How Can I Use Blended Learning to Elevate the Leadership Learning Journey?

Developing strong but adaptable leadership skills is one of the most important steps you can take to promote organizational success in the long term. So many changes are challenging your executives and managers as technology advances, another generation enters the workforce, hiring the required talent remains a process full of hurdles, and there is no way to predict the next global or national crisis. You need flexible, adaptable skilled leaders who are always prepared to lead in any situation.

Each business is unique, so the leadership learning journey is also unique. Blended learning is a strategy for elevating the leadership journey by delivering learning experiences at the scale and speed needed to achieve results by utilizing a variety of modalities. As the name implies, it is a blend of in-person and online learning with a wealth of customized training options to enable leader-centered learning.  

For a business to thrive, it must be agile, innovative, and flexible, which means your leaders must have the same qualities. Yet, most executives and managers are already balancing heavy workloads, and fitting regular leadership training into their schedules is challenging.  

Blended learning is also called hybrid learning becomes it combines in-person and online training. That is a simple description because it enables tapping into a variety of modalities that best fit the leader's needs. Blended learning is flexible and can accommodate busy schedules to ensure development continues despite potential impediments. IRI Senior Consultant Marcey Uday-Riley explains, "Blended learning offers the flexibility needed in today's organization and can adapt to business needs as your business grows and changes." From this perspective, it is a tool for managing competitiveness status.  

Goals of Blended Learning 

Blended learning has three primary goals.  

One is to shape leadership training content to meet business needs. These needs include fulfilling the mission, meeting strategic priorities and goals, improving positive employee relations, closing current leadership skills gaps, and filling leadership pipelines.  

  1. The second goal is to tailor the learning to each leader because each leader has a different schedule, responsibilities, and needs.  
  2. The third goal is to keep training efforts fluid and keep leaders up to speed on meeting changing organizational needs. The one-and-done training is no longer effective and goes a long way towards explaining persistent leadership skills gaps in companies that have not moved towards blended learning.  

Many employees now work from home, either part-time or full-time, but what about your leaders? Some work from home and remotely, and adapting learning journeys is as important for them as it is for their staff members. Your leaders need a new level of expertise in managing employees to increase employee engagement, improve performance outcomes and assist the organization in meeting strategic goals in a dynamic business environment in which change is constant.   

blended learning

For example, there is agreement that collaboration should be a major element of the modern organizational culture. Do your leaders know how to maintain a collaborative organizational ownership culture even though a segment of the workforce works remotely? Gartner research found that 33 percent of meetings in 2021 occurred in person compared to 63 percent in 2019. The prediction is that in-person meetings will drop to 25 percent by 2024. Your leaders need skills in ensuring "equitable collaboration, tool and resource access for meeting participants, regardless of location." Ensuring people have the necessary resources to do their best work is only half of the success equation. Your managers also need skills in successfully using digital collaboration – using the tools, maintaining employee engagement without regard to employee location, developing collaborative teams consisting of remote and onsite employees, and so on. 

Your leaders must have the skills to develop a flexible, adaptive, supportive, and diverse work culture that keeps the organization an employer of choice and all that implies. They need hard and soft skills development to avoid burnout and strategic skills to avoid being reactionary leaders.   

LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT Simple, Powerful, Effective


What is Blended Learning? 

Blended learning for leadership development is multifaceted. It includes a wide selection of modalities for in-person and virtual training. It also enables leadership assessment and development at the same time through data analytics. IRI Senior Consultant Marcey Uday-Riley shares insights into the richness of modern leadership training options that enable leaders to obtain ongoing leadership skills training in areas where they need it the most. A blended learning program can include any of the following.  

  • In-person classes can be highly engaging, including gamification, situation analysis, or case-study review. 
  • In-person classes can also be presentation or lecture oriented. 
  • Online options include small or large group synchronous learning using a platform like Zoom or Teams with an online facilitator or can be self-paced with varying levels of engagement ranging from game-like learning strategies to talking head webinars. 
  • One-on-one coaching can have defined behavioral outcomes as the target.
  • A formal mentoring program can match a successful leader with a developing leader. 
  • A self-designed curriculum that is under the sponsorship of a senior manager with learning and development support is another possibility. This kind of curriculum can include attendance at a formal academic institution, job shadowing, or on-the-go tutorials that leaders can easily fit into their day with little disruption. 
  • Peer-to-peer learning is incorporated and valued. 
  • Learning expeditions can be arranged.  

Blended learning is exceptionally effective because it goes far beyond conveying information. The learning includes contextualized content, thought leadership, applied learning exercises, real-world business simulations, and social learning.  

Tailored leadership development can strengthen current leadership skills and close leadership gaps, and also build leadership bench strength through the development of next-generation leaders. The one-size-fits-all approach to leadership development is not going to achieve the impact desired outcomes. Blended learning adds specificity to leadership development because it is so adaptable to individual current and changing leadership needs. Utilizing the right intervention at each stage of leadership development will produce a much greater impact than a uniform structured development approach across leadership.  

Impacts of Successful Blended Learning Programs 

The impacts of a successful blended learning program are significant. 

  • Development opportunities apply to real-world leadership challenges.  
  • Leaders are better prepared for changing leadership responsibilities in an era of continuous change
  • Leaders learn how to be proactive rather than reactive. 
  • Leaders are better equipped to translate learning into action. 
  • Collaboration and team-building skills are strengthened, benefitting the whole organization. 
  • Diverse perspectives are sought and appreciated. 
  • Organizational strategy is more likely to be successfully executed because blended learning links content to business strategy. 
  • Can improve organizational financial performance 
  • Learning is leveraged to improve positive employee relations as leaders develop coaching skills. 
  • The ability of the organization to attract and retain talent is improved.  

Benefits of a Blended Learning Program 

A successful blended learning program fits the leader's schedule rather than the leader needing to change the work schedule to meet the full requirements of the development program schedule. When people who are already overloaded with work are asked to attend a specific development program and have no flexibility in when and how they can attend, the chances of burnout are greatly increased. A blended learning program enables busy leaders to break up the development opportunities as needed instead of spending hours in a classroom. On-the-go training means your leaders can complete many training sessions at the most opportune and least stressful times.  

leadershisp learning

Some additional benefits include the following.  

  • Scalable – development opportunities are made available to employees without regard to location, and any and all leaders needing particular training can access the development modalities. 
  • Cost-effective – reduces the cost of leadership development because the virtual development component is more cost-effective since it doesn't require employee travel, and employees lose less work time. 
  • Combines the best of development opportunities – development programs can be structured in any way desired, i.e., the combination of onsite face-to-face meetings and virtual training; all virtual training with instructor-led online meetings; etc. 
  • More efficient – since many of the virtual development components are accessible 24-7, leaders can easily add the development opportunities when they best fit 
  • Accommodates learning styles – people learn best in different ways, so blended learning meets varying preferences to maximum results. 
  • Controls pace of learning – on-demand development opportunities mean your leaders can pace their training. 
  • Fosters social learning – including peer-to-peer learning and collaborative learning opportunities enhances social learning  

Blended learning is a more common-sense approach to learning because it includes social learning (cognitive learning) in various ways. Psychologist Albert Bandura developed the social learning theory, which says that 70 percent of learning happens with on-the-job experiences, 20 percent through interactions with peers, and 10 percent in traditional classroom environments. As author Matt Powell in the learning culture magazine Docebo writes, "Leveraging social learning with e-learning content is the new norm: forward-thinking organizations are using it to drive engagement with their L&D activities, leading to positive growth in job and organizational performance. Moreover, social learning manifests in on-demand informal learning settings where learners collaborate, share, and exchange ideas to solve problems." 

Blended learning includes social and behavioral learning. Social elements include gamification, peer-to-peer interactions, face-to-face and virtual meetings, and senior management mentoring.   

Implementing Blended Learning 

With so many options, how is blended learning effectively implemented? The best advice is to employ the services of a leadership development consultant to save time and money and avoid costly missteps or the risk of not addressing critical leadership skills gaps. Deploying multiple modalities for a development topic should always remember that the development effort will only be successful when the targeted participants have easy access. Get the design of the blended learning initiative right, and the implementation is much easier. 

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About the Author Walter Orechwa

Walter is IRI's Director of Digital Solutions and founder of UnionProof & A Better Leader. As the creator of Union Proof Certification, Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.