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Future of work trends: remote learning

In his blog series about trends in internal communications and digital collaboration, our associate partner, Rik Mulder, has already briefly touched on the challenges of learning in a hybrid world. More on that now, including some practical tips.

The challenges of learning in a hybrid world

It is a well-known rule of thumb: 10% of knowledge is gained through formal learning, 20% through coaching and 70% by observing others. But how do we facilitate this 70% on-the-job learning in an ever more digital and hybrid world?

As I explained in an earlier blog post, hybrid working all too often leads to eager-to-learn juniors congregating in the office, while knowledgeable seniors prefer to work peacefully from home. But what seniors see as distractions at the office are often learning opportunities for juniors. Research by Killian Wawoe of the Free University in Amsterdam amongst 7000 workers during COVID bears this out: the pandemic affected juniors much more than seniors. Their productivity decreased and their growth stalled.

This calls for a structured approach to digital learning. Formal learning is usually offered on an e-learning platform. Make this social by setting up learning groups for people following similar courses to help and motivate each other. Agree that those who follow courses will, in return, share their learnings with their peers.

On-the-job learning takes place in communities of practice. Here, co-workers share information about a specific subject and ask for help with problems they encounter in that area. The community works together to come up with answers to these questions and then records those in best practices and manuals. Working Out Loud, which I will cover in a later post, is a great way of shaping this collaboration.

Getting new starters off on the right foot

Starters require special care. Fortunately, many HR departments now take onboarding seriously. But as soon as starters are handed over to their new departments and teams, learning often slows down. Killian Wawoe recalls asking a student what she thought about the big multinational she was doing an internship with. “No idea”, came the answer, “I have only seen the inside of my own bedroom.”

Make sure starters have access to digital systems and platforms, and, if possible, give them access before their starting date (pre-boarding). Guide them through the content structure and communication norms. And use their open-mindedness to tempt other colleagues into online communities, through a buddy system, for example.


A shift to hybrid working can stymie on-the-job learning, jeopardising productivity, growth and even retention of junior workers and starters. Setting up and facilitating online learning groups and communities of practice can effectively counter these risks. Moreover, these platforms can provide opportunities to spread knowledge and expertise far wider than before.

Next in the blog series: planned serendipity.

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