Upskill from anywhere: how the hybrid revolution has transformed professional development

Business woman wearing headphones at home office

Hybrid working has led to the digitisation of companies’ learning and development offerings – and that’s good news for everyone

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the way we work, the way we do business, and the way we grow and learn. As employers and employees around the world emerge from lockdowns, they’re adjusting to a new world – one where a new, hybrid model of working has taken hold.

This approach allows people to work from wherever best suits their needs – and it typically means combining time at home, time spent at the company HQ and time spent at a location near home, such as a nearby flexible workspace.

The shift means firms will make big changes to their real estate and talent strategies, but it’s also affecting the delivery of training and career development programmes. Taking learning online is non-negotiable if staff aren’t all at the office, all the time: it democratises access to learning materials and experiences so that all staff have equal access to them, wherever they’re based.

Within the past year, organisations including IBM and Google have fully digitised their learning and development (L&D) offerings. Meanwhile, IWG – the company that operates flexible workspace brands including Spaces and Regus – has launched the IWG Academy. This new platform will enable IWG’s 12,000+ employees to upskill remotely.

Upskilling for everyone, from anywhere

According to PwC’s 22nd CEO Survey, 79% of CEOs around the world are concerned that a lack of essential skills in their workforce could threaten the future growth of their business. Meanwhile, 46% of CEOs said upskilling was the most important way their organisation could help to close its skills gap.

A study conducted by Training Industry magazine showed that 62% of businesses affected by Covid-19 are spending more on training in 2021, and revealed a 24% spike in virtual learning.

For businesses, there are numerous benefits to moving L&D online. It saves precious work time (no more travelling to and from learning centres), reduces running costs and enables people to learn at their own pace.

For small firms who can’t afford to create bespoke digital platforms, it might make sense to consider a reputable third-party provider. Marketing Week’s Mini MBA, for example, is an online course that enthusiastic marketeers can complete in their own time, from wherever suits them best.

Asynchronous experiences and live online learning

“Creating meaningful and effective online education is by no means an easy task,” says online learning designer and education expert Brandon Jordan. While there are numerous ways of conducting online training, most fall into two camps: asynchronous learning, where sessions come pre-recorded and allow employees to work at their own pace, and synchronous learning or ‘live online’ sessions. These are more like traditional in-person lessons, but are held virtually.

The beauty of using either is the wide scope they offer. Courses can incorporate video presentations and interactive content, plus they can be easily adapted and updated on demand. This is particularly helpful in industries where change happens fast and learning materials need to be regularly amended.

“One core principle is that people matter,” Jordan explains. “While technology has enabled so many remarkable things, behind even the best tech is still a person.”

Where to invest in L&D

It’s worth noting that, according to research by Dr Brent Peterson, the effectiveness of training courses is largely down to three main factors – 25% from the learning event itself, 25% from how prepared the individual is for a session and 50% from the follow-up activities.

Unfortunately, Peterson’s study also showed that many companies are only investing 10% of their budgets in pre-learning tasks and are spending just 5% on post-training activities. By failing to plan L&D programmes with Peterson’s findings in mind, firms are placing too heavy a burden on employees’ engagement with the events or experiences as they happen.

Designing training courses that aren’t so reliant on individuals’ engagement with specific talks, videos or tasks is therefore a critical part of creating a modern L&D strategy.

Hybrid learning in a hybrid world

While the pandemic has accelerated the popularity of online training, there’s still a place for face-to-face learning.

Remote L&D can have its challenges, from wobbly WiFi connections to low levels of interaction with training staff. And while some individuals may prefer online learning, others find the self-directed nature of some digital courses difficult, struggling to motivate themselves.

Furthermore, it’s vital to remember that digitised training experiences must be designed so they are truly inclusive: materials must be accessible for those with disabilities and additional needs. If your aim is to broaden participation, putting a resource on the internet will only get you so far.

Perhaps the ideal learning and development solution mirrors the hybrid approach many companies are now taking when it comes to where their employees are based. A mixture of interactive or face-to-face training experiences and self-directed learning courses offers people the best of both worlds, and could be the way forward in the new world of work.

Finally, whether you’re a home worker or spend much of your time at the office, having access to a flexible workspace such as your local Spaces might help you find your groove when it comes to upskilling online. With business-grade WiFi, comfortable surroundings, a professional atmosphere and – perhaps most importantly – good coffee, a coworking or flexspace location could be the ideal base for a day of distance learning.

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