Beyond traditional learning programs

Beyond traditional learning programs


A lot is being asked of leaders. Faced with a diverse workforce and fast, often unpredictable changes, they are also currently tasked with upskilling and reskilling their teams, successfully leading and engaging, attracting and retaining top talent — the list goes on.

How are we, HR and learning and development professionals adopting learning to support and lead our organizations to new realities and adaptable mindsets?

In this article, I will share my perspective on hybrid learning that involves leaders, grabs the attention of the learner and has multiple benefits for the whole organization.

Making learning accessible to everyone

As we forge ahead toward 2030, the size of our global workforce is decreasing (the size of Europe’s workforce is expected to drop by 4 percent) and organizations are facing a multigenerational workforce.

Although this is not a unique situation,  the differences between the generations today are much wider than ever before, due to the impact of the fast-paced, digital environment. These generational groups all have different and sometimes even conflicting approaches to life and work, or reasons for bringing their best selves to the organization. On the other side, Industry 4.0 is transforming the jobs, activities are being transitioned to robots, AI and machines. Research predicts approximately 20 percent of current jobs will be lost, and approximately the same number will be created. However, these jobs are not necessarily lost, but transformed. By 2025, the time spent on current tasks at work by humans and machines will be equal.

The overriding question is not if the jobs will be changed or not, but how the jobs will look in the future, and which skills the workforce will need to remain employable and benefit in their careers from those changes. What are the learning solutions that not only respond to the needs of a diverse workforce, but are also able to mobilize even the “non proactive learners” to engage in upskilling or reskilling?

The small part of the workforce that already benefits from having a growth mindset will continue to increase their knowledge and skills at their own pace. Having a shrinking workforce in mind, it might be self-destructive to limit the learning opportunities to selected groups, or give up on experimenting until you find the most impactful learning solution.

Give learning a meaning

A traditional approach to talent management, in which leaders would select the targeted few “worthwhile of higher developmental investment,” is more and more part of the past. As L&D leaders, must change the perspective that talent is rare and tap into hidden talent pools, which means expanding the possibilities for development and career networking to wider groups of candidates.

Our global workforce is diverse and requires its leaders to be inclusive and create a sense of belonging and care. L&D needs to make sense — to have a meaning beyond preparing the learner for current challenges or the next role. It has to touch the heart, head and hands of the learner, and go beyond traditional limiting objectives to improve professional performance indicators.

Worthwhile to start with, the organization shall ensure strong link between learning and impact of business strategies on the organizational design. The learning strategy emerges from strategic people planning, which aims to identify the roles and skills required to deliver the long term business results. This link ensures learning has a strong impact, is tailored to specific environment, role and person. The learning priorities shall answer the questions, such as, “which skills will we need to remain competitive?” or “what do we need to be like to keep attracting talents?”

There is a great deal of research available predicting which skills will be more in-demand in the future. Usually, most reports agree that skills such as influencing, coaching and developing others and complex problem-solving are among them. But without strategic people planning, it will be difficult to determine which skills will be needed for your specific organization, and will therefore miss the fundamental starting point in designing the learning interventions.

Test with hybrid learning

To create a meaningful learning experience for a diverse workforce, the “one size fits all” approach delivered in “ex cathedra” mode might not adhere to the expected learning purpose, but neither does simply transferring the content to the digital platforms.

Multigenerational learners want interactions with L&D.They want to be in the center of the learning experience. Funneling learners’ requests and energy creates an environment in which it is possible to achieve impactful learning outcomes. Today, learning is competing with other attention thieves that offer fast satisfaction and fulfillment of our basic human needs for recognition, social connection and appreciation. Let’s  look at which new habits created by social media can serve as guidelines in designing L&D programs.

To make learning worthwhile, it is important to create an ecosystem that includes the  learner, moderator, leader and the organization. Attention is paid off if the learning experience is engaging enough to get learners’ involvement, integrated with previous experiences, has a social element and is embedded into a system that provides opportunity to test and experiment.

Diversity of learners’ needs and preferences also plays a pivotal role in creating desired outcome and ROI. The hybrid learning model follows the learner over a period of time, providing a variety of learning opportunities in small digestible units, with continuous space and invitation for reflection, exploration and testing. Learning units and delivery methods must be “fit for purpose” and ensure both short and long-term impact.

A hybrid learning program that creates long-lasting benefits is a combination of different learning occasions, such as:

  • Self-directed learning that prepares learners for the learning topic at their own pace. This includes different forms of information-sharing such as articles, videos or surveys. Self-learning is quick-paced, engaging and inviting. 
  • Classroom delivery — in which a moderator dives deep into atopic, guides the group to explore key concepts and connects the learning back to the workplace.  
  • Group learning, in which learners are engaged in small and moderated groups of peers (typically six to eight participants). In this setup, the participant’s learning is accelerated by integrating experiences of others into their ongoing personal learning journey. Every experience counts, regardless of the role or level of seniority.
  • Moderated peer coaching helps individuals resolve a challenge or question related to the learning topic. To successfully engage in this exercise, participants are encouraged (and trained) to remain curious and avoid the usual trap of advice-giving.

This type of hybrid learning design is agile and allows adaptation during the course of the program, ensuring to reach maximum benefit and impact.

Benefits of this hybrid learning method

One of the typical blind spots of L&D programs is sustainability of learning. A hybrid learning design allows the learner to connect with the topic over a period of a few weeks, gradually building blocks of experiences and knowledge through their personal insights, or blending it with the experiences of others.

The variety of perspectives achieved in peer groups through our diverse workforce multiplies the learning for everyone. Through moderation of the peer groups, learners can reflect on how they impact the group and assess how the group impacts them individually. Those insights can increase awareness about self-responsibility within a team, regardless if one is a team member or a leader. Designing the program that ensures sustainability and impact on the learner is one side of the coin.

The benefits of the learning persists when the organization acts as a learning organism, and when leaders promote integration by creating the space for test and error for the sake of learning (without punishment or blame). In other words, leaders’ approach to learning is instrumental in building company culture, how learning is perceived and lived within the organization. Hybrid learning tackles this challenge by involving the leaders before the design starts. And through strategic people planning, leaders contribute in prioritizing topics or skills that drive the program. They become the co-designers that increase the responsibility in making it an organizational success story.

It’s also important to make the time and space for submitting follow-up reviews both during and after learning to trigger immediate program adaptation. This creates agility in L&D programs, and makes them fit for purpose and designed to target specific contexts of the organization.

The final goal of sustainability of L&D is to create an organization in which learning is spontaneous and strongly integrated into the culture, in contrast to being captured mainly as beloved HR processes that often lack the major impact.

Looking ahead

Hybrid learning creates an ecosystem of various stakeholders and methods that produce a desired outcome. This type of ecosystem is vivid, playful and allure, and therefore capable of transforming attention into intention to learn, grow and reach the maximum potential. Starting with the end in mind (SPP), building blocks of engagement with stakeholders into multifaceted L&D programs delivers a learning experience that is diverse, engaging and inclusive.

To prepare for Industry 4.0 and a diverse, shrinking workforce, we need to open the door of meaningful learning to everyone.

Article originally published at Chief Learning Officer