How to get the best of both worlds in post-pandemic training

Call it hybrid or call it the blend – Gary Williams calls it the future. 

The gradual easing of lockdown sees many businesses facing some of their biggest challenges yet in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. With decimated budgets and reduced manpower, the input of every single employee is crucial for recovery and competitiveness in an unpredictable marketplace. Investment in your workforce is now more important than ever.

The World Economic Forum estimates that 44% of employees’ current skills will need to be replaced by 2025. That means training is likely to be high on the agenda for organisations looking to not just survive but thrive in the post-pandemic world.

The sudden shift to remote working – and therefore remote learning – when Covid-19 struck last year taught us all a lot about how, and how not, to deliver virtual training. But as life begins to return to normal, we now need to work out how to take the best of what works in a virtual environment and combine it with in-the-room delivery for the greatest impact.

We’ve come a long way in the last 12 months. Everyone now knows a lot more about the various platforms available for the delivery of virtual training, for example, and the reliability of the technology itself has improved.

To really get the best of both worlds, you need to think harder about instructional design.

People have become accustomed to virtual meetings and different ways of working. And it soon became clear that every minute of online training needs to be thought through and designed so that the user experience is engaging. Online training became interactive, interesting, challenging – and fun.

With no time wasted on travel to training sessions, we’ve got used to having more time for effective learning and development – with no restrictions on who can attend, as geographical location has become almost irrelevant.

People from different regions could suddenly be brought together easily to learn from each other, as well as from their trainers. The virtual training world has also proved more cost-effective – with more content packed into training sessions, no travel costs and less time away from fee-earning work.

But that’s not the whole story – the virtual experience can’t match the level of engagement, interaction and relationship building offered by in-the-room training. Networking is a valuable learning and development experience in itself. And the resulting spontaneous conversations can be invaluable when they enable participants to exchange ideas and share stories and experiences.

As pandemic restrictions are slowly lifted, blended learning is set to become the norm. The idea of blended learning has been around for some time – but the past year has highlighted just what elements of the blend work best. So how can you ensure your organisation gets the best of both worlds and sees a healthy return on its investment in training?

The perfect blend is going to come down to factoring in things like required outputs, the location of participants, budget and the training content – practical, game-playing, role-playing, teamwork, etc. Most compliance training can be done online, for example, even without facilitators – whereas most skills and behaviour training needs at least an element of being ‘in the room’.

To really get the best of both worlds, you need to think harder about instructional design. Think about why specific training is being done and what will change as a result. This will inform the design of how it should be delivered.

Combining the positives of effective online training with tailored in-person interactions can enhance the learning journey and give people the human ‘fix’ that we so often need. A blended approach can massively improve the outcomes from training programmes, while keeping them cost-effective and efficiently delivered – and allowing for the human/social elements. A win/win for businesses and teams.


About the author

Gary Williams is founder and CEO of professional services business development coaching consultancy BD Coaching Hub


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