Everyone keeps talking about new, hybrid ways of working and learning, but what do they actually mean by these terms? The reality is that most organisations don’t really know – they are still figuring it out and that’s fair enough because the world is in a state of flux and uncertainty. Today’s work environment looks very different to yesterday’s work environment. 

What will tomorrow’s work environment look like? We don’t know for sure and to be honest, even if we did, the reality is that the future of work will keep evolving. Even prior to Covid-19, people often talked about the fact that we live in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world - the events of the last two and a bit years have hammered home just how VUCA it is.

When Covid-19 struck, it upended the traditional work model of 9-5 in the office. Workplaces and working practices changed almost overnight and they are still changing. As we all know, the pandemic precipitated a shift to remote working and even though we have moved on from those early lockdown days, there’s no going back to how things were pre-pandemic. We live in a hybrid world now, where people work and learn in a variety of different ways. According to the recent 5App/ Hemsley Fraser Survey, Learning Development Impact Survey 2022: The Transformation of L&D, 97% of companies with 1000-5000 employees are using a remote or hybrid work model currently.

Not all organisations will continue to offer remote and hybrid working once the pandemic is over, but the majority will, according to a study by the management consultancy McKinsey. Nine out of 10 organisations plan to remain hybrid post-pandemic according to the study titled What executives are saying about the future of work.

In this new environment, we are all trying to establish what hybrid work looks like and what hybrid learning looks like – hybrid was one of the top five challenges cited by the 462 L&D, HR and talent professionals taking part in the 5App/Hemsley Fraser survey. L&D teams know they have to ensure that learning is inclusive in a hybrid set-up and that remote workers have the same access to learning opportunities as those in the office.

The hybrid workforce

What we do know is that workplaces are a lot more fluid, agile and dynamic than ever before, whether that workplace is in the office, the home or a mix of both. When defining your learning strategy going forward, that’s what you need to start with. What is a hybrid workforce and why? Organisations have to understand what a hybrid workforce looks like before they can begin to understand what hybrid learning should look like. Actually, organisations need to go further than that. They need to understand and define what hybrid looks like for their workforce because hybrid means different things to different people and organisations, depending on their circumstances, sector, environment and organisational culture.

Learning in a hybrid world

5App will be talking about all of this and more at the forthcoming Learning Technologies show, taking place on the 4th and 5th of May this year. We are running a session on day two called Challenges of learning in a hybrid world – your questions answered! Andrew Jacobs, L&D innovation lead and founder of Llarn Learning will chair the session. The expert panel is made up of Duncan Barrett, head of product at 5App, Lynsey Whitmarsh, managing director UK at the learning and development provider Hemsley Fraser, and Laura Walker, learning and talent specialist at the technology consultancy company LKWC Ltd.

 With a hybrid workforce, employees are dispersed across different locations and are potentially working at different times as well. Learning has to support this set-up. It’s not a matter of providing learning for workers in the office and then providing a digital format for those working out of the office. Learning has to be designed and delivered for a hybrid workforce as a whole so that it is inclusive, engaging and accessible to everyone. Organisations need to take a holistic approach to hybrid learning.

 Supporting learning journeys

At 5App, we think about learning journeys in terms of building pathways and helping people learn across a range of roles and topics. For example, say an employee wants to learn how to be a coach, what is the learning journey they need to go on to achieve that in a hybrid world? What face-to-face learning interventions would work well? What online learning? What needs to be done synchronously and what can be done asynchronously? What modalities and channels are available to them?

These are not questions that only L&D can answer. The employee also needs to have a say in how their learning is organised. Learning is much more personalised now so employees need to be given options on how they want to learn, what they want to learn and when they want to learn it. It’s about empowering employees to learn, rather than delivering learning to them.

Just in case to just in time to just enough learning

With hybrid learning, employees are enabled to seek out the learning they want and need, when they want and need it. Learning has gone through several phases the past few years: just in case to just in time to just enough. Just in case learning was the traditional course learning of yesterday. Compliance learning was just in case at its very worst, when organisations put everybody through the same training exercises, just in case it was useful in the future. It didn’t matter (apparently) if most of the content was irrelevant or had already been completed by the learner previously – it just had to be done. Some organisations are still stuck in this mode, but most have moved on, to a collective huge sigh of relief from employees.

Just in time learning is demand led learning, when people go looking for learning when they need it. This approach is a vast improvement on just in case learning. But, even better is just enough learning. This is when employees are signposted to their specific learning needs, according to where they are on their learning journey. For example, instead of being directed to a YouTube tutorial on coaching, employees are directed to the section or sections of that YouTube tutorial that they need, rather than the whole video. This is taking personalised learning to new levels.

Delivering transformative change

And that brings us on to the title of this blog: learning journeys that drive change. When learning is really personalised and targeted in this way, so that it helps people on their learning journey in this hybrid world, it can achieve transformative change. The pandemic demonstrated the importance of learning as a lever for change, raising the profile of L&D as a strategic business function. L&D teams need to capitalise on their improved profile and design learning that works in a hybrid world.

As well as the panel session Challenges of learning in a hybrid world – your questions answered!, 5App is also running a series of learning clinics on the first day of the conference. Andrew Jacobs is running the 45 minute, invitation only clinics and expects there to be a heavy emphasis on hybrid. To be considered please get in touch with us at hello@5app and let us know your challenge.