THOUGHT LEADERSHIP

Learning to maximize the opportunities of hybrid working

How can learning avoid adding to digital fatigue, perhaps even provide better variety and relevance to stimulate engagement? There’s no doubting that the world of work has changed since March 2020. As we open up again, employees are resolute about the “temporary measures” they want to make permanent. According to ONS data, 85 per cent of employees favour a hybrid approach, with EY finding that almost half would leave their jobs if organizations failed to offer flexibility.

Amidst the so-called “Great Resignation”, organizations will need to consider how to retain staff and continue recruiting. Hybrid working is no longer a benefit, but an expectation. However, this presents new challenges. How to foster collaboration in a virtual environment, for example, or how to ensure positive organizational culture.

There’s a tendency to think of hybrid working with a focus on location (office or home) with perhaps an occasional consideration of timing. But this approach is too binary and fails to capture the real opportunity in front of us. From our point of view, hybrid working is about making the best use of the times and spaces available to achieve the work outcomes needed.

The opportunity (and challenge) of hybrid working is about enhancing productivity, engagement and sustainability. The same is true of learning – it is not just a facilitator, it is the other side of the coin.

Hybrid learning is about making the best use of the time and space available to grow skills and capabilities. It fosters inclusion and accessibility and challenges traditional boundaries.  True hybrid working is driven by real hybrid learning and when organizations effectively capitalise on the opportunities of both – and connect the two – they benefit from an organization that is truly ready for tomorrow.

Hybrid working fundamentally disrupts how to work together, so we need to re-learn to work together productively.

Finding new ways to collaborate

The annual CEO Benchmarking Report 2021 revealed that more than half of CEOs ranked “working well together” as their number one hurdle. When collaboration works well, it is a powerful way to harness individual contributions in service of a shared goal. Done badly, meetings can feel like a waste of time, be all talk and no action, and exclude team members missing out on their valuable insights.

Teams need new rituals and habits to work together in the hybrid context. As a leader, you need to provide the space and encouragement to define and experiment with new rituals for creativity sessions, knowledge sharing, managing workflow, celebrating success, social time, wellbeing, and reviewing performance. You also need to be a role model – what you do, is much more powerful than what you say. How readily you engage with the new ways of collaborating will speak volumes and could make all the difference.

Promoting inclusion

Evidence shows that hybrid working impacts different groups differently, making diversity and inclusion even more important. Hybrid has the potential to be more inclusive, but only if leaders and their teams are. For example, collaboration tools such as Teams and Zoom are ‘clean’ and inclusive unless people behave in non-inclusive ways – by creating private chats that exclude the same people, making it hard for those working remotely to contribute or favouring office-based people for progression.

Leading inclusively in a hybrid world is a chance for leaders to hone critical leadership traits including empathy, courage, curiosity, humanity, cultural intelligence, collaboration and vulnerability. No one knows all the answers, so why not embrace not knowing and take the chance to work even more closely and inclusively with your team?

Employees are eager for development

Creating a spirit of learning across the organization helps to create a more efficient, more agile business, but it’s also a top priority for employees. In a recent survey of more than 14,600 workers in 13 different countries, 75 per cent reported feeling “stuck” personally and professionally. A huge 85 per cent said they were unhappy with their employer’s support, with more than a third seeking an increase in learning and skills development opportunities.

This can be a win-win situation. Employees need the skills to work effectively in a hybrid environment, and through this learning and development organizations can enable better collaboration and a sense of connection which will help to achieve key business objectives.

Learning should be an integral part of the culture in a hybrid working world to power a growth mindset, productivity and agility. When working and learning go hand-in-hand organizations create an environment in which the entire business works together towards strategic goals.

Find out more in our new interactive Fluidbook, hybrid learning; what you really need to know - click here

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