Learning in a Hybrid World: Are your organisations ready?
One of the biggest horrors of any Learning and Development Manager is retaining knowledge and learning after the Lunch Session. No matter how engaging the training workshop is, the gulab jamuns and the Dal Rice always win! Yet, over the last two years, most organisations shifted from holding such training sessions offline to training online. It made it easier for the employees to switch off the cameras and indulge in their favourite gulab jamun while listening to the trainers. On the other hand, the Learning Managers were busy collating feedback forms from their employees to understand whether it helped them or not.
Driving Learning and Development Programs is hard. Working remotely made it harder, but the question comes up: Would Hybrid Work Culture be the solution to drive fantastic learning experiences to the Employees and reduce Learning Manager Woes?
For Organisational Psychologists, this was a field of harvesting employee behaviour in a never before environment. There was nothing to compare against, and every behaviour was new. Everyone during the pandemic went through three phases: Anxiety, Reflection and Coping. We were working at Hybrid Workplaces and highlighted how to 'Cope'. And we have walked this journey after experiencing two critical phases; Being anxious about the future and being reflective of the present.
Pandemic, Anxiety and Fear of Learning:
If you ask any educational psychologist how learning happens, the answer almost always is when the mind is 'optimally challenged'. But for this to happen, there needs to be cognitive peace to spark curiosity. When the pandemic peaked, all the cognitive space for most employees was occupied by anxiety about the future. Amidst nerve-wracking news, if employees are offered learning opportunities by their organisation, one can easily guess the outcome of it. Moreover, learning managers at a lot of organisations were at the end of the sword. In times of uncertainty, expecting learning managers to drive training and for the employees to automatically adopt and implement seems like a far fetched idea. Learning was not receiving the focus and nor was it geared towards employee development. When the survival of the employee is challenged, evolution takes a backseat.
Reflection, Need and Optimism:
Everyone knew by the mid pandemic that work-life is never going to be the same again. But the consequence of a change is slight enthusiasm, as one has to hit reset on life, unlearn and get ready for the future. But in this whole act where reset on life and unlearning happens, the ability to learn peaks. If organisations have been able to get the timing right, the completion rate and enthusiasm to learn from employees surges. The employees start to realise that there was a light at the end of the tunnel and gear themselves towards the change. The cognitive expanse is increased significantly when the outcome of the learning receives focus. And learners experience a sense of fulfilment and hope when this happens. Most corporations have been able to get this timing right and have been able to inspire their employees to build their future Skills.
Confusion, Coping and Creations:
As work from home started receiving acceptance, most organisations with fat rent agreements asked employees to return to see whether the pre-pandemic culture could be imbibed again.
Unfortunately, this time for the return transition was beyond the no-habit change threshold. The pandemic was long enough to cultivate the habit of working/learning from home but also provided the missing factor of working closely with colleagues at the office. These blurred lines gave birth to hybrid work culture in an attempt to join the best of both worlds.
From the lens of organisational psychology, learning in the hybrid world should have three key traits:
Where the Future of Work is Hybrid, Learning is Social
The ability to learn in an environment where there are no trainers but colleagues, there is no exam but handholding, a learner, learns the best. Vygotsky, one of the greatest educational psychologists, called this the Zone of Proximal Development. This zone is the place where learners can learn better when they are in proximity of more knowledgeable others. Now when we pass the responsibility to the employee to learn and upskill themselves, they are naturally inclined towards asking colleagues and indulging in Social Learning.
As an organisation, investments towards exclusive social learning platforms can help the employees immerse themselves in learning from each other. In a Hybrid world, connected community learning holds the key. The swiftness and the ease of an employee to reach out to a colleague holds the key to success.
Catching Flying Knowledge a.k.a Tacit Knowledge
Most learning programmes at the workplace focus on training the employees with job skills. But for most organisations, when they turn remote, one of the biggest challenges is when the Tacit Knowledge starts leaking through the cracks. The cracks widen up when the workplace becomes remote. The cracks recede when the workplace goes hybrid. This is the opportunity for corporations to invest in knowledge documentation and sharing practices which can help the flying knowledge of the organisation stay and get shared on demand. One of the best parts of when employees have been given access to the Tacit Knowledge is that they learn faster, and they don't feel like they are being taught, but rather feel empowered.
A Mentoring Network helps develop a learning mindset
With the workplaces now being hybrid, the bridges which need to be built between the knowledge of the employees don't require physical support but just a simple internet connection. Mentoring, which often some companies have looked at as a checkbox activity, has received a severe setback due to the workplace being remote. But now, as work transitions to hybrid, the opportunity presents itself in a more structured manner. It is imperative for the company to invest in tools and frameworks which can autonomously conduct the mentoring format of the employees. Employees (mentors and mentees) can take ownership and knowledge transfer, and learning happens at both touchpoints, remote and physical.
Employees' learning journeys should be designed in a way where the geography of the learning only contributes positively, and learning teams should invest in technologies that can help them deliver the proper knowledge from the right people at the right time.