Flipped Learning: Maximizing Time and Impact with New Approaches to Leadership Development

Promoting learning in a way that maximizes the time and effort involved contributes to an agile culture throughout the organization, enabling leaders and employees to anticipate change and adapt quickly.

It’s no secret that most people are time-constrained and learn best through experience. The Learning and Development world long ago de-emphasized traditional classroom-style learning in favor of interactive problem solving and hands-on skills workshops. And while technology helps create opportunities for cost-effective education, technology alone is not an effective way to develop leaders. That’s why many in corporate learning circles turned to the concept of flipped learning to address the time and technology challenges Learning and Development professionals face (clearly, the Coronavirus pandemic has forced companies to put classroom learning on hold for now as they figure out how to safely allow employees and learners back into their offices).  

The idea of flipped learning is to deliver core content (usually via readings or videos) before hands-on classroom activities, then use the classroom for active, peer-driven learning rather than for teacher-led instruction. The concept shifts development to a learner-centered model, using time in the classroom to delve deeper into the given topic and engage participants in more meaningful and personal exchanges rather than focus on an instructor delivering a lesson. This model addresses the way people learn today, as well as the time constraints that affect most modern workers.

We recently worked with a global investment banking and wealth management firm to address learning needs for a busy leadership team. The firm has a non-hierarchical, entrepreneurial culture, with many leaders serving as player-coaches. Each of the 16 team members had, of course, been given more responsibility as they progressed in their leadership journey, but most had never had any formal leadership development. This, combined with demands on their time, led to significant stress and underperformance. Our client sought a leadership development and coaching program to address these issues.

The Approach

  • We started the program with 360-degree assessments to gain the perspectives of each of the 16 leaders, as well as their bosses, peers, and direct reports, on the leaders’ current strengths and areas in need of development.
  • Leaders were debriefed on the results, and the themes that emerged were used to design and tailor the program.
  • Six monthly, half-day, in-person sessions were conducted to improve the leaders’ ability to coach, provide difficult feedback, influence, and collaborate.
  • The leaders were split into two diverse groups for greater flexibility, smaller group discussions, increased openness, and an opportunity to learn from different colleagues.
  • The flipped learning approach was used, with content and readings assigned ahead of time to maximize time and impact.

The Results

The team was thrilled with what they termed a “wildly successful” program that significantly exceeded their expectations. Colleagues of the leaders have cited positive and noticeable improvements in the identified development areas. The program will be launched in other functions and regions to build a culture of learning and growth throughout the organization.

Tips for Success

Flipped learning is not difficult to implement. Here are a few tips for introducing the concept:

  • Repackage existing content. Embracing flipped learning doesn’t require an overhaul of existing content and programs. Instead, determine the most salient content from what typically would be presented over the course of a day and consolidate it into a package of preassigned readings.
  • Use in-person time wisely. It’s important to resist the temptation to cover content during the session. Instead, structure each section with a mixture of discussion, one-on-one or small group exercises, peer-to-peer learning about what has worked well versus what has not, and commitment to action plans.
  • Make it a journey, not a one-time event. Effective flipped learning shouldn’t stop after the in-person session ends. Schedule multiple sessions that build on each other to enhance the learning experience for participants. Additionally, incorporating virtual reinforcement sessions on a monthly or quarterly basis can transform what might be a three-hour event into a three-year learning journey.

Promoting learning in a way that maximizes the time and effort involved contributes to an agile culture throughout the organization, enabling leaders and employees to anticipate change and adapt quickly. As businesses continue to grapple with an uncertain and rapidly changing world, they will need to actively address ongoing talent development needs and deliver time-effective solutions to pave the way for the future of work.

Michael McGowan is managing director and practice leader, Leadership & Talent, for BPI group. He advises business, HR, and Talent leaders to realize growth through various talent management solutions. McGowan works with companies of all sizes and industries experiencing significant changes in leadership, strategy, or organization.