Hybrid work is the way of the future for most companies, and that means a completely unique approach to employee training and development, especially for IT skills.
Since hitting the gas on digital transformation in 2020, companies already feel the forces of change working against them. The World Economic Forum estimates that 1 billion people will need to reskill by 2030 to keep up with job changes due to advances in technology. Add an ongoing pandemic to the equation, and the road ahead looks anything but paved.
One of the greatest challenges organizations will face over the next decade is navigating the twists and turns of a hybrid workforce wherein some employees work from home full-time, some work part of the time remotely and part-time in the office, and others are dedicated, in-office workers. Particularly when it comes to training a hybrid workforce, leadership teams should be wary of several potential roadblocks ahead:
Hybrid Workforce Reskilling Roadblocks
Building Virtual Relationships & Culture
In traditional workforces, finding ways to connect with each other and the company culture is more straightforward because strategies need only focus on one employee landscape. When employees are dispersed (as is the case with a hybrid workforce) in-office employees have frequent informal opportunities to interact with each other, instilling a greater sense of connection with the company culture. Meanwhile, remote employees primarily interact with colleagues about work-related activities and experience far less opportunity for socialization, which can create cultural imbalance.
Varying employee experience landscapes will make building and promoting a culture of learning exceedingly difficult for HR leaders, and will require an exceptional communications strategy, among other strengths.
Lack of Leadership or Team Buy-In
According to Statista surveys, only about one-third of respondents believe that employee development should be everyone’s responsibility (not just HR’s). Executing a successful employee training and development program (especially one that serves a hybrid workforce) is not and cannot be HR’s sole responsibility, particularly where technical education is concerned.
Building an intentional IT skills training program requires a thorough understanding of the learning outcomes needed to enhance operational capabilities and throughput across the entire organization. These learning outcomes must align with long-term business goals and technology roadmaps — an impossible feat without significant input from CIOs, CTOs, IT directors, and other members of C-Suite and management.
Equity in Workforce Education
It’s not enough to offer training and employee development for upskilling and reskilling. Organizations must ensure that opportunities are equitable and supportive of the needs of each employee. In hybrid workforces, employee needs vary substantially, requiring more design consideration. For example, in-office employees might have concerns about program safety, while remote employees are more preoccupied with accessibility. In either case, IT upskilling and reskilling solutions must be flexible enough to address all pertinent individual needs.
With COVID still very much a part of everyday life, IT upskilling and reskilling will undoubtedly stick to online learning formats. Beyond the intended course curriculum, it takes time to implement a cloud-based Learning Management System (LMS), which will be a vital instrument for distributing training materials, enhancing and personalizing each learning experience, and creating feedback capabilities. Administrators and students alike will require onboarding to effectively utilize learning tools.
Tips For Training a Hybrid Workforce IT Skills
Don’t believe the “learning styles” hype.
Most people believe that they are predisposed to a learning preference at birth — for example, someone who is a visual learner versus someone who learns best through hands-on experience. In reality, there is zero scientific proof suggesting that some people learn better through one type of learning style versus another.
Nine times out of ten, decisions about learning format are specific to the learner. However, when it comes to learning style (especially in technical education), we recommend focusing on the learning outcomes you wish to achieve, not the preferred learning style of each employee. Technical training is best delivered through a mixture of techniques that include:
- Traditional written content
- Visual aids
- Verbal discussions or lectures
- Plenty of hands-on experience
Leverage the experience of an instructional design team.
Off-the-shelf online learning platforms like LinkedIn Learning and Skillshare might work for supplemental education in highly controlled environments, but they won’t deliver ROI for IT upskilling and reskilling initiatives in a hybrid workforce — period. Getting the most value (i.e., job-ready learning outcomes) will require the guidance and input of an instructional design team.
Instructional designers study learning science, the learning environment, and the learner before implementing a process called backward design to essentially “reverse-engineer” IT upskilling and reskilling curricula. Rather than fit learners into a pre-conceived course framework, the framework is tailored to take learners from where they are in the moment to where the company needs them to be.
Create a data feedback loop and monitor for pain points.
In a hybrid workforce, remote employees are likely more accustomed to the discipline required of online learning, while in-office employees may struggle to adjust to the pace and format. Furthermore, a lack of in-person interaction limits an instructor’s ability to monitor learner dispositions through body language, classroom engagement, and socialization, adding to the difficulties of creating a fair and consistent learning experience for all participants.
For this reason, learning assessments will play a pivotal role in the success of any IT upskilling and reskilling program that serves a hybrid workforce — but only when implemented as part of a closed data feedback loop. Learning assessments, including performance activities and surveys, generate valuable data about learner progress, but they also indicate whether or not certain learning styles and delivery formats support different employee populations equally. Be sure to have a detailed process in place for collecting and analyzing assessment data, plus a strategy for using the resulting insights to improve learning experiences and outcomes.
Stage 3 Talent is one of the most experienced curriculum development and instructional design teams in technical education. For more expert insight and advice on IT upskilling and reskilling: