Cynthia Clay's Blog

Uncertainty and Ambiguity Plus Creativity and Innovation

Thursday, March 24, 2022

As the pandemic continues to roil our workplaces, is your organization ready to go hybrid? Many organizations have elected to continue their virtual workplaces, putting off a hybrid workplace model for another quarter. Two words reflect the current state of the workplace for many of us: uncertainty and ambiguity. It is not clear when this pandemic will end, when organizations may pull people back into the physical workplace, or whether we will ever return to some semblance of normal.

In times like these, opportunities emerge. The work environment is ripe for creativity and innovation. If you are a learning professional, you are likely learning new delivery platforms, from web conferencing to third-party applications that integrate with those platforms. I’ve become a big fan of Mentimeter integrated with Zoom, for example. The combination allows me to design and facilitate engaging, playful, and interactive web workshop experiences. While I may have gotten around to checking out this application eventually, the pandemic gave me a swift kick in the derrière. And for that, I’m grateful!

If you are a virtual or hybrid leader, you’ve probably adopted new collaboration tools, figured out how to launch a Zoom team meeting, or even implemented a new project management system. You may have realized that you need to be in frequent contact with your virtual team. It’s been a stressful, overwhelming time for many employees. Your empathetic, supportive leadership was probably required to keep everyone focused and productive, despite the many changes and challenges that we are experiencing together. In short, I’m guessing that you might have become a more effective leader.

I’ve been speaking about the AIDS model to our clients in the past few months. AIDS stands for Attend, Include, Direct, Support. These four words describe the actions required of facilitators delivering virtual training to mixed audiences of co-located and virtual participants. If we want to ensure the highest quality of facilitation and engagement, then we must attend to the needs of all participants, include everyone in planned interactive activities, make sure that directions are clear, and provide supportive coaching. Those same four actions could also be taken by virtual or hybrid leaders as they work with their hybrid teams. How we show up in the virtual or hybrid workplace as a facilitator or leader can transform people’s experience.

Building Successful Hybrid Workplaces -- White Paper Download

NetSpeed Learning conducted a survey in August 2021 to learn more about the hybrid workplace strategies being considered by organizations, along with the leadership skills that were most important to the success of hybrid leaders. We define “hybrid workplace” as any organization that has leaders who manage employees working from home and/or in multiple geographic locations. Employees and leaders indicated that they want to work in organizations that allow them the flexibility of working, at least part-time, from home. Their decision to remain with their current employer is likely to be strongly influenced by an intentional hybrid strategy. The past year has proven to many leaders that productivity and efficiency are possible with hybrid working models. This white paper summarizes the findings of the survey.


Posted by Cynthia Clay at 1:43 pm

Resist the Impulse to Return to Normal

Thursday, December 23, 2021

During the Halloween season I really enjoyed the amazing Halloween photographs posted by party people on Facebook, Instagram and yes, even LinkedIn. Some of you really know how to throw a holiday bash. My feeds were filled with goofy and glittery party decorations, scary costumes, artistic food presentations, and colorful lights. Party on! You got me thinking about the other trend I’m observing: the move to hybrid learning. I know you’re wondering how I connected those two thoughts, but hear me out.

When we invite guests to our home, we make sure that they feel welcome. We explain the rules (costumes or no costumes); we may put special attention on people’s dietary needs (gluten-free or gluten-filled); we clean up and prepare our home to receive guests. A similar focus arises when we prepare people for a virtual training experience. We think about the people who will be attending, and strive to ensure they feel our attention, inclusion, direction, and support.

When the world pivoted to virtual in the spring of 2020, we suddenly experienced the importance of creating engaging, attention-keeping online learning environments. Remote workers and trainees who may have formerly felt excluded from face-to-face meetings suddenly felt included as our meetings moved to platforms like Zoom (we went from 10 million to 300 million virtual meetings a day practically overnight). And yet, many organizations longed to return to “normal,” working in office environments and attending training live and in person. In the last few months, some organizations announced their anticipation of a hybrid workplace and hybrid learning environments.

As we’ve been speaking with clients about their hybrid plans, I’ve been concerned. Sadly, too many of them are planning to invite a room full of people to experience live training together while their remote colleagues sign into a virtual meeting platform to watch the proceedings, answer an occasional poll, or unmute their phone line to throw a thought into a discussion. This is not real inclusion. And it’s a sad repetition of the mistakes that we were making before the pandemic.

As you plan hybrid training events, make sure that every person feels included and actively engaged. The best way to do that is to have everyone sign into a web conferencing platform like Zoom or Webex. The virtual meeting or training platform is what unites your participants and creates a level playing field. If you find yourself planning two sets of activities, one for participants in a physical location with a trainer or facilitator, and one for people signed in virtually, that should be a red flag that you are creating a learning experience in which part of your audience is likely to feel excluded and disengaged.

Resist the impulse to go back to this ineffective hybrid environment. Instead, incorporate new techniques to collaborate and engage that can be shared equally by all virtual participants, remote or co-located.

New white paper: Building Effective Hybrid Workplaces

There are so many exciting projects happening here at NetSpeed Learning as we navigate our way through this pandemic. Perhaps the most interesting is the completion of our new white paper: Building Effective Hybrid Workplaces. This white paper is based on the input of 235 people who completed a comprehensive survey this summer. Here are a few key findings to tickle your interest: 

  • 88% of survey respondents thought it was important, very important, or critically important for their organizations to support a hybrid workplace in order to retain staff. (We define “hybrid workplace” as any organization that has leaders who manage employees working from home and/or in multiple geographic locations.) 
  • The top two challenges of working virtually were video meeting fatigue and the blurring of work and home life.
  • The top two leadership skill gaps were 1) attending to the potential negative and positive impact of my actions on people working remotely, and 2) ensuring that employees who work remotely feel visible and in-the-loop (not isolated or invisible).

You can download the entire white paper at our website.



Posted by Cynthia Clay at 9:17 am

What's Your Virtual Mindset?

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Here we are, waiting for something so that we can get back to working together, training together, and singing together. (I sing in a choir, so I miss that chance to harmonize.) But what if the hybrid workplace and hybrid training are here to stay? Who knows? Maybe this virus will keep mutating and we will keep trying, for many more months, to ensure that our employees and customers are protected, at least until it is more certain that we can be together safely.

Imagine that you will be delivering facilitated virtual training via video and web conferencing for at least another year. Let me ask you, “What is your virtual mindset?” Do you find that depressing? Or do you see that as an opportunity to leverage online collaboration and meeting tools for your virtual team? Can you entertain the possibility that connection, trust, and collaboration might really be possible online? Would it be fun and challenging (in a good way) to level up your virtual leadership skills? Do you want to develop your skills so that virtual facilitation becomes something you love?

The folks who embrace the present exactly as it is, without wishfully looking back at the past, can respond resiliently to the circumstances we are all experiencing right now. I want to be one of them. That doesn’t mean I don’t have moments when I miss the way things used to be. But I know that my creativity and innovative spirit will emerge when I embrace what’s happening today with curiosity and eagerness. There’s a question I ask myself when I am in resistance to present conditions: What if my present circumstances are exactly what needs to be happening for my greatest growth and development?

Today I ask myself: How can I make virtual training the best possible experience for myself and my participants? What collaboration tools look fun and easy to learn? How can I weave those tools into my online training events? How can I add more value to our client projects? How will I have fun, enjoy the journey, and celebrate making a difference in the world?

We have created a TWO new ebooks: Great Virtual Facilitation Tips, and Valuable Tips for Virtual Producers, ready for you to download. I hope you find them valuable.





Posted by Cynthia Clay at 10:27 am

Getting Back in the Groove

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

I always love this time of year. The weather begins to change here in the Pacific Northwest. Nights are getting cooler. I can see the leaves beginning to turn to their vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows. I bid a fond farewell to summer and turn my sights to the last four months of 2021. We are rolling into the final quarter of the calendar year!

I also notice that many of our clients “re-emerge” in September and the dominant mental model in our collective consciousness seems to be “going back to school.”

We have several public programs opening this fall:

  • Encourage your leaders to enroll in our first-ever public offering of NetSpeed’s Virtual (Hybrid) Leader program, designed to develop the skills of hybrid or virtual leaders. It includes five web workshops plus a bonus session on Meeting Change with Resilience. 

There are so many exciting projects happening here at NetSpeed Learning as we navigate our way through this pandemic. Perhaps the most interesting is the completion of our new white paper: Building Effective Hybrid Workplaces. This white paper is based on the input of 235 people who completed a comprehensive survey this summer. Here are a few key findings to tickle your interest: 

  • 88% of survey respondents thought it was important, very important, or critically important for their organizations to support a hybrid workplace in order to retain staff. (We define “hybrid workplace” as any organization that has leaders who manage employees working from home and/or in multiple geographic locations.) 
  • The top two challenges of working virtually were video meeting fatigue and the blurring of work and home life. 
  • The top two leadership skill gaps were 1) attending to the potential negative and positive impact of my actions on people working remotely, and 2) ensuring that employees who work remotely feel visible and in-the-loop (not isolated or invisible). 

You can download the entire white paper at our website.

Posted by Cynthia Clay at 11:45 am