We’re two decades into the twenty-first century and digital technology has become a consistent and reliable part of our lives. Smartphone usage by Americans increased from 35 percent in 2011 to 81 percent by 2019, indicating how certain technologies provide undeniable benefits for both communication and access to information as they become more ubiquitous.1 By 2015, there were over a billion mobile workers around the globe2—today, PwC predicts that there over a billion mobile workers in Asia alone.3 As worker mobility and robust technology solidify into commonplace components of the modern workplace, the demand for high-quality digital solutions will only grow. One key aspect of this growth is in learning and development, where organizations like CBRE | Host drive results with high-quality, hands-on workplace training. But what happens when classroom-based, face-to-face instruction becomes a temporary impossibility?
Host’s goals of providing increased digital and virtual learning options have been on the agenda for some time. However, with a global pandemic shuttering offices throughout the world, our learning and development professionals have had to expedite these options to ensure that new hires receive the same level of expert training, even if the training isn’t performed in person.
“This situation is forcing us to tackle things on our roadmap earlier than expected,” said Maureen Flaherty, Host’s Learning and Development Manager. “It’s important to remember that virtual experiences still allow us to provide quality training for our Hosts. It may initially feel more challenging to individuals used to in-person learning experiences, but we’re still on track to provide important, learner-led training in a virtual context.”
Without the option for in-person classes, the learning and development team have begun to use a variety of tools to keep members of the Host team interested in their education. Common interactive communications resources like Zoom, along with Kahoot! and other similar vehicles for digital learning, allow for a functional recreation of the typical training class. Many of the same materials and concepts are utilized, albeit in a modified form to align better with the idiosyncrasies of virtual education. One example is working with new Hosts to exhibit body language that suggests empathy and openness. Typically, this part of the course requires physical demonstrations from trainers and in-person feedback from learners. However, in a virtual setting, the team is looking at a combination of detailed video examples to effectively showcase the body language, followed up with interactive quizzes and participation-based Q&A periods with instructors.
Although the team is creating effective virtual training models, Host’s educators argue that one of the biggest remaining challenges specific to this situation is keeping learners engaged. For many office workers, the most familiar interaction with professional development comes from required compliance training modules and other similar forms of guided content. This DIY approach, while sometimes efficient in its distillation of crucial information, has by-and-large been a failure despite the investment of millions by organizations on compliance efforts.4 Host’s approach seeks to be the antithesis of ineffective, dry and uninspiring content, which can work against long-term learning and retention. By inspiring learners to take an active interest in their own training, the instructors focus on creating connections, inspiring curiosity and delivering unexpected delight with curated learning that tells the Host story and effectively communicates the company’s culture of hospitality and service. With the right kind of instruction, people can remain focused while tackling the tasks that require their attention and participation, even if they’re physically separated from their instructors and classmates.
According to a study from the U.S. Department of Education, on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.5 While this study is in no way advocating that education be exclusively online, it does demonstrate that it’s possible to provide high-quality instruction without in-person interaction. With that in mind, the learning and development team believes that they can create virtual and digital experiences that rival the effectiveness of classroom training.
“We’re working to level up our training so that people are still learning a lot and while having fun,” Flaherty said. “This is also an opportunity to put together a standalone virtual experience so that when in-person classes finally do reconvene, we’ll still have a comprehensive way to educate remote workers or those in isolated situations. This pandemic is a terrible thing, but it’s forcing us to reexamine how we can come together to support people while still providing a positive, mindful learning experience. We have to take from it what we can get.”
Delivering delight is a key component of how Host supports workplace communities and we achieve that through unexpected acts of consideration and kindness. Caring for other people is central to our mission and prioritizing the needs of people gives us an opportunity to empathize with those we serve, putting authenticity and support at the forefront. Whether your office is in a high-rise or a spare bedroom, Host is here to provide excellent service and create great outcomes for all workers.
No matter where you work, there are several ways to make the most of your time and develop the necessary routines to help you feel confident and secure in your ability to achieve great things. Host produced the following articles to offer some advice to help you create a personalized work environment that lets you be at your best, regardless of your surroundings.
Ryan Bryant is Host’s Communications Lead, overseeing the development of marketing collateral, internal and external content, thought leadership and Host social media. With a background in journalism, Ryan is passionate about using language to foster authentic engagement with readers to emphasize our shared humanity. When he isn’t writing, Ryan can likely be found noodling around on a guitar or playing with his dog, Tina Turner.