The critical importance of employee learning and development (L&D) was reinforced during the pandemic, according to LinkedIn Learning’s latest workplace report. And in the new world of work, today’s L&D professionals are combining best practices from in-person and remote learning experiences.

Among the most popular upskilling and engagement programs this year are those which combine live, in-person, virtual and on-demand solutions for a truly hybrid learning approach. In an industry that’s evolving to keep pace with new challenges, the pro tips below are designed to simplify the steps toward hybrid learning.

1. Create skill-specific learning paths. This tactic produced the strongest employee engagement in 2020, as reported by LinkedIn Learning, so make it easy for your own employees to find and follow learning paths that appeal to them. Invent your own paths or take inspiration from the top three accessed by global learners this year: Increase Productivity; Drive Growth and Innovation; and Collaborate Effectively.

To design a skill-specific path around productivity, for example, you might kick off with a live virtual or socially distanced keynote on how to do less and accomplish more. From there, curate a series of hourlong VILT or ILT sessions that focus on topics like behavior change, identifying areas of complexity and removing workflow blocks.  Finally, enrich the experience with guided, on-demand tools and techniques for overcoming distractions and strengthening productivity muscles.

Given that most people forget about 70% of what they’ve learned within 24 hours, it’s vital that learners constantly encounter opportunities to apply or further develop their new skills. If your current program is lacking in this area, add memory boosters to each learning path in the form of offline activities, online videos, emails and chats. Many experts recommend delivering these at a cadence of two days, two weeks and two months after the training experience.

2. Get social. When L&D programs include social features — polls, course shares and virtual groups — learners consume 30 times more content than learners in programs without social aspects, according to LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning report. L&D pros everywhere recognize the power of learning together beyond pure engagement. They’ve seen firsthand that learning is more engaging when people learn together (86%); that teams who learn together are more successful (91%); and that the experience itself imparts a sense of belonging (92%).

In an ideal learning environment, your teams will take courses and discuss what they’ve learned through chat. Encourage more social interactions across the organization by enabling learners to vote in polls, share insights and build on each other’s ideas through comments. If your company is known for its competitive spirit, consider establishing monthly challenges to encourage friendly competition (and public accountability) between teams.

3. Think outside the text box. Since neuroscientific research shows that learners are 28% more likely to retain info that they actively engage with vs. passively read, it’s vital to design your programs for maximum recall. Instead of a long, yawn-inducing PowerPoint deck, encourage active learning with bite-size videos, Q&As, illustrated techniques, short comprehension quizzes and even reflection exercises.

After several decades in the training space, I’ve observed a direct connection between learners who reflect and learners who retain. As you update your own L&D program, consider building in time for reflection. During these exercises, learners can view their colleagues’ input and even share how they see their training connecting to their real-world projects. Those team insights also provide you with a bonus metric: whether or not employees are effectively applying their learning to their daily work.

Engaging learners isn’t easy in any era, but the COVID era has presented a host of new challenges for L&D pros. And while hybrid learning can appear daunting with its many moving parts, it’s also an incredible opportunity to reach learners in all kinds of settings.

Whether you need to upskill or drive growth, hybrid enables learning experiences with greater flexibility and fewer space constraints. And by infusing your L&D program with elements of active and social learning, your people will not only feel more connected to each other and to the org, they’ll invest more time building their own knowledge and skills.

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