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Driving Learner Engagement in the Hybrid Workplace

October 13, 2021 | By David Wentworth

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As organizations face unprecedented change and volatility, they have been relying heavily on L&D teams to reskill and upskill the workforce to meet new demands.

But it is critical that companies understand what kind of impact the pandemic has had on their employees. Many feel overwhelmed as they adjust to new roles, new processes, and a new remote work environment. L&D teams must be cautious not to add to the stress and instead focus on how to better engage learners in this new environment.

It will be tricky engaging overwhelmed employees operating on different schedules and using new tools. The last thing L&D teams want to add to the chaos. Yet, many L&D teams have been pushing trainings out in rapid succession in the name of upskilling and reskilling, often with poor results.

Instead, L&D must establish itself as a guiding light in unfamiliar waters. This is critical as organizations see an increased demand for upskilling and reskilling to improve internal talent mobility — especially since just more than one-third of companies believe they are prepared to develop the skills they will need in the future. Business is moving too fast and the workforce is too busy, distracted and now geographically dispersed for traditional training models to be completely effective.

Organizations must continue to rethink the learner experience as part of the overall learning experience in the new hybrid model. L&D teams must take a holistic, learner-centric approach that sustains continuous, personalized learning within the flow of work. Learners should have access to relevant, on-demand material where, when and how they need it. Yet many organizations are unprepared to take this approach. Fewer than half of the companies in Brandon Hall Group’s State of Learning Practices Study say that mission of their learning strategy is to make learning an integral part of the organization’s culture.

In truth, the steps companies should take to engage learners in this new environment are not fundamentally different from before the pandemic. Learners want access to the information and knowledge they need to be successful. They want to know “what’s in it for me” when it comes to training programs. They need relevancy, context and an understanding of the expected outcomes. Once you’re able to establish these things, it comes down to selecting and deploying the tools and technologies to make it happen.

Additionally, L&D teams have to make sure they are not overloading their learners. Brandon Hall Group Smartchoice Preferred Provider EI Design has deep expertise in helping companies maximize learner engagement without overwhelming them. A few key strategies they focus on:

  • Gaining a deep understanding of learner needs and how to integrate them into the program
  • Helping companies build a mindset for growth and learning/develop lifelong learners
  • Building great learner and learning experiences to feed that growth mindset
  • Ensuring that training is engaging and immersive training, mitigating the increasing number of distractions in the new learning environment
  • Supporting learning and performance on the job through just-in-time learning and performance support by integrating learning into the workflow
  • Providing the connections between formal and informal learning that drives continuous learning and development

There are many other strategies to consider but what it important is to start thinking through this lens. In the wake of the pandemic, L&D teams were anxious to push out an array of training opportunities at once, overloading an already overwhelmed workforce. A more measured approach, with a holistic focus on the employee experience, is what is needed in today’s complex, uncertain environment.


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