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Hybrid is the New Gray – Training “P.C.”

What will hybrid work and training look like post-COVID (P.C.)? Honestly, we don’t know. Companies with a vested interest in return-to-in-person work are quick to share their data and projections anticipating a surge back to offices. Organizations that provide online resources are just as speedy in gathering data that anticipate continued work-from-home protocols.

Returning to Work?

In a New York Times “Return to Work” article, reader comments following the article, and McKinsey’s What’s Next for Remote Work: An analysis of 2,000 tasks, 800 jobs, and nine countries reveal a complex mix of emotion, reality, and desire. Business leaders seem keen to reconnect with the employees, collaborate in person, and build their corporate culture in face-to-face meetings — despite down-sized office spaces and the enticing prospect of saving money.

Remote employees (the less than 50% who are lucky enough to be able to work from home) tell a mixed story. Many say they are just as productive from home, save hundreds of hours in commuting time, and enjoy spending more time with loved ones. These folks dread returning to old ways. Other employees can’t wait for the opportunity to reconnect with colleagues, get out of the house, see one another in person, and resume spontaneous and social interactions.

Training and Learning

The story for corporate training is similar in that it is different depending on who you talk to. After reviewing a range of online conversations about corporate training and learning, it seems to boil down to this:

  • Online training is here to stay, because it is flexibile, asyncrhonous, less expensive, and gets the job done.
  • AI (Artifical Intelligence) training is super cool and also quite effective.
  • Face-to-face learning can’t be beat for leadership, team building, communication and other “soft skills.”
  • Classroom experiences are strongly preferred for school-aged kids and college learning (except for large lectures)

New Normal

COVID has certainly accelerated remote work and online learning, and helped us understand its benefits and drawbacks. The past year has  revealed the outstanding resilience and creativity of teachers and trainers. But, like the McKinsey Report suggests, we’re best to understand the future of work and learning by breaking jobs into tasks. Then we can evaluate which tasks can effectively be done remotely, and which cannot.

I’ll admit it. For personal and professional reasons, my bias is for face-to-face experiences.  When we’re physically together, we can look into each other’s eyes, share a meal, have impromptu meetings, and know how each other are going. We can talk, listen or just be.

In most lines of work, success comes from collaboration, communication, and strong relationships. For me, this is equally true at home and at work.  But, as any married couple would attest, relationships take work. They also depend on:

  • Frequency of interactions.
  • Depth of conversations.
  • Shared experiences.
  • Overcoming challenges together.

Can we develop strong relationships through phone calls and virtual meetings online? For sure. However, it happen more efficiently and organically in person?

Hyrbid is the New Grey

Whether work and learning needs to be remote or in-person is not an either-or question. For every goal, we should consider what is best. Hopefully, these questions will help you sort out whether virtual meetings or face-to-face experiences will best help you meet your goals:

  • How will we save time?
  • What are to cost implications?
  • Do we need to be “hands on”?
  • How can we best promote flow of ideas?
  • How can we strengthen relationship
  • Is the solution preferred or tolerable?
  • Is the solution short-term or long-term?

Hybrid, 3-days in office, fully remote, or 100% in-person will increasingly depend on the tasks at hand and the answers to the above questions.

The One Sure Thing

No matter what answer makes sense for your unique circumstances, the one thing of which I’m sure is the need to continue building relationships, asking questions, and connecting with each other at deep, honest levels. Inter-personal connection, compassionate leadership, friendship and love–these are core to humanity and the reason we’ve developed our conversation starters in three mediums:

So, wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, take time to talk, connect, and grow together.

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