A hybrid workplace offers flexibility to employees to work from both office and remote locations. The organization provides equal support to employees whether they work from office premises or from any remote location. The ratio of remote employees to in-office employees varies from day to day, week to week, and even during the day. 

A hybrid workplace is not a new concept and has been in existence since long, but organizations preferred traditional workplace arrangements with more support for in-office employees and minimal support for remote employees. The global Covid-19 pandemic has fast-tracked the adoption of a hybrid workplace as a preferred model across industry verticals and geography. This trend of employees working remotely will continue to rise, and according to Gartner, the percentage of remote employees in an enterprise will be approximately 50% of the total employees by 2025.

Appropriate communication and collaboration tools, collectively referred to as “digital workplace” enable employees to fulfill their professional obligations. 

Digital workplace, originally used to represent a combination of technologies such as word processors, emails, and internet applications, has evolved to include additional tools and technologies such as HR systems, workflow management, and data analytic tools. It enables employees to access multiple applications and tools through one platform and single sign-on. With hybrid workplace models becoming mainstream, the digital workplace will continue to evolve to enhance remote employee experiences and enable them to work seamlessly with the team and the clients.

The scope of employee training has broadened with the emergence of the hybrid workplace model. In addition to job skills, employees need to be trained to enable them to acquire a functional knowledge of multiple tools and technologies being used to fulfill their job responsibilities. Besides, the remote work model has amplified the importance of communication and interpersonal skills, in which every employee needs to be proficient. 

A hybrid workplace requires a new approach for the design and development of employee training programs. An integrated approach will help to develop a comprehensive employee training program that will equip employees with requisite skills to succeed in a hybrid workplace.

What are the key factors driving the redefined employee training programs for the hybrid workplace?

Communication Skills

Communication training is on the top of the list of updated skillsets for a hybrid workplace model. The in-person interactions have been replaced by online videos, which has tremendously altered workplace communication. Poor communication between employees is believed to cause an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year. In contrast, teams with improved communication and collaboration can raise productivity by 25%. 

The employee training program should include modules on communication that should reflect on challenges that a distributed team faces. The content should not be limited to communication tools and technologies but also cover principles and best practices for both verbal and written communication. Brevity is of great essence in communication, but complete information is vital, specifically when teams are working remotely. 

Leadership and Management Skills

Managing a team in a hybrid workplace model has its own challenges and requires a different skillset to manage distributed team members and get the best out of them. Many employers are making their managers go through leadership programs to bring them up to speed on key leadership skills. 

Besides communication, emotional intelligence is another must-have skill for managers to ensure the well-being of their team members who are operating under stressful environments and with little in-person peer support. According to an Ernst & Young research,  41% of employees want their managers to engage in honest conversations about their mental health. 

According to a PwC research, training for managers to manage a virtual workforce is among the top three priorities of business organizations in the United States, with 64% of the respondents planning to increase investment for the same.

Leaders are accountable for outcomes and ensure employees are not misusing remote work flexibility to become complacent. However, leaders have to show empathy and connect with employees at a personal level. In remote work there is a thin line to distinguish between personal and professional life, so it is the responsibility of a leader to set boundaries and create new best practices.  

Cloud-Based Learning Management System (LMS)

The transition to a hybrid workplace model means greater reliance on technologies and tools for learning. Virtual training is becoming the norm in a hybrid workplace model, which is beneficial for both the organization and the employees. It improves learning efficiency, and saves cost without compromising on the quality. 

Virtual training is of two types: asynchronous and synchronous. 

Asynchronous virtual training is an effective solution when employees are working across locations and time zones. It provides flexibility to your employees to learn at their own pace and schedule based on their client commitment and deliverables.

A good cloud-based Learning Management System (LMS) enables you to offer personalized learning experiences to your employees and create individual learning paths for in-office and remote employees.  LMS also enables you to automate the learning process, track employee progress, send notifications, and promote collaboration and peer learning through social features. 

Corporate Intranet

A corporate intranet is a web-based private company network for communication, collaboration, knowledge dissemination, and employee development. It offers seamless access to multiple applications and tools through a single sign-in and helps employees develop new skills through online programs hosted on the platform. 

Besides online learning, the intranet also helps employees learn new work tools and technologies through self-help guides and video tutorials. Intranet is important to facilitate frictionless employee training in a hybrid workplace.

What are the steps to be followed for building a successful employee training program for a hybrid workplace?

Assess your Employee Training Requirements

Even though remote work has become the norm across industry verticals, hybrid workplace models differ across organizations, and so do the employee training requirements. There can not be a standard one-size-fits-all approach for designing the program structure and developing the content.

You can do a skill gap analysis to assess your current and future employee training requirements in a hybrid workplace model. You can do an employee survey to find out the skills they would like to learn to fulfill their job responsibilities in a hybrid workplace model. You can leverage employee feedback to develop training modules and content and the delivery mechanism.

Prioritize Soft Skills Training across Organization

Soft skills cover a broad range of skills but primarily include communication and collaboration, listening, and negotiation skills. The skills have become relevant and important for all employees across organizations in hybrid workplace models, irrespective of their roles and department. 

Communication skills, both verbal and written, remain core soft skills that should be prioritized for every employee in the organization. 

Active listening skills are also relevant for all employees as team communication and meetings have moved online. It is important to facilitate meaningful discussion and proper utilization of employees’ time. 

A strong community and team culture ensure knowledge sharing, for which collaboration skills are essential. 

Negotiation skills may not be a priority for all employees and can be considered based on role and function. 

You should incorporate training modules on soft skills with different levels of proficiency and expertise. Employees should be encouraged to enroll and get certified for programs and modules relevant to their role.

Update Leadership Training and Broaden Scope

Even as technology is integral to the successful functioning of the hybrid workplace model, it has also amplified the role of leadership. The pandemic has accelerated the focus on empathy and compassion for the emotional well-being of employees, whose stress levels have increased significantly due to business uncertainty. As organizations permanently adopt a hybrid workplace model, employee well-being should not be restricted to Human Resources (HR), and leaders should take an active interest. You should update your leadership training to incorporate these aspects and train leaders and managers to be empathetic.  

You should broad-base leadership programs to include more managers who earlier were not eligible for these programs. Alternatively, you can create customized leadership modules for mid and junior-level managers.

Collaborative Learning Activities

You can encourage collaborative learning by setting up discussion threads dedicated to specific topics that will encourage employee interaction and enhance their engagement. You can encourage employees to create groups based on their area of interest to promote knowledge sharing. You can even leverage gamification to enhance competitiveness in learning and collaboration among employees for a strong team culture.

Conclusion

A flexible hybrid workplace model requires an agile employee training and development program. With the fast-paced evolution of the business landscape, employee training needs are dynamic and constantly evolving. The employee training program should be flexible to adapt to the evolving hybrid workplace and emerging business realities. You should create a scalable employee training process to benefit a significant number of employees.