Colleagues sitting around a conference table with laptops

The “return to work” has continued to dominate conversations for business and Human Resources leaders alike. While most organizations are still solidifying plans, many are expecting to adopt a more flexible approach for much of the year and may permanently embrace a hybrid work model.

For Learning & Development professionals, hybrid teams pose many new opportunities. Over the last several months, you have likely honed your skills in using video conferencing to host trainings or coaching sessions that were previously conducted face-to-face. Now, you may need to prepare for programs knowing that some attendees will be back in the office while others will remain remote.

How can you effectively facilitate experiences so that your in-person and virtual audiences remain engaged?

Refine Your Approach for a Hybrid Group

To support staff who may be attending your sessions from multiple locations:

  1. Utilize blended learning
  2. Plan ahead
  3. Think digitally first
  4. Invite connection
  5. Pay attention to share of voice

Utilize Blended Learning

Incorporating online interaction with live, facilitated sessions boosts efficiencies and engagement while also speaking to the different ways individuals prefer to learn. Blended learning can be beneficial to any program you lead. By giving individuals time to engage with material in advance and better understand the topics you will explore in your live workshop, your audience can feel more prepared to participate. That preparation may be particularly useful to virtual participants, who often have more challenges engaging in live programs.

Keep in mind: while eLearning courses are often the go-to for blended learning, they are not the only types of resources you can share. Consider using articles, blogs or videos to supplement your workshops.

Plan Ahead

This advice applies to both your agenda as well as the set-up of your physical and digital spaces. Make sure that you clearly define and communicate the objectives for your program as well as the structure of the session so attendees know what to expect. Provide any resources that employees will need well in advance and share links to materials in your virtual meeting room so the content is easily accessible.

In terms of the physical and digital spaces, give yourself plenty of time to plan how you will organize the room. Map out where you will seat attendees, place the camera(s) and position any screens to make it easy for remote participants to be seen and to see their on-site colleagues. You may also encourage in-person attendees to bring laptops and join the session on mute with their cameras turned on.

Lastly, make time to practice. Even if you have hosted this training before in-person or virtually, I invite you to set up your training space and use your video conferencing platform to run through your workshop a few times before you deliver it live. The practice will help you gain further confidence before your session.

Think Digitally First

Sometimes, virtual participants can feel like they are an afterthought compared to on-site staff, particularly when the program seems to favor an in-person experience. As you map out your sessions, consider the virtual audience’s needs first.

For example, if you are going to do a brainstorming activity, try utilizing digital whiteboards and ask in-person participants to contribute on their laptops. If you want to have small group discussions, use virtual breakout rooms in addition to group work in person. Again, you may also consider having employees’ laptops, tablets or phones on hand so that on-site staff can partner with remote colleagues too.

Invite Connection

In face-to-face programs, on-site staff tend to benefit from the informal connections that come during breaks. For virtual employees, it can be hard to take part in these moments to network, bond with colleagues or discover new learnings unless the facilitator consciously creates opportunities for all attendees to connect.

To facilitate these moments, invite team members to join the meeting early (online and in person), so they can get to know one another or catch up before your session starts. You can also include ice breakers and utilize polls to encourage the group to engage with each other in formal and informal ways.

Pay Attention to Share of Voice

Owl Labs reports that the number one challenge for remote workers during any hybrid meeting is being interrupted or talked over. To reduce this frustration (and appeal to all Expressiveness preferences) identify multiple ways to engage your participants other than simply talking out loud. Utilize polling, chat, small group breakout rooms as well as discussion to get input.

I also recommend that you set ground rules to proactively engage everyone’s voice. For example, you may let your audience know that you plan to ask remote team members to share inputs before turning your attention to on-site staff. It can also be beneficial to designate a chat monitor, who will actively share inputs from the chat feature with the group.

As with anything in Learning & Development, practice is critical to optimize your delivery. The good news is that you have likely spent the past 12 months identifying better ways to support remote employees with your trainings. While it may take a little getting used to, you can bring that valuable knowledge back with you as you lead sessions in person and create a powerful hybrid experience.

Are you interested in helping your staff reconnect with an engaging workshop that empowers them utilize their strengths to succeed? Learn more about how Emergenetics can help your organization’s on-site, remote or hybrid teams by clicking here or filling out the form below!


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