Hybrid Workplace – Will ILT become a relic?

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Before diving into this topic and then seeing all the folks rant on LinkedIn about how ILT is great, will survive, e-learning is awful, and the moon is definitely made of cheese, I wanted to let folks know (who are not aware), that I have a podcast! Oh, the delight. It is called the “Amazing E-Learning Roadshow” and you can listen in on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Anchor.fm, Spotify, and many other places.

The Roadshow usually will cover blog posts that I have written with updates along the way, such as what I did regarding the Top 10 for 2021 – and the latest surrounding them.

Other podcasts, will be on topics not presented on the blog.

And now back to our regular scheduled post.

If you haven’t heard the term “hybrid workplace” before, well, here you go. It will become the standard model in business by the end of 2021, and then onwards into the future.

A hybrid workplace refers to a workplace where employees will come into the office two or three days a week, and then work from home the rest of the time.

Some companies will leave the “when do you come in” entirely up to the employees and their managers, others will have a specified schedule.

There are exceptions for sure, Facebook has stated they want everyone back in the office (who were in the office pre-pandemic).

Others though are not so clear – in the financial sector, Chase and Goldman Sachs both have said they want employees back in their offices, whether or not that comes to 100% fruition is another matter.

Target, Ford, Google, and Microsoft (just a small sample here, there are plenty more) are all going hybrid workplaces.

In a study conducted in late 2020 by PWC, 80% of the companies they surveyed (133) said they would go with the hybrid workplace model.

On top of everything else, two key points that many folks are forgetting about, are either in play now or will come into fruition before the end of the year.

Point A

During the worst of the pandemic, a lot of employees including management and upper management moved away from the locale of where any office is located. Some will be required to jump on a plane and come into the office for X days, others won’t.

Point B

With the current state of the economy here in the U.S. at least, companies are finding it hard to get workers, and one can expect employees to jump to other companies who are more flexible in terms of having to come into the office.

What about productivity, it has to have suffered during the pandemic right?

Actually, no. A study conducted by Great Place to Work, (F500 companies and over 800,000 employees in the survey) reported the same or even higher productivity, remotely (i.e. at home) compared to being in the office.

All of the above is worth noting because as it relates to the conversation ahead, it screams that ILT, the old ILT of training and learning since the Middle Ages of Workplaces, is on the precipice of falling off the cliff.

I refer to ILT, as instructor-led training in a physical location – a classroom, your boardroom, a class being held at the company’s location or off-site by the company somewhere else. I am not referring to you attending a trade show, where folks are presenting, that’s not really ILT (well, I never met anyone in training or L&D that sees a trade show seminar as ILT).

ILT in a learning system is noted by what is referred to as classroom management. If you have ever heard a vendor say the term “classroom management” it is directly tied to ILT. If a vendor says you can schedule seminars (they are referring to ILT). If you ask, do you have resource or facilities management in your system, if they do, it will be under what they refer to as classroom management.

ILT has supporters, and there are plenty who would rather be burned at the stake, than ever say WBT i.e. e-learning is as good, if not better than ILT. There are those, who even jumping into e-learning (online learning) refuse to move away from ILT. They see “blended” whereas the blend includes ILT as an essential part of their training and learning (employees and customers).

There are training companies out there today, who are still leverage quite a bit around ILT. They moved over to vILT (virtual ILT), not by choice, rather by circumstances. If they could offer a combo, boy oh boy, they will do it.

ILT had its time in the sun, the spotlight if you will, but one of the key reasons WBT (Web-Based Training) came into existence was because ILT was not as effective as one might think. Retention, Comprehension, and Synthesis require someone to attend not just one ILT session, but multiple and even then, there is still no guarantee that it will keep.

Other minuses around ILT, which do exist even today – and again, a reason why WBT and thus e-learning come into play:

  • There is no effective way to validate what someone has learned and retained following one ILT session – if they want to go back, they have to attend another ILT session (which if external is not free).
  • The learner cannot go on their own pace, everything is driven by the instructor (and yes, I agree this still exists in vILT and is something that needs to be corrected – which is doable)
  • There are plenty of people who are afraid to ask any questions in an ILT session, this includes their sole focus is thinking “don’t pick me, don’t pick me” to “if I ask and it is wrong, people will think I am..”
  • ILT is not 24-7, WBT is. And for vILT naysayers, once it is recorded, people can view it 24/7.
  • ILT relies on the same method of learning, that has existed for centuries. Name me one learning method that has been around that long, besides books?

All of these are items to remember, for the impact of ILT in a hybrid workplace, and how challenging and difficult it will be to maintain even a bit of ILT to any level of success or perceived success.

EdTech has Shown the Way

If there was any doubt that a dual approach of ILT (with students in the classroom) and students (remote with via web conferencing) at the same time (thus the teacher has to present a lesson, etc. looking at students in one mode, and then turning around and looking at students on a computer screen), this is the case study of failure.

I talk to teachers who have to do this route, and no one has said to me, “This is great. Works! A must!” Rather they all say, it is awful, ineffective, and difficult, not just for them, but also the student.

Think how hard it is to keep the attention of an adult, with all the wonderful technologies at their disposal why they are attending a physical ILT, and then factor in, folks on a webcam at the same time. With an instructor in the middle of it all.

It’s not working in EdTech, and it won’t work in a hybrid workplace, because what is occurring above, will occur in this new work model.

Granted, for those workers in the warehouse, on the plant floor, at a retail location (i.e. they have to be on-site all the time), ILT will seem to be the easy way to do things. And yet, each of what I stated above, can go e-learning here. OJT has always had a mixed record, another factor on why digital coaching and mentoring has a real good shot at success for retention and synthesis.

OJT of course follows the ILT approach with the company taking a top-tier employee (typically an A-star talent) and connecting them with a new employee (on-boarding!). It can either go well or sideways quickly. I’ll admit, I was never a fan of it, and thus never went with it, at any place I worked out (I experienced it on the onboarding side myself, and while the person I connected with was great, I found reading a book a tad boring, while they actually did their own work).

Now, look at OJT in a hybrid office. How is that going to work? Especially since there will be employees who NEVER go into the office.

I should have mentioned that yes, while a chunk of companies will go hybrid, there will be plenty of others who stay solely remote workforce, never requiring their employees to come into the office.

How exactly will OJT work for those employees?

Onboarding your employees

Onboarding will be a huge challenge, first because of the companies who rely a lot on OJT, and second for those who spend way too much effort and time, with physical ILT as part of the onboarding experience.

While these companies will simply move over to vILT as the answer to “what will we do now, as a result of the hybrid model?”, the same challenges will stick to exist. vILT is just as the name implies, another ILT mode, except its virtual. The only plus if there is one, is that it can go on-demand, people can see the questions being asked by others (even if it is only chat), and if the L&D or Training person wants to – tie it to an online course or virtual lab (which I would do).

Here’s the thing – the moment they bounce over to vILT, it signals that ILT, is in trouble. Remember physical locations with everyone in the same room and the trainer too? Yeah, that’s not there anymore.

Nor will it be in a hybrid model.

Other items to recognize

Management training. A favorite for ILT. Well, even if you dive into vILT for your management training (I wouldn’t recommend it, rather go online courses (content)), you will need to create sessions around manager bias – because there will be some managers who will favor those in the office versus those who won’t be. It likely will be subconscious but will be there.

Bounce around the net, take a look at articles around management training and hybrid workplaces, and you will find universally, that managers will need to be trained a lot around this new office model.

Leadership skills will take a hit, and instead of just saying – go to an ILT session – that isn’t going to work. Again, a virtual lab around soft skills can work (and you can create this in your online course via scenario-based modalities).

There will be plenty more of course, but besides the need of 3rd party content to be established for hybrid workplaces (at the moment, I haven’t found one course that does this), there will be those companies who do a lot around Leadership (it’s a popular topic for classroom training) and ILT will be those who try to go blended.

If they believe blended still includes a physical location, then they must change.

Bottom Line

ILT, as we in the training and L&D communities see it, as very close, to be a way to train and learn as a relic of the past. (Business-wise).

In 15 years from now, employees will be surprised that ILT was even a “thing”.

But don’t fret ILT supporters.

Because just as there were people who believed the Internet was a fad, there will be plenty of others out there, who believe a hybrid workplace and vILT are just fads.

The problem of that of course is that

They are

Wrong.

E-Learning 24/7

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