With skills, employment, and the entire industry moving rapidly, learning leaders play a crucial part in building their successful organizations. To better match this hybrid paradigm and serve both internal and external customers, learning and development specialists are altering how we deliver learning and learning systems. However, if no one uses these systems and technologies, they will have little of an impact.

The Need for training a hybrid workforce

We are all in the epidemic for the past 2 years, and it’s been a major shift for us. It’s an inflection point where we saw that we could accomplish things digitally that we previously didn’t think we could, but that we just needed to go into and learn how to do. The environment has significantly changed from what it was previously. We must use the term hybrid sparingly since some people have been misusing it to refer to something entirely new and distinct.

When we start out and talk about what is distinctive, the organization’s purpose stands out. This intentionality of being able to consider where the work is, how it is changing, where the workers are, and then the work environment and systemically looking at those, and then creating learning systems that meet them as they evolve and adjust over time, is really what makes this a hybrid versus virtual conversation. And over the past year, there has been a substantial shift in the workplace’s overall work environment. Therefore, we need to change the way we approach that.

However, when we’re looking at new systems, new learning ecosystems that we’re bringing together, you have to think differently about how you design. It’s not just about what we want to put in there; it’s also about how we can get out what we want to be able to do, achieve, or drive through the authentic application. In other words, this is about expanding it beyond what I, an instructional designer, want to construct. I now move to that human- or performer-centric design point and ask, “How do I create an ecosystem? Not just courses and pieces of parts? But how do I create a system that wraps around the learners to give them what they need the space to step in and own the situation or the only learning outcomes with it more than me designing a very short end-to-end experience?

Five moments of need for the hybrid workforce

Five moments of need is a user performer-centric model, it’s when does the learner needed the first time when they’re learning something, the second time they’re adding to that base when they’re trying to apply it when something changes, or when something goes wrong, these are all things that say, I need to do something with the learning to achieve a quantifiable outcome with it.

Therefore, there is an environmental stimulus, telling us that we must go do something and, possibly, that we must go learn something that has a bit more intrinsic value. But why do you need it when it becomes highly learner-centric? When will you require it? The problem is that we must create a system that genuinely supports each of those. How can I proactively go out there and innovate think differently and bring things in to learn about them, and perhaps expand, before I see an environmental need arising?

When something goes wrong, I don’t need a tonne of context—though I probably do understand it—I just need the solution. How can I locate what I need quickly? And that’s when responsive systems begin to emerge. How do you actually get the content to the end user, the performer or learner, when they require it in the manner that will best serve their needs when that ecosystem is launched? The one addition we make to this is that, in addition to the information and the tools that enable us to deliver it to that point, the human network is really significant.

And creating that community of practice is one of the things, particularly when you’re performing an application and something changes or something goes wrong. Your human network can really start to assist you at this point by saying, “Hey, I saw this problem; let me solve it.” When I ask my community network, “I haven’t seen this; how can you assist me to fix a problem?” you obtain the information from the organization. Therefore, in addition to the technology, the design also contributes to the experience’s facilitation. But in order to empower and help employees and other peers, humans are very essential to those who are just ahead of you on the performance curve like a coach/mentor.

Support enablement for a hybrid workforce?

Your target audience will be more diverse than ever in terms of where they are located and when they are located, to start. What kind of work commitments do they have? Are they official workers? Do they have a gig? There are many different kinds of contingency employees, so the situation is getting more complicated. Therefore, the designer must really consider how to begin developing a system that can assist and enable all of those people like where they are, how to get in touch with them, and what they will require.

The issue is that you won’t be able to create robots that can foresee every one of those. As a result, space must be made for both the Performance Network and the students themselves. The first requirement of a modern learning experience is that the learner accepts responsibility for the journey because they are the only ones who can truly determine how much they have learned. The end user is relevant. As a designer, I am able to establish the prerequisites for relevance. But the person who actually does that is the end user. Therefore, as a designer, you must seriously consider the target audience for your work. And we’re talking about really understanding empathetic understanding of who your target users are across those, when who, where all those things. So you need to understand, you know, what’s the experience you’re going to create for them thinking differently? So you don’t start off content centric. You start off with end-user learners Centricity virtually starts with them, then you get to what am I going to solve for them? Why do they even care? Why is this even important to know? When would it be important for them to know it? That’s the definition of you’re trying to define the problem that you’re going to solve for that target audience. It will be challenging like shifting from our traditional design of being linear and waterfall to incorporating much more of an agile design thinking approach. But always start with the end user in mind.

Technology Adoption for the hybrid workforce

One issue we frequently encounter is starting with the wrong tool/technology. We first step outside to assess the issue. Therefore, I believe it must begin with what you’re attempting to accomplish. In order to change your mindset, I would likely need to have several conversations over time. I would also likely need to be able to pause, reflect, adapt, and change my perspective with others. So let’s say for example that I’m trying to do something that is, let’s say, a mindset shift. I want you to think and establish a growth mindset, for example. The tools that I would use to do that are based on being able to change your mindset. Therefore, it’s a lot more likely a social technique for wrapping.

There have been some really excellent tools, and you guys may even be aware of a few, that really overlay and help us with being able to have at the point of performance support in the tool, if I’m in a system and I’m actually learning, say, a new system. Digital adoption solutions help you achieve this.

I could crank up something that offers me a tip or a help component right then and there if I’m trying to be extremely context-sensitive about what I’m trying to do while using the tool. So having a tool connected to the workflow is a different kind of tool. As a result, it is functional and enables the workflow. It would be fantastic.


Chief Learning and Innovation Officer and Senior Vice President at GP Strategies. Matt Donovan has served as Chief Learning & Innovation Officer since December 2019. He is a recognized name in learning with more than 25 years of experience crafting learner-centric solutions and leading high-impact development teams.