The move to hybrid working: Is your management development fit for purpose?

With 89% [1] of UK businesses stating that hybrid working is here to stay, many businesses are now planning to reset their ways of working. The hybrid model hinges on giving people choice, autonomy and trust to reap the ‘best of both’ benefits from remote and in-office working. But achieving a win-win-win for individuals, managers and organisations won’t happen organically or by chance.

Research shows that when it comes to unlocking the benefits of hybrid working, much hinges on managers[2]. Particularly following a disaster, it is the extent to which line managers are adequately prepared and supported to implement new ways of working that determines future performance[3].

Research shows that when it comes to unlocking the benefits of hybrid working, much hinges on managers.

Managers are pivotal to successful hybrid working

From increased pastoral care to playing a greater role in fostering company culture, managers are pivotal to successfully moving to hybrid working. Yet in many cases they are being asked to assume responsibilities they haven’t yet developed the skills for. This is validated by our recent study of over 1,000 British workers[4], conducted by YouGov, which revealed that almost half (47%) of employees didn’t receive training at all, or felt the training they received wasn’t useful for hybrid working.

The race is on to provide managers with the mindset, skillset and toolset they need to effectively manage a hybrid workforce. Whether you’re looking to develop a bespoke development solution, refresh an existing management development programme, or buy a solution ‘off the shelf’, this hybrid context needs to be woven throughout, not bolted on.

So where do you start? Read on to discover practical tips and pointers for successfully bringing your company’s management development into the new world of work.



of employees didn’t receive training at all, or felt the training they received wasn’t useful for hybrid working.

Learning conference

Don’t rip up the rule book

The first thing to remember is that you don’t need to rip up the rule book. Great development is still great development, it’s the context that has changed. Likewise, the fundamentals of good management remain the same but, as recently revealed in our white paper, certain areas take on greater significance in a hybrid world. For example, establishing team norms, connecting people to purpose and managing performance equally, irrespective of where people choose to work. Here are two important fundamentals to remember:

  1. Discover the challenges posed by hybrid working in your business and link your development to these. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to adult learning.
  2. Partner with a supplier who takes time to get to know you, your people and your business. Whilst hybrid working is a challenge for many, every organisation’s context is unique.

Use flexibility to your advantage

The pandemic flipped adult development on its head. With offices closed for months, and most people working remotely, learners have become increasingly comfortable with a virtual learning experience. Whilst blended learning is nothing new, development tended to be delivered in bigger chunks pre-pandemic, for example over two full days. The opportunity now is to select the best of both virtual and face-to-face experiences, depending on the context and higher aims of your management development, to offer an even more sophisticated blend to your learners. In some cases, this might mean breaking learning into smaller chunks – motivating or triggering your managers to do something differently and then giving them space to practise in their day-to-day roles.

There is undoubtedly still huge value in face-to-face experiences, and how you use them has greater significance in the hybrid world. Again, it comes back to your context and goals for the development. For example, if your learners aren’t engaged then bringing them together physically at the start might be advantageous. Or you might want to create ‘special moments’ peppered throughout their learning journey. No matter how you choose to use face-to-face contact, if you’re asking managers to travel to a venue then make sure the extra effort counts.

Finally, keeping your management development entirely virtual is still an option, if that’s appropriate for your business, and can make learning more inclusive for your managers. Creating a transformational, equitable virtual experience comes down to structure and facilitation – both of which need to be carefully planned and flawlessly executed.

Get the basics right

As stated previously, great development is still great development – it’s the context that has changed. And it’s still as important as ever to get the basics right. Here are three practical tips for making sure your management development lands successfully in the hybrid working world:

Make technology work for you: It sounds obvious but is so often overlooked. Whatever AV equipment or digital platform you’re using, make sure it’s tried and tested before you go live. There are great interactive tools available such as Mentimeter; you can even consider using avatars or bespoke conferencing platforms. Maximise the opportunity to use technology creatively and enhance your learners’ experience – both during and between interventions.

Build in time for rapport-building: One of the main drawbacks of bringing learning online has been the loss of coffee and lunch breaks – those informal times where learners and facilitators can build rapport and have fun ‘off-the clock’. Be prepared to make your sessions slightly longer and build in intermission activities, for example sharing something about the room you’re in; transferring to mobile phones for a ‘walk and talk’.

Think beyond the content: Great facilitators think beyond the content to create a meaningful, human interaction, regardless of whether they’re virtual or face-to-face. Drawing on Mehrabian’s communication model, 55% of our communication takes place through body language, with 7% based on the words we use and 38% through tone of voice. Encourage your learners to think about the proximity of their screen and the room lighting so that their body language and facial expressions can be easily seen.

Whilst hybrid working is a challenge for many, every organisation’s context is unique.

To conclude, there are three important steps to ensuring your management development is fit for purpose in a hybrid world:

  1. Don’t rip up the rule book: It’s the context that has changed and it needs to be woven throughout.
  2. Use flexibility to your advantage: Take the best of both virtual and face-to-face experiences to create the right blend for your learners and your business.
  3. Get the basics right: Make the technology work for you, build in time for rapport-building and think beyond the content.

Learn more about the key skills your managers need to effectively lead hybrid teams in our white paper, Hybrid working: shifting to the new normal.


Whether you’re looking to develop a bespoke development solution for your managers, refresh an existing management development programme, or buy a solution ‘off the shelf’, Lane4 can help. Find out how here.


[1] Research survey commissioned by Robert Half.

[2] Lautsch, B. A., & Kossek, E. E. (2011). Managing a blended workforce: telecommuters and non-telecommuters. Organizational Dynamics, 40, 10-17.

[3] Donnelly, N., & Proctor-Thomson, S. B. (2015). Disrupted work: home-based teleworking (HbTW) in the aftermath of a natural disaster. New Technology, Work and Employment, 30, 47-61.

[4] All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1012 employee adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 25th February – 3rd March 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all British business sizes.