[EXCLUSIVE] Lars Hyland, CLO, Totara Learning, on Work, Workplace, Engagement, Digital Future and more

Selected excepts from the interaction, Romeet Kaul, Co-Founder – Executive Editor, RealtyBusinessReview.com, recently had with Lars Hyland, Chief Learning Officer, Totara Learning, leading provider of enterprise learning, engagement and performance management technology.

1. How should we reimagine the future of work and workplace?

The future of work is defined by flexibility and adaptability. In the face of rapid, uncertain change, organizations will need to invest in their employees and systems to build a workplace experience that can respond positively and resiliently when required.

Any organization that fails to put flexibility and effectiveness over efficiency, will find themselves too brittle and unable to survive or thrive in the hyper competitive markets that lie ahead. As we digitize ALL sectors, then all work requires digital skills and behaviors across the board.

2. Is Hybrid model of working (blend of office and home) going to be the new normal?

Hybrid working models will dominate in the future where we recognize the wellbeing and productivity benefits of people having more autonomy over how and where they work, with separate environments for focused work and collaborating with others. Crucially the systems and tools used need to equally support in-person and virtual participation.

3. What do you think is most missed when people work remotely?

Relationships are difficult to build from scratch when working purely remotely. It is easier to collaborate and think creatively in groups when together in the same physical spaces.

However, there are plenty of others who are finding that remote work is far more beneficial to them and their wellbeing, than being forced to interact directly in an office environment.

It is important that the organization recognizes and supports this diversity of working practices so that individuals can perform at their best – and not be forced to conform to one set of workplace behaviors (which all too often is defined and dominated by male extroverts).

4. What are the changes required to be made to the workplace as part of the office re-entry strategy?

Office spaces will no longer be about closely packed focused working (which the open plan office was never very good at supporting) – instead, they will be areas for deliberate collaboration where interaction with others is the primary focus.

People should be able to choose when and how they work. To do so requires a much more rounded approach to supporting people skills development in the workplace.

At Totara, we have found that bringing learning, engagement and performance management together onto a single integrated, yet fully open platform, facilitates a strategic change for organizations to become more resilient and adaptable. When you think about it, it’s not that smart to operate these activities in silos, and yet many HR functions currently do this. Instead, aligning these activities, leads to a more friction-free workplace experience, where learning, feedback and performing are closely intertwined and personalized to the needs of each person, in the flow of their normal work. This really is only sustainable if your HR policies, processes and technology ecosystem can flex when you need it to.

5. How should employees work (and learn) from home effectively?

Working from home introduces a range of different environmental challenges. Not everyone has the space or conditions to work in a focused way. Ensuring you have the right equipment is a start. Also learning some good practice around virtual meeting attendance – always keep them short, leave gaps between them and turn your self-image off (much less taxing on your brain if you have to look at yourself all the time). For learning, set some time aside (a morning or afternoon) where you have no other distractions and complete activities that allow yourself to be reflective, to practice and to be capture creative ideas and thoughts. This will refresh you for the rest of your week.

6. What steps should employees take to upskill and reskill themselves in these pandemic times? What are some of the learning and training tools Totara Learning offers to companies and individuals?

All of us need to acquire digital skills – that doesn’t mean coding, but more how to leverage the digital tools available and understand their advantages and shortcomings. Understanding how to use data smartly is essential going forward. In addition, the softer skills of communication, collaboration, and resilience in the face of uncertainty and change are critical to staying productive and performing well. Totara offers an integrated Talented Experience platform, that gives organizations the ability to align their learning, engagement and performance management activities so that they offer a much improved employee experience. Easy access to learning opportunities, to peers and experts across the business and to coach/mentoring from team leaders and managers all lead to happier, more productive, higher performing employees.

7. Please help us understand steps and investments companies should continue to make in moving toward models, which support digital future?

Companies should be building an intentional learning culture. That means ensuring employees are given the autonomy to learn and develop in company time, to actively challenge current practice in the interests of problem-solving and innovation. Organizations in all sectors are transforming into digital businesses – those that aren’t won’t be around for long – and so all employees need to be comfortable working with and alongside increasingly smart and autonomous digital tools. Investing in creating a working environment that actively motivates your people to be and do their best, aligned to company goals is critical to thriving in a digitally dominated world.

8. Employee engagement has been a challenge for employers in these troubled times. In your view, what are some of the best practices companies can adopt to promote aspects like communication, wellness and duty of care?

Respect that people are responding to the world around them in different ways. Personalize the support you offer, and allow people to articulate the way in which they can work most effectively. One size does not fit all. Avoid remote monitoring tools as these breed stress and distrust. Instead work on building clarity around your company’s mission and purpose so people can rally around it, the time and space to exercise and develop their skills, the psychological safety to challenge, fail and try again with positive support from those around them. Encourage curiosity as this is the seed of new ideas which may be the difference between surviving or thriving as a company.