There's been a lot said about hybrid working, but much less about hybrid learning. Hybrid working is about making the best use of the times and spaces available to achieve the work outcomes needed. Hybrid learning is about making the best use of times, spaces, and opportunities to grow skills and capabilities. They are two sides of the same coin. Hybrid working needs hybrid learning to succeed.
Done well, hybrid learning can be inclusive. It can make learning more accessible, more productive and impactful, more engaging, and help build connections beyond those otherwise possible. This is a new way of working for all of us, so what do we really need to consider about hybrid learning in order to unlock its potential?
In line with new routines, rituals and ways of working for teams
Hybrid teams are having to develop and introduce new rituals, new ways of working and new routines - for meetings, how they collaborate, how they socialise, how they celebrate, how they remain creative and bring those ideas to the fore.
Hybrid learning needs to respond to and boost those new ways of working. It needs to be even more agile and evolve as they do. We need to be in touch with how the teams are working, ensuring that the learning fits in the flow of the work, and supports the application of learning in real-time.
Maximising learner readiness
Boosting learner readiness is even more important in a hybrid context than it would be generally. Learners need to be ready, willing, and able to learn in any context, but hybrid does bring some particular challenges. Research shows that more than 40% of people are suffering from digital fatigue, the impact of isolation is significant, and the need for belonging is growing.
In a hybrid setting, we need to pay more attention and be more nuanced about what we do around learner readiness. In particular, we need to pay attention to having a safe space to learn. Learners work best when they feel safe and have the support of others. Connections need to be enabled and built in a meaningful way so that learners can learn best in a team or a socially supportive environment. Digital fatigue can be minimised by thinking beyond digital-only and creatively blending and mixing learning together in service of learner readiness.
Hybrid learning by design, based on evidence
Hybrid learning is not bolting together face-to-face learning and digital learning. Hybrid learning is hybrid by design. It is outcome-focused, deliberately making use of the times, spaces, methods, and opportunities available – all in service of the best outcomes. Technology supports human centred design. Digital-first, but not digital-only.
It needs to be evidence-based, making the most of the information available about what works, what is a great experience, what is efficient, and what is scalable. This insight will ensure that learning is exciting and engaging, relevant and can be embedded – having the impact we need.
Career development could be a hidden gem
Learning can often be quite tactical and in the moment, focused on what we need to learn right now, but in the world of hybrid learning, career development could be a hidden gem. Hybrid itself can be a risk for careers, with research suggesting that some people are being side-lined, or believe they are because they are taking a more hybrid approach rather than returning to the office.
Hybrid learning can also open up opportunities, increasing access and extending people's networks beyond what they could have imagined before. By paying attention to career development and the longer developmental journey, not just the short-term imperatives, you can unlock the engagement and commitment of the people within your organisation. Career development, and being able to use your skills, are at the heart of engagement. For most, they are the number one driver of engagement.
Role models for hybrid learning
Leaders, L&D and the people function are key to bringing about a cultural shift in an organisation. But, it's not what they say, it's what they do. This means you need to pay as much attention as possible to equipping role models in your organisation, enabling leaders who actually embrace hybrid learning as opposed to saying that they do.
Teams need to be ready and equipped with the skills, capabilities, knowledge and the confidence to work in this way. Leaders need to be encouraged to have the right conversations throughout the wider organisation to lead the way, but as role models, not just as espousers of this new way of working.
Hybrid working looks set to stay in some form or another, it’s still developing and evolving, and hybrid learning seems to be the key to enabling teams to work together in this new way, but also how to get learning into the flow of work when ways of working are shifting so fundamentally.
Hybrid learning in its own right also makes sense. Making informed choices about the best use of time, skills and opportunities, making learning as engaging and relevant as possible, making good investment choices based on evidence, and making the most of the technologies that are now available.
Now is a great time to be in learning and development, but only if we can embrace hybrid learning, address the risks, and work together as a profession to take the next step.