In this special live broadcast, we wrap up season 1 by answering your questions.
JD Dillon, Ann Rollins, and Brian Washburn return with Mimeo’s VP of Talent to answer questions submitted by you, our listeners, about hybrid learning. That includes what kind of transformation the industry has experienced, how to strike a balance of content formats, and tactical tips for making sure virtual, in-person, and asynchronous learners are all engaged.
Tom Moriarty: Welcome. You made it to the Secret Society of Success. In this not-so-secret podcast, we interview L&D change makers about how they approach the evolving corporate environment and cultivate their own careers. We hope that from their stories, you find lessons and inspirations to make yourself, your people, and your organizations more successful. In this first season, we're exploring the topic of hybrid learning, what that means at different organizations, why it is increasingly important, and how L&D leaders can invest in the right resources to best leverage.
Welcome everyone to The Secret Society of Success Podcast, where we seek to take lessons and inspiration from learning and development professionals across industries and shine an extra spotlight on the important work they do each day to make organizations and the people in them successful. I'm Tom Moriarty, your host and the SVP of strategic accounts over at Mimeo. For any of you who don't know, Mimeo is a print digital content delivery solution that makes it simple to get training content in front of any learner in any format, anywhere in the world. Fortunately, in my eleven years working with our customers, I've gotten the opportunity to learn so much about the ins and outs of the logistics behind learning and development and making people in organization successful. And now I love learning about the theory and practice of it on the Secret Society of Success podcast. During our first season, we focused on hybrid learning. Two plus years out from the pandemic, we are at a point where L&D practitioners and learners alike have been forced to experience hybrid learning in some shape or fashion, and they're now asking the question, is it the best solution for your program? And how do you make it the best solution for your program? Today, in this live broadcast, just as we do in the podcast, I've gathered a number of our guests from season one, plus Mimeo's own internal expert, our VP of People Ann McDonald, to answer questions that we've gathered from you, our audience, about hybrid learning. So, to jump in and kick things off, I'm going to ask everyone to introduce themselves and give their definition of hybrid learning in 27 words or fewer. And yes, I will be counting. Ann McDonald, let's kick things off with you.
Ann McDonald: Well, thanks, Tom. Hi, everybody. My name is Anne McDonald. I am the Senior VP of people here at Mimeo. And to answer your question, Tom, I did want to make sure I stayed under 27 words, so I wrote it down. I'm going to read my definition. Providing a structured learning format that engages and accommodates dispersed employee populations and provides multiple modalities for accessing and consuming learning content. That's how I define hybrid learning in 22 words.
Tom Moriarty: Thanks. JD, if you could.
JD Dillon: Hi. I'm JD, the chief learning architect at Axonify, a Learning Technology Company outside of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I live in Orlando, Florida, right next to the Walt Disney World resort to me. Hybrid learning to me simply means providing everyone with the support they need to do their jobs confidently and effectively, no matter where they do that work.
Tom Moriarty: Thanks JD.
Ann Rollins: Hi, I'm Ann Rollins and I lead the custom solutions team at the Ken Blanchard Companies and I'm located in the Denver metro area and I feel very similarly to the definitions of Anne and JD shared. Really, I think about it as a modern multimodal serve up that's going to address the needs of learners who might be anywhere. They might be in an oil refinery or in an office or in a warehouse, but really developing learning that accommodates the needs of your learners no matter where they are. Thanks.
Tom Moriarty: Thank you, Ann. And Brian, if you could.
Brian Washburn: So I'm Brian Washburn. I am one of the co founders of an instructional design company called Endurance Learning. Also happened to have the opportunity to write that book, What's Your Formula? And so when it comes to a hybrid learning approach, the way that I would define that is combining a variety of learning elements in order to meet the needs of both the learner and the organization. So it's finding that balance there.
Tom Moriarty: Great. Thank you Brian, and thank you to all our guests for taking the time today. So today what we're going to do in this live broadcast is, as I stated, we've got a number of questions that were submitted by you, our audience. So thank you so much for taking the time to do that before joining us here today, we're going to just simply go down and try to answer as many of them as we possibly can in the next 53 minutes. I'm going to do what I can to try to summarize and recap and let these experts here share as much of their knowledge as they possibly can for you guys. So without further ado, we're going to kick it off. JD, I'm going to flip this first question to you to start. I'll read it off and then we can just dive into the discussion around the topic itself. So this question from one of our attendees is: obviously the pandemic has impacted trainers and hybridization in major ways. Some initial studies about ecommerce projected that consumers are ten years into the future in terms of adopting ecommerce solutions and learning to order online at a necessity during stay at home orders. Do you feel hybrid learning had a similar jump forward in time? Are there aspects that are still lagging or areas where it seems like learners are still back on their feet?
JD Dillon: No, I don't think we transformed our practices in the last couple of years. I think we moved them. So I don't think we necessarily had the time, the opportunity, or the mental bandwidth to take a step back and say in the way that the world has evolved around us, what is the most effective way to leverage a variety of tools and techniques in order to help people do work in the new ways they're doing work. I don't think we had that conversation. I think we had to keep the train moving, keep people safe, take care of people go situation. So I think now is the time where we have to look at what we learned because we can't go back, right? The workplace isn't going back. Debate over the office thing is going to continue because people love debating who can command and control how workers do their jobs. But it's now time for us to take a look and say, okay, how is work being done today? And how will it be done over the next several years before it transforms again? And then how can we evolve our practices to make sure everyone gets the help and the support learning opportunities, development opportunities they need? So I think we learned a lot about what does and doesn't work. Hopefully we're listening to the people that we support and they're providing feedback over what is and isn't playing well, given that learning and development is one stakeholder in the lives of very busy employees. And hopefully we leverage that insight and everything we've picked up over the last couple of years while trying to make things work and apply that to meaningfully evolve our practices so that they meet the changing needs of the workplace.
Tom Moriarty: Thanks, JD. Brian, I see you nodding your head in agreement. What would you add to that?
Brian Washburn: Yeah, no, I totally agree with the idea that I don't think that we've intentionally moved the needle in terms of catching up to where technology can be and can take us. I think that out of necessity, as JD said, we kept the train on the tracks, we kept the train moving forward. And one of the interesting things that I think came out of this is that specifically when I'm talking about technology, I'm talking about kind of virtual synchronous types of technologies like zoom and teams and webex and things like that. It's one of the things that we've taken a look at pretty intensely with Endurance Learning. And one of the areas where there's been a lot of change has been what these virtual technologies offer. Now, at the start of the pandemic, you had zoom that had very easy breakout meetings and polling features and lots of different things. And then there are other platforms that people just were stuck with because that's what their companies had, but they weren't really using things like teams or goto meeting or things like that. And they all had different features, right? So teams, you could do video conferencing, but you didn't even have polling feature. You certainly didn't have breakout rooms and things like that. Now, all of those virtual technologies are very similar in terms of what they offer, and now they're coming out with more advanced features. But now you can finally do things like you were doing in person. You can get people into small groups. You can do the polling, you can do other things without all sorts of plugins and add-ons. So I think that technology is starting to catch up to where people may be wanted to uncomfortably go at the start of the Pandemic. But I think that what we have now is a greater familiarity because out of necessity, we've been doing a lot of virtual things. I don't know that there's been a lot of dreaming about what can be and how do we take most advantage of the technologies that are available to us even after kind of emerging from isolation and having to work from home and things like that. So the nodding was simply I think that, as JD said, I think you spot on in terms of I don't think that we've taken great leaps forward. I think we're more comfortable out of necessity with some of the things we've been doing.
Tom Moriarty: Thanks, Brian. Ann Rollins, what are your thoughts on the topic in terms of how far forward did we leap, if you will?
Ann Rollins: Yeah, you know, I think back to a number of solution architect jams that our solution architect team would lead in industry. And the big question was, “was what you did actually what you would have done?” And of course, the answer, JD and Brian, the answer is typically no. I'm at Blanchard, I've been there for just about three years, and one of the first things that we did was create an innovation roadmap and it was just before the pandemic happened. And so with all of these beautiful dreams of the technology, JD, that you talk about on the international stage, about massive move, collaboration, social learning, chatbots, how do we weave these things into a cohesive strategy? And so it certainly kind of encouraged us to tinker much more quickly at Blanchard, and we did. But we struggled with similar things because we were largely an Adobe Connect house. And so suddenly it was, we need to use Teams, we need to be able to use all of these different platforms. And when your off-the-shelf products aren't built and designed just to be supported that way, it just created an extraordinary amount of work. And so everyone got dug in and got to work, but there was almost this innovation roadmap that was underway and it caused us to evolve and move very quickly that direction. And years later, we're still just starting to roll out beautiful products there, but it's been a lot of time spending retooling for the new tools that are largely available in the world today.
Tom Moriarty: And McDonald, can you add on this topic?
Ann McDonald: I'll just bring it home pretty briefly because I agree with everything that was just said. But as I reflect on the past two years, I just always think of that quote of “never waste a good crisis.” And that's really the land that we are in right now, where we did get propelled to probably where we should have been with this type of hybrid approach to learning and technology being better out of necessity, we had to move quickly and be nimble and adapt. So now we can't waste this good crisis and need to really reflect on what are those lessons learned, what are the better practices and how can we continue to move forward so that we're not just waiting for the next great disruption that forces us to change again.
Tom Moriarty: That's great. I think that's a perfect recap. So let's get a little deeper. I think that there's a number of other questions that the audience provided they're a little bit more specific, dive a little deeper than that first broad question, which I think framed up the discussion nicely. So moving to the next one, this one is kind of focused on content itself. I'm going to start with you, Brian. I'll pull up this question up to you, but then the audience just feel free to jump in and pick up the end of any of Brian's thoughts. So the question is, “how do you balance how much content to deliver in which format? Do you ever look at the breakdown of in person or digital materials and feel like things need to be changed to balance content delivery better?”
Brian Washburn: Yeah, I was scrolling through Twitter earlier this week and I was really drawn to somebody's tweet about how they never trust somebody who doesn't begin the answer to a question with it depends. Right? So I think that people are like, why can't it be an answer? But it really does, especially with this question. It depends how do you balance the content to deliver in which format? And I think that people would love a world in which we could provide a neat formula. And when it comes to the book that I wrote called What's Your Formula? It's a question because I don't think there is a specific formula for people to be able to latch on to and say, this will work universally. People really do want to latch on. And I think that's why some myths and unhelpful things perpetuate in our industry. Like, you remember 10% of what you hear, which isn't true, but when people see an infographic like that, they want to latch onto that because it's just more comfortable to find a specific answer that says, this is exactly what you need to do universally, or this is exactly how it is universally. I think that it's a really important question to ask. And the thing that we need to keep in mind is that when it comes to learning, especially the field that we're in, it's a messy field. We're working with people and how they learn. And that's oftentimes an adaptive challenge. It's not a technical fix. We don't just turn on a switch and say, this is what the answer is going to be. So depending on what we need to learn or what we need to help people learn. We need to figure out what's going to be the right mix and there's going to be a few different things that play into that. How much time do we have to create? How much time do people have to digest the information? What do people need to be able to do newer, differently or better as a result of it? Is there ambiguity? Because if there is straight up answers that can be stuffed as digital or job aids or things like that, if there's ambiguity and there needs to be some more discussion, you need to go deeper into it. That's definitely a time for more live, whether it's face-to-face or virtual types of learning. When we design Elearning, for example, we need to make sure that we have very clear questions with very clear right or wrong answers. Otherwise people will leave that thinking oh, it depends what's the right answer and you can't leave people wondering that on an elearning. Whereas if you're doing something that is scenario based and you're doing something face-to-face or virtually that's live, you can have discussions. When you go digital, that room for discussion sometimes doesn't exist. There are some opportunities for discussion boards and things like that as well, but oftentimes when it is digital there are some things that you're going to want to be careful about. There's no good formula I don't think for how much what's the right balance of live versus digital types of media. But some good reasons for live interactions would be to address ambiguity and to make sure that people are crystal clear in terms of what the right answer may be. What the wrong answer may be. Where there is gray area another reason that you might want to get involved and check your balance of things that are live versus asynchronous would be accountability. A lot of times when we assign pre-work that's digital, post-work that's digital or any sort of work that's digital, people may or may not complete it. When you have a live version then oftentimes you have more of an opportunity to make sure that people are at least adjusting the information that's out there to check in with learners is another piece that you may want to err on the side of a little bit more live interaction or even building community our options or opportunities to do things in a live environment. Whether it's face-to-face or virtual and then there are lots of other ways that you can go to build things digitally but I don't know that there's necessary formula. You have to ask yourself what's the intent behind this and how do we get that right mix in there?
Tom Moriarty: Thanks Brian. Ann Rollins, any additional thoughts on this?
Ann Rollins: Yeah, for sure everything Brian said. When we're building for learning populations where the scale is massive, 10,000, 15,000 people, certainly that draws you to a very likes the path for the modalities that you're going to select. And for us, building leadership, development skills and capability, we typically look for what is the aptitude and the tolerance in the organization for self directed, for learning using different types of technology, because you might have an organization that they're pretty locked down and so they don't necessarily have that capability to layer in as much technology to be able to really benefit them. But for us, it's about making the most of the group time together. So when we're talking about these large audiences, bringing them together to be able to really reflect and integrate the things that they learn, the first moment of learning with a large audience, we're going to push that into different ways. Whether it's digital learning and opportunities, try it things that they're going to go and apply, talk to their leader about. But then bringing people together really focuses on kind of reflecting on what their experience has been using what they've learned and being able to talk about what keeps them from being able to integrate that the barriers that get in their way.
Brian Washburn: Can I just ask Anne, when it comes to things that you do kind of self-directed, especially if you're going to mix it with something that may be live as well, what are some ways that you actually get people to complete some of the self-directed work? Because I think that's a really big challenge anytime it comes to the hybrid. And I even mentioned it's difficult to get people to be accountable for some of that self-directed stuff.
Ann Rollins: Yeah, for sure. So it depends certainly if we're putting together kind of a massive cohort in say, a multi week collaborative online experience, we found that a weekly badge, so some extrinsic motivation and leaderboard really encourages consumption. A digital credential at the end, in order to apply for your portable public digital credentials, you have to have actually completed every week of experience and badged and gotten the full completion badge for the program doesn't work for anyone, for everybody. But certainly we find that that definitely drives some of those positive behaviors that we're looking for. Also leaderboard, if they want to be in the top 20, they've got to complete certain activities to get there. Also recognition in the live sessions too. A number of our clients like step number one, they might have a pathway and degree where they are completing their self directed learning. And very early in our live session when they're coming together to again kind of revisit some of the key concepts, talk about reflection and integration very early is some recognition about who has actually completed and what are the big takeaways that they learned that not only apply at work, but things that apply outside of work. I think about we've got one module that has a really great tool for giving an effective apology that actually matters to people. And when you start drawing in people's how they're able to use what you're learning, not just in the workplace, but for a broader sense of giving them positive things to help them in their lives. That also tends to draw them in a little more as well.
Ann McDonald: I was going to answer that question with one word, which was bribery, which Ann so eloquently laid that out.
Ann Rollins: A little bit of that doesn't work for everyone, but there certainly is a core population that we see. It definitely works for.
Tom Moriarty: JD, I know at Axonify you guys will focus a lot on the front line. That's a big part of the discussion that you and I had during our besides some of the key takeaways that Brian and Ann and Ann hit on. Anything else that you guys think for that particular audience in terms of deciding. One. How to get engagement on some of that pre work and digital content. Or also how do you decide the best way to deliver in each of the formats for that audience. Which is a little different.
JD Dillon: There's really comes down to there's two ways to drive engagement with any type of solution, regardless of what department you're in, learning and development. Otherwise, if you want people to use something that you're trying to provide to help them out, there are two ways to do that. It's one, understanding the audience and the persona of that audience and what it's like to do that job and be that person. How they spend their time, where they spend their time, where they do the work, what tools they use to do the work, what technologies they have access to having a deep enough understanding so that you can craft and offer a solution that makes sense. Right? That's as frictionless as possible. Not easy, but frictionless to access. I don't have to leave the deli counter and go to a second floor in the grocery store to an HR office that no one ever sees in real life, to go to a desktop computer that's going to buffer an Elearning module for 45 minutes. That just doesn't happen. Right? It's not going to happen. Especially when organizations are short staffed and customer focused and those types of things. So one, you have to understand the reality of that person. So we're designing help that matches the reality and workflow of that person. And then secondly, it's providing value. Right? So one of my mantras as Axonify is that every time someone logs into the platform, they should be getting something that helps them clearly do their job better. So it's not a matter of me saying as a learning and development person, this is good, this is meant to help you. Right? Yes, there are a bunch of boxes we still have to check. Compliance exists, regulatory training exists, all of those different types of factors. But every time you engage and this is where ideas like data and adaptive learning and personalization are critical parts of the equation, especially supporting large distributed workforces. We need to do our best to make sure that the person feels this is for me, this seems to fit a need that I have. This is clearly intended to help me do the job. There's no fluff. It's not wasting my time. It's built with an understanding of what my experience is like as an employee. And this is going to try to help me solve a problem that I really need to solve. And if the person gets that value from that experience, they are infinitely more likely to come back and trust you. That when you ask for their time for other activities. Because it's not always about a couple of minutes a day. Sometimes there's a couple of minutes a day of training. But sometimes you do need those more immersive experiences. You're going to go hands on and training going to do simulation work. Right. But they're more likely to trust you when you do ask for that time and attention if all of your other experiences are targeted and helpful. Because if you're constantly disconnected from those realities, what's the likelihood that they're going to look at the future thing that you offer? Even if it's great, what are the odds are going to look at that and say, I'm going to spend my limited time on that? Because if you haven't built that trust, why would they trust you again?
Tom Moriarty: Yeah, I think that's great and it's going to be provided a good segue. A couple of things that I've jotted down is hopefully some actionable takeaways for the audience. And those of you who asked the question, asking the questions of is this a black and white or gray topic? Right? I think it's one of the things that Brian said, understanding if you're in the gray area, there's probably a deeper need for discussion. It's probably a better use for a live session.
Brian Washburn: Right.
Tom Moriarty: Understanding the size of the audience, the time that you have, understanding the accountability to follow up and actually complete elearning a couple of different themes that came through. Yeah, I think hopefully there's some additional takeaways there.
Ann McDonald: Can I add one thing there, Tom, because the providing value piece is such an important component, and JD talked about how do they make sure it's clear that they understand what the value is to learning how to do their job better. I have found there is great power in also giving people the incentive to understand how what they are learning is going to impact their personal lives. And that seriously piques interest, especially in that prework component. So if you can get that hook of, well, not only is this helping me do my job better, but it's something that I can apply in my personal life, you're going to have much higher engagement in your learning activities.
Ann Rollins: Yeah. I'd like to add on to something, Ann, that you said. When we think about that pre work, Brian, from a digital perspective for us, we're looking at think of a relationship that really needs some work in your life, and it might be my relationship with my boss or with my partner or with my kids. Think of that tough conversation that you need to have at work and you've been dreading it and you've been putting it off. And so we focus it there. So it's very resonant with them and it's like, well, hopefully I'm going to get something that's going to help me move the needle on this because this is a pain point. And so we try to focus there for our pre work again, to make it resident and to create that intrinsic drive, the curiosity for me to get in there and see what I'm going to get. Because if it's going to yield this result, it's in my best interest to be there.
Tom Moriarty: Yeah.
Brian Washburn: One of my takeaways as I'm listening to this is from a designer perspective. Can we take ourselves out of the shoes of the designer and put ourselves in the shoes of the learner and ask, would we want to do this? That goes into what JD was just saying and what you're mentioning. If it resonates personally. Even if I have to take my own initiative because I'm not being watched over in a live session, what is it that would make me want to do this? Would I want to complete this thing that I'm designing?
Tom Moriarty: Yeah, I think that's a great takeaway, and I think ultimately, I think that goes back to there was two things I wrote down, the JD added. The first one is deliver value. Simple. Just make sure that you're delivering value to your audience. And then ultimately, in order to do that, I think the first step to doing that is understanding who the audience is in the first place, which kind of is a nice little segue to the next question from our audience, which is on the topic of understanding the audience in general. And I'm going to kick this one over to you to start. Ann Rollins, so the question is, “how do employees from the boomer generation and older do with hybrid training? Any tips to help them find success when their younger colleagues may be more naturally adept as tech natives?”
Ann Rollins: Yeah, I think that's a big question. JD mentioned personas earlier, and so when we're doing work and we're looking at who is our learner that we're solving for and keep them in the center of all that we're doing. So thinking about what are their goals, what are their challenges, what are they trying to get done in the day, what is their tolerance, their aptitude with technology? What is the job they're doing and where are they doing it? And when you start creating these learner personas for people in a similar role who may be in different environments and certainly have kind of different constraints around. The work that they're doing. It really helps you to discern what are the learning methods that across this audience that are going to resonate with most of them, and specifically to a multigenerational workforce. I don't think that if you ask people, are you willing to learn the skills to be able to be successful in your job? I would imagine the boomers would probably all say yes. People want to do a great job, and so it's our job, and it's incumbent on us as learning practitioners to help guide them. So if there's going to be a learning curve for a technology component that's going to be part of a large learning journey, it's incumbent on us to make sure that they're ready for it. That happens through a communication strategy. It happens through kind of kickoff sessions and sessions where we're introducing the technology and being able to set them up for success so that they understand why that technology is integrated into the solution and how it's going to boost the learning outcomes. And when people have that understanding, they're more willing to take a risk and to try out a new technology that they maybe haven't used before. We see great success with that by starting with Personas, making sure that when we've got whenever it doesn't have to be a multigenerational workforce, people want to understand the components of their learning and why each part is there and why it matters. And if you're able to give them that rationale as part of your comp strategy and able to walk them through and introduce them to the various components, you're on a winning path for sure, from what we've seen at Blanchard.
Tom Moriarty: Thanks, Ann. I think we want to sit on the idea of understanding the audience a little bit further. So I'd love to understand, Brian, what does that mean to you guys at Endurance? When you guys think about delivering and trading for a customer, what does that mean to you?
Brian Washburn: Yeah, and I think that some of this goes back to what JD was talking about earlier, is where are our learners? What do they do day to day? Are they sitting in front of a computer? Are they out in the field? Are they doing something else? What kind of device are they on? So if we're going to be delivering something that is going to be digital or even other resources, be able to understand what their situation is first. The original question is kind of what's becoming the age-old question about different generations in the workforce and older generations maybe being a little bit less tech savvy. And I think that we just need to be careful with that generalization. I know that my business partner talks a lot about his previous job and experience that he had, where they are developing an app for early learning professionals. So these are professionals that were in their 20s, right? So we're thinking, oh, tech savvy generation right, but the app that they developed and deployed wasn't being adopted because the people are deploying to were working in the classroom. They didn't use apps and they didn't use other things all day. They were in front of preschool children and so they really struggled with the adoption. And so we do need to be careful about the generational generalizations. And then beyond that, I think going to what Ann said is just kind of making sure that people understand and can be prepared in terms of how to access whatever it is that we're trying to provide to be helpful to people. As a member of Generation X who grew up learning about the pioneering life of the western part of the country through Oregon Trail, who started using email when I was in college and then learned about this World Wide Web thing kind of towards the end of my senior year. It was certainly an evolution and I consider myself relatively tech savvy. But I still need to go and use a tutorial on how to use a different feature in how do I get a drop down menu in Excel or how do I do a different feature in PowerPoint. And the way that I'm able to figure this out is through a simple tutorial on YouTube or things like that. And so if we can make the learning and reduce the barriers to however, we're going to deliver it by making sure that people have just kind of a quick reference guide. If it's some sort of new technology that we're going to ask them to adopt, those are things that we need to keep in mind, not just what we're going to deploy and where we're going to deploy it, but how are people going to access it and how do we remove the friction to their adoption to it.
JD Dillon: The only thing I can remember about Oregon Trail is that I always used to die of a broken arm while crossing a river. I don't know why that was always a scenario, but that was how I went down in that game. I use personal smartphones as my comparison point for kind of the expectations and the line that people are judging all other technology against because there's literally no handbook for my iPhone. It doesn't come with an instruction manual. I turn it on and it works. And then I use certain applications and I don't need to be told. I think I'm decently tech savvy, but there are people who are way more tech savvy than me of every potential age group. So it comes down to when we're building or selecting technology, are we making sure that it's the type of technology that anyone can use inclusive of everyone that might work in our organization regardless of age or how comfortable they are not with technology and those types of things? And then I think the other common error that we often make in learning and development with technology is that we bucket our kind of digital capability into just the collection of technologies that we bought, when in reality, there's a wide variety of tools and technologies and devices that people use in different types of work. And the question should be, how can we use those things in concert with our own toys in order to help people do their jobs more effectively? And when I worked in contact center operations, my number one learning platform was not a learning platform. It was a wiki. And if anyone's ever heard me talk, I talk at nausea about wiki platforms because I'm a big fan of knowledge sharing practices. That exercise of implementing non learning tech to enable tech is what helped me realize it's almost never a technology problem. It's almost always a behavior and workflow problem, especially in remote work and hybrid work and all these types of complexities. It doesn't matter how cool the technology is, how good Microsoft Teams is, and all of those types of things. It's helping people adapt their work behaviors and make sure they've got the right processes in place and that people are consistent in terms of how they do their jobs and how they define collaboration and sharing and prioritize all those things that makes the technology worthwhile. Because back to my Wiki story. It was really cool wiki, but if no one contributed to it, it didn't matter. So the trick was actually finding ways to change how people leveraged and shared information and then using technology as a facilitator to execute the right behaviors and processes. So I think we have to, in L&D, get outside of our own kind of four walls when it comes to how we define the role of technology and helping people learn and perform and think more from an ecosystem perspective about all the tools that people leverage and really focus on the right processes. The right behaviors. And those types of ideas to bring it to life through technology.
Tom Moriarty: That's really well said, JD. I personally couldn't agree anymore. I've been in any conversations, I think, and probably Ann McDonald's been in some of them, where I've shared my thoughts on software I've often seen in my career here at Mimeo, where the idea is, oh, we need this new software because the one we have doesn't work well. The one we have doesn't work because you didn't set it up right. We'll be honest, right? You didn't set it up right. You didn't build the right process.
JD Dillon: Because SharePoint is not inherently evil, I've found. Tell me if I'm wrong, but one of the easiest ways to get a group of people on your side in learning and development or corporate communications is to just to go SharePoint, right? And everyone goes, yeah. And like, it's not cool, it's not perfect, but there's usually a pile of administrative complexity introduced where the tool got kind of destroyed before you even got started and then you're kind of facing the limitations of a particular tool as a result. I've seen people do fun things and cool things with SharePoint too. But yeah, it's so often the fact that we kind of combat technology from the wrong angle and don't think about the relationship between how work is done and the technology. We just kind of in our own little silo, create what we think is a good solution and it just bounces off of kind of the reality of work.
Tom Moriarty: I totally agree. I think one of the things we've been receiving some questions from the audience as we've been talking, and I think it'll segue us nicely to the next topic because a lot of the questions have been a bit tactical, specifically around how you deliver hybrid learning, right. “How do you deliver a successful program, things about how do you keep the students engaged when you've got half an audience, virtually half an audience in person?” So we've got actually a pretty long list of questions here. So I'm going to try to get through at least four or five on this topic because this was a popular topic. And McDonald, I'm going to start with you on the first one. “Is it possible to have a successful hybrid program when your learners are located nationwide? An ILT is not possible for everyone at once.”
Ann McDonald: The answer is yes. And actually, it's funny. I'm glad we're getting into some of the more tactical questions because I think Brian and Ann and JD are thinking about bigger audiences and accommodating global audiences, whereas I'm thinking about my audience within Mimeo, within our company. And this particular challenge actually talk about getting thrown into the deep end of the pool. As soon as COVID, everybody went into lockdown with COVID, we decided it would be an excellent idea to concentrate our time on learning and development for segments of our employee population who normally didn't have the time for learning and development opportunities. So we had to deliver essentially a combined classroom training where a large part of the population was coming into a classroom, but all of the trainers, leaders and facilitators were remote or virtual and in different locations. So certainly a unique challenge to figure out how can we accommodate remote learners plus remote leaders and a more traditional classroom driven audience. So to get very tactical, one of the most important ways that you can successfully do that type of approach where you're combining audiences and you have dispersed leadership or dispersed trainers, is to make sure that you have advocates on site or in each method that you are delivering in. So I don't think anybody has the luxury of having a giant fleet of trainers that they send out to be on site at every location. So what I essentially did was identify or have our leaders identify people who could be champions and or on site facilitators or in remote environments? Remote facilitators. So, for example, Tom is somebody that I do this to when we do trainings because I know he will jump in and facilitate. I'll say to him, hey, can you be in charge of the remote audience or can you be charged of this group of people and just make sure they are staying engaged and have my back and make sure that they're participating in getting those break rooms and keep them engaged. And the same thing with the on site population, making sure that you have people who are on the ground, not necessarily a trainer, but somebody up and coming person. It's a great opportunity to tap into people's skill sets that they wouldn't normally get the chance to do, help them facilitate, help keep the group on track, and help keeping the interaction between the remote people and the on site people synchronized and flowing smoothly.
Tom Moriarty: Okay, that's a great tactical answer. The first question I asked and also addresses the net in the audience who specifically asked, while we've been recording in a hybrid course with in-person and virtual students, how do you keep the virtual students engaged without ignoring the in person students and driving instructors crazy, which is also an important topic. So, like I said, you can get your micro instructors in your different locations. Brian, any other ideas on how to manage that challenge?
Brian Washburn: Yeah, so any time that somebody has asked, how do we create a hybrid program? When they define hybrid as some people are going to be in person, other people are going to be remote is, I always use the rule of thumb that we design for virtual first because it's so easy to be engaged with the people who are right physically in front of you in the room. And when you're doing that, it's really easy to forget the people who might be virtual. And so designing for virtual first means how are we going to make sure that everybody who's online can be engaged and then figuring out, okay, well, what do we do in person when virtually we have a poll. Well, we can use show of hands in the room or people can use the same technology that some of the people virtually are using as well. When we go to breakout rooms, then we have small groups in person. Right. So if we design for virtual first, which is, I think, sometimes the bigger challenge in terms of keeping people engaged, there are much easier ways to then kind of work backwards and get the people who are present physically also engaged through similar activities.
Tom Moriarty: That's great. Thanks, Brian. To jump a level deeper, so not just the hybrid example, but another question that the audience ask was what approaches are most engaging for the asynchronous portions of Elearning? How do you make it both attractive, engaging and impactful? Ann Rollins, what do you think there?
Ann Rollins: Yeah, so for most of our programs, it starts with launch work, which is the pre work. So even if it's a virtual session or a face-to-face session, there's always this launch work that happens individually. And our approach there is we talked about it earlier. Making the content as relevant. Really kind of helping the learner to identify the problem that they're going to be looking to solve and giving them some bits pieces in quick tiny bites so that as they have a few moments because nobody wants to sit down for 45 minutes and do pre work. Do their self-directed learning to get ready to go to class. So keeping it short, keeping it very relevant and timely too. I talked about a bit about lighting the path for what's to come, but really giving them the opportunity to figure out what their personal purpose is going to be when they further engage in the program. That's definitely how we start things out. And when we're talking about that self directed learning is that it's going to either be very reflective and personal or if it's happening midstream, which again, we have a lot of fieldwork in our programs. And when our programs that are all digital, we infuse what we call try it activities where the design actually gives them a design to go out and apply this nugget that you just learned and then reflect on it. That kind of keeps it coming back to the learner and their experience and did this work and what could I have done better so that I can learn from my peers when we come back in a group setting to talk about it?
Tom Moriarty: Yeah, that's great. It really does tie back to one of the key points I think earlier, is just continue to focus on delivering the value from a learner's perspective.
JD Dillon: Right.
Tom Moriarty: You want it to be engaging. Make sure that at the end of the day it's delivering value and it's meeting the audience where they are making an impact on their ability to do their job, to keep going down. Some of the topics on delivery approaches, these are going to get specifically tactical and anybody in the audience feel free to jump in with this one. When hosting small group discussions in a roundtable format, how do you ensure that remote participants are interacting? And any tips on the technology, specifically if everybody is in one large room and then we also have some remote participants.
Brian Washburn: So one of the things that we've done in the past, and again, this depends on the number of people, if you're talking dozens in person and then also dozens virtually doesn't necessarily work. But if it's a handful of people virtually and a lot of people in person, one of the things that we've done in the past is we've actually set up laptops on tables that represent the people who are virtual. And so each of the virtual people calls in or logs in with a link and they're almost physically present, right? So you have the laptop, it's almost like Max Headroom, right? So it's just the head of the person, but they're physically there. And then when there are small group discussions, they're physically having that conversation with the other people who are present. So it doesn't work in all situations. But that is a solution that we've worked on and have used successfully in the past, where with a limited number of virtual participants and number of people who are in person, you can kind of blend the technology that way.
Tom Moriarty: I like that I'm getting a funny visual in my head. I enjoy this. Any other specific tech tips for that large group in a room and then some amount of remote participants? Any good technology that anyone here in the audience likes?
Ann McDonald: Similar to what Brian was saying, in the absence of having multiple laptops and dispersed at tables, we would just designate a spokesperson for some of the remote participants. So in the group discussion, the spokesperson would be interacting with the individual or remote person online and then translating for that individual or representing that individual as well. So it was a less than ideal scenario, but it was the best way to because we had this large classroom setting with a handful, just a handful of remote people and it didn't make sense to put them into their own breakout room. Had it been a bigger group, it would have made sense just put them in a virtual breakout room. But instead we just had them interact virtually and they were engaged and participating that way and gave out things like participation points so that those people were making sure to be given their input and not feeling checked out.
Tom Moriarty: It's true. I can attest for Ann's commitment to bribery and our points. There is often candy and some sort of treat involved in every training and honestly, everyone loves it, so it does work. Candy, treats, snacks are all valid points of library and I'm seeing them work almost every single time.
Ann Rollins: Although if you're a remote person, that can be construed as proximity bias because I didn't get the Snickers or the Twix bar. I had to dial in.
Brian Washburn: I think that Ann brings up an interesting point that we don't want to lose. And one of the things that we've worked with some different groups on is to figure out how do we make it feel less virtual? And so if we can send out something in advance to the participants who are going to be virtual and say open this day of or whatever, then there are other opportunities to physically make it feel a little less virtual.
Ann McDonald: Yeah, I was actually on the receiving end of a training environment where I was remote and a lot of prework went into it, obviously, but a beautiful little gift box that had everything from the materials to like a candle and candy. So you can if you are going to do that, if you are creating that type of atmosphere in your ILT and you're going to have some remote people and can deliver that type of service, it goes a really long way. I was very impressed. I paid attention the whole time.
Brian Washburn: Exactly.
Ann McDonald: There are so many great digital reward systems now, too. I did it this morning in a team meeting where we did a quick question and rewarded somebody with a gift card, shot a gift card out immediately. So there are good ways to reward from afar.
Brian Washburn: Yeah, I just think that Ann has a really good point. If you're going to blend people in person and virtual, just be very careful about that proximity bias because it's so easy to slip into without a second thought.
Tom Moriarty: Yeah, it's funny actually. Quick story. It's something I had never thought of, but I have someone on one of my teams who's new and his role is similar to another team that's managed by a different person. So we were looking to integrate them because they have similar roles, similar day to day focus. The thought is, hey, you could benefit from working with a bunch of these team members. The only difference is that he's remote for the most part. They're hybrid in the office a couple of days, home a couple of days. But he actually called out that he's had challenges before in the past by being the only remote person in a sales development organization. And that has created that unintended bias. And it is something that before that conversation I had never thought of and I was like, wow, how did I overlook that? Right. Which I think you can easily overlook if you've never been in those shoes. But I think it's a really important call out and you were going to share something.
Ann Rollins: Yeah. You know what's interesting is in a couple of different environments, a few things to think about and consider. When you've got your training going on, you've got your remote, person is dialed in an option like Atlanta, we prefer to go all virtual versus that hybrid. Some live, some not live. That is our last choice for something like this. Even if most people are in the office, going virtually really democratizes the experience for everyone. But a couple of things, if you find yourself that you're in that situation and we do, is placement of the person who is instructing because think about where the camera angle is. You don't want them looking at your back the entire time and so that becomes important. A really nice approach too is to have everyone log into the virtual meeting and just go on mute so that they're all on screen together. And so that way the people who have to dial in remote can see your faces, they can see your expressions. They can also see if there's a side conversation going on that they're missing out on because that gatekeeping takes a lot of focus and a lot of work. But those are a couple of additional tips that I found really help in general.
Tom Moriarty: Those are great. Thanks, Ann. We're coming up towards the end of our hour here. So what I'd like to do is just give everybody. All the experts. Not myself. An opportunity for a closing thought for the audience on the topic of hybrid learning. Whether it's to deliver it better. Focus on the audience better. What have you. But I'll just go around and facilitate and give everyone an opportunity to deliver a nice little closing statement as we wrap up here. So JD, what's one thing you'd want our audience to take away on the topic?
JD Dillon: Hot take. Hybrid learning is not a real thing. You're designing an experience that meets the needs of different audiences. If some people are physically in an office, some people are in the front lines in a manufacturing facility and some people are working from home, that's three different experiences. There's no one experience, no one technology that levels the playing field in terms of enabling you to do one thing that meets everyone in the exact same place, consistently here and there. Certain types of content might play, but generally speaking, it's on us and the organization. If we want to work in a certain way and we want the benefits as an organization of remote work. Hybrid work. People back on site. All of those different things. We should be putting in the investment to design experiences and provide solutions that match again. Back to what I said in the beginning. The reality of how people work and the more we any situation where you've got people in a room and then people watching them online and some people on the phone. Someone's getting cheated in that experience. Right. So just like hybrid conferences now, it's actually an online conference and a physical conference. Are you putting in the right investment in order to make sure all participants, regardless of physical location, are getting the support they deserve? So that's my take on it.
Tom Moriarty: Ann Rollins. What's your thought?
Ann Rollins: Focus on your audience. And if you stay laser focused on who your audience is, who you're solving for, it just really helps you to be able to distill what they're going to need from their learning, from their experience in terms of access points. And so I would suggest if you're not using learner personas and doing persona work, it's really a great opportunity area for practitioners to focus on.
Tom Moriarty: Makes sense. Brian?
Brian Washburn: Yeah, I think my final thought kind of comes in the form of a branching scenario and I think that the guiding questions to ask with any design, certainly with hybrid learning or whatever we want to call, this is what I want to go through this experience. And if the answer is no, then we have some soul searching to do, right? So I know that sometimes we just don't have the time to put something together as well as we would like or the resources or whatever, but the answer is no. We need to revisit what we've designed and figure out is there a better way to do it? If the answer is yes, that's great. And that's one data point which brings us down the path, different branch, right, to what is it that I like about it and what don't I understand about my learners? And my learners may answer this question differently. So I think there's a little bit of a branch there. Just because we might like it doesn't mean it won't work for everyone. But if we don't like it, we really need to kind of revisit it.
Tom Moriarty: That's great. Thanks, Brian. Ann McDonald.
Ann McDonald: So. Thank you, Brian. You've given me a great third question to ask because when I am thinking about putting together a learning program, I always start with the question of what is the problem that we're trying to solve or what needles are we trying to move? So that's question number one. Question number two, verbatim what Ann Rollins said is know your audience. Who is my audience? How are they going to best engage with and consume this information? And now I'm going to add that third question of what I want to go through this experience. So that would be my closing thought. And to echo what JD said, really everything that we've all just talked about is outside of the concept of hybrid. It is all about how do you approach putting together successful learning programs, how do you help people be better at their jobs? How do you help people value in what we're bringing to the table?
Tom Moriarty: Awesome. Thanks, Ann. And thank you, JD and Ann and Brian as well for your time today. It's been great. And also thank you to the audience. We've got a number of great questions. People took the time to put questions in beforehand. Hopefully this added some value for everybody here. That's all the time we had for today. One thing I will call out is a topic that came up quite a bit during our discussion today is understanding your audience and the topic that Ann highlighted of Learner Personas. If that is something you're interested in, then keep an eye out for season two. Because in our podcast, during season two, the entire topic we will be exploring is the topic of Learner Personas. How to use them, what they are, how to create them, how to apply them to meeting your learners, where they are and delivering great content. So thank you all for your time. Thank you guests, and thank you audience.
The Secret Society of Success is hosted by Mimeo. The better way to print. Check out our sister podcast, Talk of the Trade for tips and tricks for sales and marketing leaders. Visit www.mimeo.com for more information.