gain their people’s buy-in to change initiatives? And how do business leaders ensure that their teams are prepared for transformative success? 

Trends in transformation 

Vaco’s Trends in Transformation survey asked 160 North American business leaders about their top transformation goals for 2022. In order of importance, their priorities were: 

  1. Pursuing digital and technology advances
  2. Increasing shared services and outsourcing for cost-reduction
  3. Implementing automation and process improvements to financial reporting
  4. Ensuring a more engaged leadership to fuel success
  5. Investing in talent

No matter your organization’s workforce transformation aims, successful and sustainable transformation is dependent on your employees’ alignment and engagement with any change initiatives. 

In this article, we look at some key success factors to prepare employees for workforce transformation and new ways of working. 

Set your leaders and managers up for success

The Trends in Transformation survey identified engaged leadership as a critical factor in successful transformation in 2022, with almost half (46%) of respondents naming engaged leadership as the most important focus area. 

New models of work bring new challenges to leaders and managers, including how to build, manage, and engage employees in a distributed workforce, while preventing issues such as proximity bias. Managers need to be equipped with technology, training, tools, and resources to help them manage change effectively. The following three tips are particularly helpful in any transformation initiative:

1. Remain flexible in creating new models of work

The challenge of finding new ways of working can become a catalyst for meaningful business advancement. That’s why workplace transformation is never fully complete. When determining new working models, business leaders need to remain flexible and open to further opportunities for positive change. 

2. Consider all levels of the organization 

When identifying critical issues during workplace transformation, it’s vital to become attuned to the challenges faced at every level of the organization. In many companies, lower tiers of workers experience pain points most acutely, so it’s important to adopt a bottom-up approach when implementing new processes and systems.

3. Create a culture of choice 

The past two years have compelled employers to redefine the employee experience and build a workplace that values and considers employees’ needs. A company’s productivity depends on its employees, and today’s organizations are realizing the need to focus on employee flexibility, wellbeing, and human connection. An effective workspace transformation is ultimately about crafting a model that fits both the needs of the organization and the needs of its employees.

A poll conducted in 2022 by Momentive and Zoom found that most employees value choice in the workplace. For example, 69% of workers say it’s important for them to be able to choose whether they work on-site, remotely, or a hybrid model—this number jumps to 85% among workers who are currently doing all or some of their job from home. To create a culture of choice, organizations need to adopt agile working policies and provide flexibility and equal opportunities for their employees. 

Other features of an employee-centric corporate culture of choice include allowing employees to make suggestions freely, and encouraging them to express themselves through open communication.

Actively discover and address ongoing needs 

As the Great Resignation accelerates, it’s critical for leaders to proactively reach out to all employees more frequently, provide empathy and support, and address internal and external challenges as the organization navigates workforce transformation. 

The needs of employees as they adapt to the modern workplace will be unique to each business. Organizations need to discover and address the professional and personal needs of their employees during a time of transformation. This involves a structured process of listening to employees, gathering their feedback, then using these thoughts, ideas, and contributions to provide programs or offerings to help them meet these challenges. 

Blueline’s Voice of the Business process helps to get people’s buy-in to and alignment with change initiatives across the organization. By unlocking and harnessing insights from inside your business, you’ll be better equipped to secure the commitment of your employees to workplace transformation strategies. We begin every custom learning engagement by ensuring we’re tapping into the most current and pressing needs of your learners. Contact us to learn more about the ways we’re supporting business transformation needs.

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.

What is team-based learning?

Greater workforce efficiency and productivity, higher employee morale, improved employee retention, and increased innovation are just a few of the many benefits of good teamwork in the workplace. This is no secret to business leaders and managers, but what may be new to some is the value of team-based learning in the corporate world. 

Team-based learning (TBL) is a collaborative learning and teaching strategy that was first popularized in the 1970s by Larry Michaelsen, a Professor Emeritus of Management at the University of Oklahoma. Similar to problem-based and case-based learning, TBL presents teams with complex problems rooted in real-world situations.

Team-based learning was initially developed as an educational strategy for academic settings. By engaging students with the kinds of scenarios they will encounter in the working world, TBL is intended to enhance critical thinking and active learning. It has been incorporated into Masters in Business Administration (MBA) curricula for the last decade, and MBA programs using a team-based approach have unlocked enormous potential by allowing diverse students to collaborate and learn about different viewpoints and working styles.

While the team-based learning approach has seen wide adoption in the educational sphere, more and more businesses are realizing the value of TBL for a wide range of corporate learning objectives. As the global pandemic forced employees out of the office and into virtual environments, the need for new forms of collaboration and organization has highlighted the importance of ongoing team-based development opportunities. 

Team-based discovery learning is here to stay (yes, even for the hybrid workforce), and it’s time for the corporate world to catch up. 

Key characteristics of team-based learning

The team-based learning approach in business satisfies three important criteria that promote optimal learning:

  1. Learners are immersed in a practical, ongoing activity
  2. Learning is multi-directional, with feedback from other learners and the instructor
  3. Learning is functional and based on a real problem

It is through this process of reflection and collaboration that learners are able to engage and become active participants in their own learning. 

New skills require a new approach

The World Economic Forum identified the top 15 skills needed for 2025 in its “The Future of Jobs”report:

  1. Analytical thinking and innovation
  2. Active learning and learning strategies
  3. Complex problem-solving
  4. Critical thinking and analysis
  5. Creativity, originality, and initiative
  6. Leadership and social influence
  7. Technology use, monitoring, and control
  8. Technology design and programming
  9. Resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility
  10. Reasoning, problem-solving, and ideation
  11. Emotional intelligence
  12. Troubleshooting and user experience
  13. Service orientation
  14. Systems analysis and evaluation 
  15. Persuasion and negotiation

By leveraging the strengths and experiences of all team members, team-based learning is well-equipped to develop many of these skills more effectively than traditional instructor driven formats, or individual learning experiences.

Another key advantage of TBL is the benefit of team brainstorming, which increases the number of possible ideas to solve a problem. While an individual may see a problem from a limited number of perspectives, a team is able to increase the quality of deliverables and hone critical skills through divergent thinking. When a learning team is comprised of individuals who work together in a business unit, enhanced team rapport and collaboration capabilities is a natural offshoot of any team-based learning experience.

The challenges of team-based learning

The backbone of the entire team-based learning approach is the creation of effective team exercises. In practice, this can also be its greatest challenge.

Michaelsen et al. (2004) indicate that a well-conceived TBL exercise should:

  • Promote a high level of individual accountability
  • Motivate vigorous discussion
  • Present teams with a set of specific choices that requires the use of course concepts to arrive at a decision
  • Prompt individual thinking, which contributes to intense intra-team discussion
  • Encourage individual accountability
  • Promote closer physical proximity during the team discussion
  • Promote a high level of interaction and discussion within the team

To achieve these objectives, team-based learning activities need to present a careful choice of problems and scenarios to help reveal common misconceptions and promote lively interaction and debate among team members.

The other challenge is one of proximity. A team must be able to interact freely in a safe space where all team members are engaged and attentive. The best way to create such a space has been on many learning leaders’ minds over the past two years, but in truth global teams have been figuring out how to best work together long before the onset of the pandemic. The rise of stable tech platforms that enable remote collaboration is one significant factor. Today’s conversation has less to do with the tech itself and more to do with ways to engage geographically dispersed team members.

Effective team-driven exercises for the hybrid workforce

Effective team-driven discovery learning requires a thorough understanding of the requirements and desired outcomes. Blueline’s ExperienceBUILDERTM platform delivers immersive learning experiences that are custom-designed to address a specific organization’s needs. The end result: a richer and more relevant learning experience in a team environment. 

Our ExperienceBUILDER digital design platform takes the team-based learning methodology to the next level by presenting learners with complex challenges based on real-world dilemmas. Learners work in teams to consider important concepts, determine critical variables, and anticipate potential impact on a combination of business metrics to make a collective decision. These simulations offer multiple paths and no clear-cut right or wrong answers, which means that learners must engage in deep discussions and vigorous debate to move forward. 

By immersing and engaging hybrid and remote teams of learners in team-based learning experiences, ExperienceBUILDER is transforming the way that businesses build new knowledge and skills.

Would you like to learn more about how team-driven discovery learning can support your business objectives for the hybrid workforce? Contact us to schedule a consultation. 

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.