Ed Barks


This article is based on the newly published research report If You Thought 2020 Was Challenging; The Future of Professional Development in a Hybrid Working World, available at no charge for a limited time from Barks Communications.


Get ready for a rough ride.

Of course, it is good news that the pandemic appears to be easing, at least in the U.S. However, this augers changes that go beyond deciding which desk to occupy in a workplace where personal offices are no longer de rigueur or whether to avail yourself of the kitchen’s microwave.

Consider the headaches involved with a hybrid professional development system — an environment in which some learners attend in person while others beam in remotely. This shift in learning threatens to be even more difficult than our 2020 move to Zoom and similar services. That necessitated just one change — from in person to remote learning. Now, steel yourself for double the fun as we build a hybrid regimen that includes both in person and remote participants.

Problems Galore

The upcoming system is littered with potential landmines:

  • Frozen video links
  • Choppy audio connections
  • De-motivated remote participants

Worst of all, it risks the creation of an uneven playing field. Does anyone honestly believe that remote participants will receive the same quality of instruction as their in person peers? The implications are many and vast for those colleagues who join from afar:

  • Less opportunity for advancement
  • Fewer and less generous salary increases
  • Lower perceived value to the business
  • A lackluster reputation within the company

Interactivity in such key professional development areas as media training, public speaking, and advocacy efforts is bound to take a nosedive in a hybrid format unless consultants and the executives who hire them work diligently to bring these detached learners along.

Working Toward Solutions

What are conscientious executives and consultants to do? While it will demand nose-to-the-grindstone devotion, feasible steps can be taken:

  • Start a dialogue about the upcoming changes, including your CEO in those conversations.
  • Aim for an equitable professional development process that avoids favoring either in person or remote participants.
  • Assess your technological capabilities. Be painfully honest.
  • Seek out those consultants who see the big picture and are capable in aiding your staff’s educational initiatives. Some will have given this due deliberation while others will be in over their heads.

As you begin to restructure your professional development offerings, keep these facts in mind:

  • The challenge of getting your executives up to speed is going to get harder.
  • The shakedown cruise will be a long-term effort, lasting weeks and months.
  • March 2020 demanded only one change — from in person professional development to remote.
  • We now face twice the challenge in terms of both technology and instructional approach.

Today is the day to begin your preparations. Companies that delay will encounter competitive disadvantages. On the other hand, those with strong leadership will find ways to adapt to hybrid learning. They stand to prosper given the number of competitors — and the consultants who advise them — sure to ignore the warning sirens.

Ed Barks works on extended engagements with Fortune 1000, Inc. 500, and association clients that want to refine their message and sharpen their executives’ communications skills. His latest book is Reporters Don’t Hate You: 100+ Amazing Media Relations Strategies.