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In the world of remote work, blended learning is here to stay

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by Startacus Admin

remote work and learning
Employee training is more important than ever in today’s world, and the current climate could have far-reaching effects, writes Ruben Hamilius of Business Games...

There are multiple studies that stress the importance of training (helps with motivation, upskills, etc). What’s more provocative in my opinion is imagining what would happen if companies choose NOT to train.

If you don’t, your competitors will, risking your competitive advantage. Also, your employees will potentially spend their energy learning things that are not a priority for your remote work and learningbusiness. 

I believe training is especially important in times of uncertainty and that training is more important now than ever before. 

If the future is unclear, as it is now, all the more you need a workforce that can analyze the situation and consider and reflect on ideas and solutions that can help the company be ready for the unforeseeable. The more trained a workforce is in the right skills, the better a company can react in changing circumstances. 

The nature of the pandemic is that it has completely revamped traditional office life. Where the majority of activities were face to face, this has now switched to a situation where the vast majority of our interactions are carried out online. The basic soft skills we thought we possessed e.g. communication, negotiation, group decision making, are now called into question as the online factor has altered how we put these skills to use. Many of us will need to relearn these, or risk working at a lower quality than before.

In my experience, companies are faced with two challenges when it comes to employee training.

The first is how to pivot in the short term while leveraging the training curriculums that were already designed for a pre-COVID world. The second is how to redesign training for the future, assuming the remote working revolution will continue for many years to come, long after the pandemic has subsided.

The first problem seems to be the easier of the two. 

Some companies have reacted very quickly by repurposing their training content into e-learning modules. F2F workshops are now done via video calls. However, there is less clarity when it comes to the long term strategy. In fact, many seem to be crossing their fingers and hoping things will go back to normal.

Repurposing existing content for online is a good stopgap measure. But what it doesn’t take into consideration is the drop off in engagement that is inevitable when training remotely. It is difficult to stay focused when working from home, for a variety of factors - distractions in the form of family members, household chores, the absence of colleagues and managers to steer you back to work. 

remote work and learningAt best, repurposed training possesses the same quality as their original, in-person designs. More realistically though, companies are getting a less focused, less engaged, highly distractible audience (especially if training goes on for more than an hour). 

This drop-in engagement shows us how training has changed for the foreseeable future. 

Forward-thinking companies that are dealing with this change employ a blended approach to training.

They mix the more traditional classroom-based approach, with more innovative methods such as experiential learning.

To understand why a blended approach is used, consider how the average person picks up new skills and knowledge in his/her lifetime. Class-based learning is an integral part of the way we learned as children, but learning continues even outside the classroom. We learn continuously by having day-to-day experiences that we interpret and calibrate based on the interactions we have. 

A negative reaction/outcome to a rude comment that we may make, for example, tells us to sidestep that behavior for the future. Experiential learning then complements the class-based approach by giving participants the opportunity to act out unique situations and experience the consequences of their chosen actions, all in an environment of psychological safety. Studies have shown that this method of learning increases retention.

How does this relate back to the pandemic? My belief is that class-based learning will become all the more challenging, for all the reasons previously stated. For companies to create truly effective training programs, they need to mix up the methods they employ in their training toolkits. They also need to deliver this successfully with the online tools at their disposal.

We have to move on from the idea that it is acceptable that training is less engaging, less interactive, less immersive, and less fun when delivered virtually. The time to accept compromise is over.

Ruben Hamilius is co-founder and managing director of Business Games

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Published on: 13th August 2020

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