After the COVID-19 pandemic sent tens of millions home to work in early 2020, many for the first time, there is a big debate brewing. Plenty of companies, and some workers, are ready to return to the office. A somewhat smaller number of companies, but perhaps a larger number of workers, however, are convinced their future workplaces should remain at home.
The divide between those for and against remote work has brought to the surface important questions about pay equity and productivity, and about performance and flexibility. One area worth exploring — which is also often overlooked — is how a hybrid model will impact the future of training and development.
There are important challenges and opportunities posed to organizations with remote workforces as it relates to training. Overnight, learning and development (L&D) leaders needed to find ways to shift programs online, and integrate new tools for performance monitoring and improvement so that they could be scaled for a remote team. It’s understandable, then, that some leaders would welcome the idea to return to a traditional office, while others would prefer to continue to develop solutions that allow for remote work.
For some companies, the solution is hybrid, a middle-ground of sorts. Hybrid work can mean both that some employees are in-office and some remote, or that all employees spend some time working in-office and the remainder of their time working from home.
Hybrid work can allow for the flexibility to adapt to the constantly changing dynamics of public and employee health, and also allow for an organization to attract workers on both sides of the remote work debate.
With a few considerations, L&D leaders can manage a hybrid team with ease. Follow these tips to get started:
Look for ways to move content that is normally presented in-person or on-site to an online forum. This way, curriculum and training can be accessed easily by workers in-office as well as in remote settings. If in-person training is offered, consider offering a streaming option for those who are not in the office, or record the sessions so that they can be viewed later. Take care to ensure that the information that is shared to in-office employees mirrors that for those working remotely. Simple tweaks, such as moving training requirement postings or learning opportunities from an in-office poster or note in the elevator to the company’s online message board, or weekly email newsletter, can be of great value.
In a hybrid setting, the very nature of the work environment is fluid. Some employees may come into the office a few days a week, others more or less frequently. L&D leaders must make an effort to be clear about the opportunities available, and the scheduling requirements for them. Give team members extra notice so that they can make adjustments to their schedule accordingly, and work with managers and teams leads on scheduling that will be most successful for their workers.
Seek Out Timely Training Opportunities
In addition to the normal training offerings in your portfolio, leaders will be wise to adopt new offerings that address the skills employees need to successfully work remotely. Courses on topics such as time management, home office layout tips, and even training on the best lighting set-up for video meetings may not be on the agenda in a traditional L&D environment, but a hybrid workforce provides the perfect opportunity to seek out and implement unique training for the world we live (and work) in.
With many teams now interacting with workers they may infrequently see face to face, it’s important to encourage feedback from hybrid workers themselves. It can be more difficult to gather the type of feedback on training programs and the potential for improvement when there is no word traveling around a physical office and no chance to gather insight from managers during casual conversations. Provide ample opportunity for feedback and encourage requests for additional training opportunities. In most cases, workers and managers will tell you what they need.
The unique times we are now in present immense opportunities for the expansion of the traditional understanding of work. Teams are collaborating, solving problems and growing in the midst of challenges which make getting together in person more difficult. Hybrid work can bridge the gap between in-office and remote work and, with the right strategies, L&D leaders can serve their hybrid team through effective programs that contribute to personal and organizational growth.