Hybrid work
Training & Learning

Post-Covid, Will L&D Ever Go Back to In-Person Training?

“If you thought working from home was messy, here comes hybrid work.”

This is the title of a recent WSJ article, and, as far as L&D goes, they hit the nail on the head.

Before COVID-19, Learning and Development teams could count on regular office attendance, at least from their local employees. Then social distancing happened, and they were asked to pivot on a dime to remote learning. Now, offices are slowly opening, and everyone is looking for a hybrid, à la carte option for working—and workplace training, by extension.

So, how should L&D teams manage it? Should we go back to pre-pandemic times with in-person training, juggling the new hybrid work schedules employees are clamoring for? Or should we say goodbye to physical classes forever, since we proved we don’t need them to function?

For us, it’s not black or white—but we do need to realign what it means to run an L&D program in the new hybrid way of working. Here are three guiding principles to get you started—or you can cut right to the chase and download or cheat-sheet, below.

Hybrid work

1. It’s not about physical vs. digital, but synchronous vs asynchronous

In L&D teams’ minds, the big split used to be between training that happened in-person and training that happened online. 

Now, since managers are scrambling to figure out seating arrangements and schedules that can accommodate a hybrid workforce—Samantha comes in on Mondays and Fridays, Tim only one week out of the month, and Arjuna leaves by 5pm—throwing in-person training in the mix is doubly difficult. 

But do we still need to insist on a large component of in-classroom training? There are so many excellent online collaborative tools for presenting, sharing, and iterating on information out there. Plus, people have become comfortable with remote work, oftentimes outright demanding flexible office policies. 

Now, there’s no reason to force in-person training if it doesn’t fit easily: instead, you can opt for synchronous, online sessions, like breakout rooms, collaborative workshops, or live video sessions. Mix in asynchronous activities like video, quizzes, and quick reads, to enable flexible, bite-sized learning.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever work in an in-person training session now and again—but you shouldn’t feel pressured to shoehorn it in (as often) if the realities of hybrid work scheduling conflicts prevent it.

2. Don’t just copy-paste in-person training to an online environment

However, it isn’t just as easy as hitting control C on an hour-long in-person lecture and pasting it as notes for your Zoom-based training. You need to have a virtual classroom strategy. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • A full day of training ≠ a full day of synchronous training online
  • ‘Read the room’ with polls 
  • Identify and fix issues quickly with post-classroom surveys 
  • Align content with expectations using pre-classroom surveys
  • How social do you want this experience to be? Webcam, microphone, chat, moderators...
  • Include alternative voices, even in the instructor-led sessions
  • Encourage people to use the chat so that they put what they learn into writing ⌨️ 
  • Make sure everyone speaks at least once, even if it’s just for a brief intro 🗣️
  • Encourage participants to become facilitators themselves to change the power distribution of the call 👩👵🏽👨

Though synchronous online training is an excellent way to provide learning opportunities to employees, it should be balanced with asynchronous, multimedia courses to ensure engagement and flexibility. 

And, no matter what format of training you’re using, you should always build in interactive elements.

3. Keep it interactive

Science tells us that passive learning—dull lectures, pages of written text—don’t work nearly as well as when learners interact in one way or another with the learning material or instructor. You should use opportunities to build interaction into your in-person, online, synchronous, and asynchronous courses:

  • Encourage discussion. In an asynchronous course online, open up a chat forum or encourage Reactions. In a synchronous setting, open up the chat function (digital) or encourage group discussion (online or in-person breakout sessions).
  • Use interactive media. Don’t just stick to one way of presenting information. Try out interactive cheat sheets, quizzes, clickable images, videos...and for the latter, be sure to prioritize imagery over text, lead with metaphor, and keep an eye on cognitive overload (don’t add clutter).
  • Crowd-source courses. This is where Collaborative Learning can really shine. Instead of relying on one source of truth, get your learners involved by soliciting subject-matter experts to create courses themselves.

Bottom line: find the right balance

No, we don’t think that it’s as black and white as saying in-person training is a thing of the past—but we do think the pandemic has forced a conversation about finding the right balance between in-person and online, synchronous and asynchronous, and passive vs active learning experiences. For an even closer look at how to achieve the perfect mix, download our cheat-sheet for the 5 techniques our teams routinely rely on.