Learning & Development in the Hybrid Work Environment

6 Minutes

At present, Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted at varying speeds in different countries,...

At present, Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted at varying speeds in different countries, and many employers are introducing hybrid and homeworking policies. As such, employers who are implementing their learning and development strategies may be encountering a range of challenges associated with doing so in the hybrid work environment.

Today’s blog is written by our guest contributors, ViewHR. Shelley Poole from ViewHR is experienced in training delivery in a range of commercial environments, and is also a Lecturer for Exeter University and the University of South Wales. Over the past two years, Shelley has had to adapt learning delivery to ever changing Covid restrictions, and shares some helpful tips based on her experiences. Equipment Whether you are delivering a training session wholly online, or on a hybrid basis (i.e. to some people who are online, and others who are physically present), getting the equipment setup right is key. This includes the equipment that the trainer is using, but also that for the delegates who are joining virtually. Delegates are likely to need to listen with minimal external distraction, and also potentially participate through discussion.

If they are in an environment with potential distractions (such as other people working in the same room), a comfortable headset with a microphone is therefore likely to be needed. Many interactive online learning events might include contributing via the chat or writing on a virtual whiteboard, which can be tricky on a mobile phone – a laptop, or at least a tablet, is much more likely to allow them to get involved. For the trainer, it is important that any cameras, microphones, etc. are tested beforehand. This applies in all cases, and it is worth remembering that hybrid delivery can have particular challenges, e.g. if the trainer moves around the room to talk to delegates, will the microphone and camera still pick them up?

Screen time at this stage in the pandemic, most people are familiar with the concept of Zoom fatigue. This can apply to online training as well as meetings, where people are focussed on learning new things as well. As such, it is important to break up screen time, and plan for shorter days – seven hours might not sound too bad to physically attend a training event, but it is a very long time on a video call! For those designing the training delivery, maximising opportunities for interaction is important. This has always been the case, and platforms like Zoom have features such as breakout rooms, chat and whiteboards that can help with this. Whilst this is still screen time, it at least introduces variety and is more likely to keep people alert than a long PowerPoint slide deck.

If you are the line manager of an employee who is attending an online training course, it can also be beneficial to encourage them to put their out-of-office on when they are participating in training, to reduce any pressure they feel to spend their breaks answering emails rather than taking an actual break! Joining Instructions Joining instructions for training courses are nothing new, and can provide delegates with useful information about timings, what to expect, what to bring, etc. When an event is going to be either fully virtual or hybrid, there are some extra considerations to take into account. For example, will the event be recorded? The benefits of recording are obvious – the recording can be distributed to participants to refer back to at any time. But if you want people to participate in discussions, particularly those that involve being open and honest about potentially difficult topics, then not recording may be a better option.

Either way, delegates should be aware of the arrangements in advance. Whilst many of us have been using various video calling platforms throughout the pandemic (and before), for some people this may be a new experience. As such, joining instructions should be very clear about how the call can be accessed. It is also helpful either before or at the start of the training to go through things such as how and when to mute yourself, what to do if you have technical difficulties, etc. Format Delivering training on a fully virtual basis can be very cost effective – no room hire, no refreshments, no travel and accommodation expenses, etc. However, it is not always the most suitable method, depending on factors such as the nature of the topic or the group. If you have training packages that are designed to be delivered entirely in person, it is likely that some form of redesign will be required to make them effective if delivered either virtually or on a hybrid basis.

A particular challenge with hybrid delivery is including people physically in the room and virtual attendees, without any sense of virtual delegates feeling left out. A two-screen setup can help with this, so that the virtual attendees and the chat can be seen easily alongside the slide deck. For large events, a second person to manage the chat and ensure the contributions of virtual delegates are included in discussions can also be beneficial. Overall, the key to successful delivery in a hybrid environment is planning ahead to take account of the needs of the delegates. However, despite the potential challenges, hybrid delivery can have a number of benefits, including being more accessible to those who may have previously been unable to travel to participate in a training course, e.g. due to caring responsibilities.

This blog has been written by ViewHR. The ViewHR team offer HR and employment law Consultancy, as well as training in leadership and management topics.

If you would like to find out more, please contact a member of the ViewHR team today for an initial discussion: hr@viewhr.co.uk | +44(0)1425 205390 | viewhr.co.uk.