How To Re-design L&D strategy For The Hybrid Workplace

Covid-19 has radically altered the landscape of work and education, blurring the lines between our digital and physical realities. At the height of the pandemic, companies and institutions quickly adapted to the lockdowns by shutting down physical office spaces and taking refuge in the digital realm––boardrooms and classrooms alike were shifted entirely online, and work from home became the “new normal.”

A year and a half later, as we slowly emerge from the pandemic and move back into our “real” workplaces, organizations are embracing, rather than discarding, our new, remote modes of working. A recent survey by PwC found that most employees and executives preferred to move into the future with a hybrid model of work, where they can rotate between working from home and the office because of the flexibility that such a work arrangement can offer. Many smaller companies have also been operating out of public workspaces, where team members gather at a shared public workspace to brainstorm and have meetings while carrying out other parts of their work remotely.

Yes, the future of workplaces is hybrid, a combination of the digital and physical realms, and new tech developments like the Metaverse only seem to be solidifying this notion. This new wave of change in the way we work demands a reimagining and re-designing of learning and development strategies to help workers and companies alike adapt to their hybrid workplaces and remain competitive as well as valuable parts of the workforce.

What is Learning and Development?

Learning and development, or L&D as it is commonly known, encompasses all the activities a company undertakes for the professional development of its employees. At its core, L&D is all about creating an atmosphere of learning and exchanging ideas between workers that will promote an environment that is conducive not only to the company’s growth but also to its employees’ personal and professional development.

L&D is considered one of the core traditional responsibilities of a company’s human resources department. L&D strategies typically include training and development programs, skill acquisition programs, workshops, online courses or MOOCs (massive open online courses), and other activities. They can be held both online and offline. Back in the day, most such activities were held offline in a classroom setting or in the form of on-the-field training. However, a lot has changed in the last five or ten years, with online learning becoming more and more prevalent and with the pandemic’s effect on work cultures.

A company’s L&D strategy is typically designed by its HR team, headed by the HR manager, and the strategies vary widely from company to company. In larger companies, the L&D strategy is headed by HR directors and/or Chief Learning Officers (CLOs), whereas, in smaller companies, such undertakings are usually in the hands of the operations manager (OM). The exact strategies are custom designed by the HR leader or team, tailored to the needs of the company and its team, and can depend on the company’s size as well.

Why is Learning and Development Important?

L&D is vital to a company’s growth. Providing employees with the tools and opportunities to improve their skills, acquire new ones, and aid their professional development can give companies, especially the smaller, growing ones, a competitive edge by increasing the level of engagement of their employees. A study by learning platform Axonify showed that 93 percent of workers felt that effective learning and development programs positively affected their level of engagement. Needless to say, highly engaged workers mean better performance, and better performance always leads to better growth for the company.

An active L&D strategy can also play a huge role in talent acquisition and retention. The LinkedIn learning report for 2020 revealed that 94 percent of employees would stay in their current jobs for a longer period of time if training and development programs were provided by their company. A 2021 study by employee training service Lorman revealed that 70 percent of employees were likely to leave their current company for one that had an employee training strategy in place.

The recent phenomenon known as the Great Resignation in the business world that we witnessed in the past year, where workers resigned from their jobs en masse, is also a clear indication that employees are looking for more from their work, whether that’s in the form of job satisfaction, opportunities for growth and development or a sense of passion and purpose.

Hence, incorporating corporate learning into a company’s development strategy is not only good for growth, but it is also a smart way to attract and retain top talents to the company. An effective L&D strategy has, over time, and especially since the pandemic, proven itself to be an indispensable component of any organization.

How To Redesign L&D Strategies for the Hybrid Workplace?

As we move from completely remote work to a hybrid setup post-pandemic, through the help of Zoom or Microsoft Teams training sessions, virtual whiteboards, and remote conferences, talks of reimagining L&D strategies to complement the new hybrid workplace are emerging. Online and hybrid learning was already highly successful in educational institutions, but it has become a significant part of corporate life ever since the lockdowns.

Companies need to look into how they can take the good parts and lessons of the past 18 months and incorporate them with the old, tried, and true ways of doing things. According to a recent study, more than 50 percent of L&D professionals have already repurposed their learning programs since the pandemic.

How can companies continue to provide digital learning and collaboration opportunities while still maintaining physical connections? How can HR managers and L&D strategists leverage remote learning to help the company’s overall growth? How can L&D strategists take advantage of the hybrid work environments to provide world-class development and learning programs to employees?

L&D leaders and strategists have to start thinking about these questions to identify sweet spots and develop strategies that combine the best of both worlds for their organizations.

The hybrid workplace has a few key challenges that call for the L&D professional’s attention when redesigning L&D strategies in the post-pandemic world. These are:

  • Implementing hybrid learning
  • Working with a smaller budget
  • Inclusivity and diversity training

Implementing Hybrid Learning

Hybrid learning initiatives have become an important part of the company’s work culture. Remote training for remote managers, newly on-boarded employees, and senior ones is part of the re-designed strategies for L&D professionals. Such hybrid learning initiatives must also ensure that the programs are beneficial and provide a high-quality experience for both remote employees as well as in-office employees.

The major challenge for L&D strategists when implementing hybrid learning strategies is finding creative ways to keep employees engaged and interested in the remote learning experience. Countless Zoom meetings have understandably left employees tired and with increasingly shorter attention spans. A term was even coined to describe this phenomenon––”Zoom fatigue.”

Thus, virtual-led training programs and blended learning experiences must be equipped with tools and strategies to overcome these challenges. An example of this is gamification: the process of applying gaming concepts and tools to make the learning experience more fun, engaging, and motivational.

Working With a Smaller Budget

One of the crucial post-pandemic challenges to companies’ L&D activities is their overall budget for spending on employee development. Although few companies have benefitted from COVID-19, many more have taken a serious hit to their profit margins. L&D strategies will have to design new strategies that are budget-friendly for the company but at the same time provide employees with the highest quality of learning. Some questions to be asked while coming up with budget-friendly L&D strategies are as follows:

  • How can the existing learning management system (LMS) be utilized more efficiently by augmenting a few new features?
  • How can social or collaborative methods of learning be introduced?
  • How can the company provide a more supportive environment for employees by introducing peer coaching initiatives?
  • Can senior employees help with learning programs by sharing their insights, knowledge, and experiences with junior employees or agreeing to mentor them for a short duration?
  • How can programs be arranged remotely to save costs yet provide quality and value simultaneously?
  • Can the prevalence of remote learning, collaboration, and networking be leveraged to provide previously unavailable high-quality remote training and mentorship programs to employees?

On the other hand, companies that have been able to increase their budgets for L&D programs can think of ways to take advantage of the new hybrid modes of work and training better to serve the company as well as its employees.

Inclusivity and Diversity Training

Another key area, although not directly related to COVID-19 itself, is the issue of diversity and inclusion training. Mass mobilization and virtual activism during the pandemic have shown that social issues are at the feet of corporate life, and educating the workforce on issues like inclusive leadership, diverse practices and thinking, unconscious bias, inclusive hiring, and inclusive interviewing techniques is more important than ever to inculcate and nurture a tolerant and healthy work culture.

In addition, today’s generation of employees have also prioritized various other aspects of their lives such as work-life balance, mental health, and job satisfaction, so new and reimagined L&D strategies will have to look at ways to bring these social elements into their training programs.

Closing Thoughts on Re-designing of Learning and Development Strategies

As we move into the hybrid workplace, L&D professionals need to tackle all of the above challenges in such a way that it fits into the needs and wants of the company and its team of workers. It is clear that employees prefer the flexibility of a hybrid workplace and want to grow and develop at the same time. As we usher in the new post-pandemic decades, this is the new frontier for learning and development strategies. It is vital to keep discussions about this topic alive in L&R departments during this pivotal moment in time. DAN Institute supports these digital learning initiatives by providing world-class courses and resources from the top institutes in the world. Check out our online courses page to see best fitted course for you or your company.