In 2023, work is more flexible than ever. In one McKinsey survey, over 50% of respondents reported having the option to work from home for all or part of the week,  and many teams who were previously office-based now enjoy a hybrid schedule. Plus, experiments with four-day work weeks and meeting-free weeks are making headlines.

As a result, there is an increased expectation for learning professionals to design experiences that reflect the freedom and ownership that workers experience with remote and hybrid options. Trainers must also change how they think about delivery. Hours of in-person training traditionally mirrored the hours spent in office, but now training must emphasize the flexibility and tech-forward nature of remote-first teams.

Furthermore, both distributed and co-located teams can benefit from a digital-first approach, where work is accomplished leveraging virtual spaces and technology to increase access and inclusion.

How might you translate best practices from a digital-first workday for your learners?

Depending on the context, it might look like:

  • Recording short videos for team members, instead of watching a 60-minute self-paced virtual course (think TikTok and Loom vs. YouTube and LinkedIn Learning).
  • Collaborating in digital spaces, instead of listening to a webinar (think project-based learning, not passive attendance).
  • Asking artificial intelligence (AI) questions, instead of attending a live Q&A (think ChatGPT and Slackbots instead of syncs with a trainer).

There’s a need for shorter, more interactive and responsive training to parallel the condensed workdays of outcomes-focused, remote teams. As workers increasingly take ownership of their time, schedules and work location, they expect ownership of their learning experiences. Learning professionals should prioritize interactive and collaborative learning within lightweight and existing tech stacks.

Using a digital-first lens to design learning experiences has distinct benefits:

  • Learning experiences will mirror remote workday activities, so work and learning are a continuous loop and indistinguishable.
  • Training delivery is scalable, agile and responsive to distributed learners.
  • Engaging with peers or a chatbot requires the learner to participate more actively.
  • Teams save time and more quickly move to implementation of behaviors and habits.

Here are three ways to use a digital-first approach to train remote and hybrid teams:

1. Casual, Responsive Videos

With the growing popularity of bite-sized videos (e.g., TikTok; Instagram Reels), the tone of training delivery has shifted. Content creators have changed how information is shared, building relationships with audiences and directly delivering information in a personal, responsive format. Learners are accustomed to tailored feeds, plus the human touch of a video response.

In remote work contexts, there are tons of video messaging options that can be leveraged for personalized, just-in time training delivery. One minute video clips in Microsoft Teams or longer Loom recordings are tools workers are already using at work. The casual, responsive nature of a video message feels fresh like social platforms in the 2020s, rather than highly produced videos you might embed in a storyline. Plus, video messaging is already utilized heavily by digital-first teams, so you’re also exposing learners to the tools themselves.

Leverage video messaging in training delivery to:

  • Introduce yourself to learners in advance of sync sessions.
  • Assign prework to be completed prior to a live session (e.g., watch a three minute video at 1.5 times speed vs. listen to 15 minutes of lecture live).
  • Support learners ad hoc and via just-in-time delivery.
  • Create a lightweight learning series quickly, without the need for editors.
  • Collaborate with subject matter experts or spotlight learners by stitching their videos with yours.

2. Collaborative Virtual Whiteboards

Much like emotional intelligence has increasingly been demanded of leaders, workers need to cultivate collaborative intelligence, a skill that comes from working together and connecting intentionally in shared spaces. But teams need more than passive, back-to-back Zoom meetings to create a culture of collaboration. Virtual whiteboards create community and engagement, and have become a critical tool for communicating visually, sharing ideas, running brainstorms and innovating.

By utilizing virtual collaboration tools like Microsoft Whiteboard or Mural, trainers can deliver more effective synchronous facilitations. Look for interactive features like timers to keep meetings on schedule, templates for team activities to encourage participation, anonymous voting sessions to speed up decision-making, and other features that support engaging meetings and discussion.

Use collaborative whiteboards in training delivery to:

  • Create a visually compelling synchronous learning experience.
  • Leverage social and experiential learning, where the learner generates the content.
  • Collaborate to identify problems and create solutions, instead of lecture.
  • Assign prework and postwork, giving learners a chance to consider and contribute their ideas in advance.
  • Use features like private mode to hide participant names and reduce groupthink.
  • Create fully asynchronous projects for learners to collaborate and co-construct work-specific use cases with their peers.

3. Interactive AI

Learning designers are energized by the possibilities of new AI tools like ChatGPT, but even before it hit the news, chatbots and Slackbots have long been leveraged for interactive learning experiences. Sourcing information and ideas outside of a virtual instructor-led training (VILT) or online learning environment offers more choice and learner-driven interactions.

For remote teams that prioritize documentation, knowledge workers are encouraged to seek information independently before relying on the time and energy of a team member. Protecting time is an imperative on these teams. Similarly, learners can leverage AI instead of relying on a learning professional to feed them information.

Try AI in training delivery to:

  • Structure learning experiences where chatbots or ChatGPT generate scripts for learners to practice soft skills.
  • Leverage automation within existing tech stacks, like Slackbots, to drip content during the workday.
  • Use an API to set up a bot to ask questions and reinforce learning before and after sync sessions in your existing channels.
  • Encourage learners to utilize AI tools to help them absorb information
  • Create project-based learning experiences over weeks or months, instead of one-time trainings.

Your Learning

As work shifts to be more flexible and digital first, learning professionals must also be more agile, comfortable with technology, and respond to the needs of a remote or hybrid worker. Help workers feel confident amidst change, adapt and grow, and enthusiastically embrace methods that allow for flexible learning and work.

Check in with your teams and find out what ideas they’d like to try, or learning experiences they’d like to have. Finally, explore your own goals for learning and upskilling, and try one new method or tool that reflects a digital-first approach to training delivery.