When we are ‘good’ at our job, it makes us feel confident, motivated, and more likely to go out of our way to help others. Now, imagine that everyone in your business feels supported in this way. You’d have created a team that is highly productive, quick at making important decisions, and resilient to external market conditions.
However, this isn’t a one-time event. Employee training must be treated as a continuous cycle of self-improvement — this is the key to retaining your top talent. When you support skill development, your staff will feel valued and see a clear path for career progression. They’d rather stick with your company than search for greener opportunities elsewhere.
So, how do you reconcile these objectives with the reality that ‘Staff Training Days’ are usually neither enjoyable nor effective? For many businesses, the answer lies in a shift toward microlearning. In this article, we’ll break down this topic for you to get started, covering: what is microlearning, its key benefits, and the most effective strategies. Let’s dive in!
What is Microlearning?
Microlearning is an on-the-go approach to staff training. It segments educational content into bite-sized courses and small bits of knowledge — termed a ‘microlearning module’. Here, an employee can answer quick answers on a single topic, and be brought up to speed in small, but frequent bursts of learning.
In this way, you can think of microlearning as an educational journey — one that teaches an employee the core concepts of their role, before shifting to more niche topics and closing complex knowledge gaps. It makes learning a core part of your team’s daily routine, not a once-and-done event that is mostly forgotten a week later.
Microlearning vs Traditional Workplace Learning
Microlearning is reshaping how managers and HR leaders approach employee training. It aims to build on the positive aspects of traditional training programs, while cutting the parts that aren’t engaging or cost-effective.
With the traditional model, you might present 100% of the job’s training content to an employee as part of their ‘Onboarding Week’. From here, you’d usually have one or a few dedicated ‘Training Days’ each year. You’re expected to just remember everything. And if you do forget something, you’re sent back to the same training materials that landed you at that problem in the first place.
There are so many problems with this style of learning, but you can think of it like this:
Could you learn how to swim by reading a book?
Well, it may get you some of the way there, but it certainly won’t prepare you for the Olympic event. That’s the issue with traditional corporate learning — you’ll drown in buckets of information without grasping at any of its relevance. You’d be better off by learning the basics and gradually picking up the complex concepts over a longer period of time.
This is where the microlearning approach comes in. This educational model recognizes the futility of cramming — because no one is going to become Michael Phelps overnight — and shifts to a cycle of ‘constant training’. It gives contextual answers to problems as and when they arise, which makes for more memorable and applied learning experiences.
Top 5 Benefits of Microlearning
Microlearning strategies not only result in better learning outcomes for employees, they’re also cheaper and more intuitive for management to grasp. In this section, we’ll explore the main advantages of microlearning:
You retain more information
Microlearning programs are designed to boost knowledge-retention of complex topics. By focusing on a single learning objective at a time, it gives employees the chance to master each learning session before moving on to the next.
When educators create training materials, they must do so with a long-term strategy of how it’s going to be presented to learners. You can’t just expect someone to read a 300-page book on ‘How to do your job’, and for them to remember every miniscule detail for the rest of their career.
Psychologists refer to this as the ‘forgetting curve’ — and it’s why we forget up to 80% of our learned knowledge within a month! From this view, it’s better to constantly recap our learning objectives, rather than host a single learning session in the calendar year.
Microlearning courses don’t take long to complete. Plus, they’re accessible to your employees at all hours. This means they can engage with the materials in brief chunks of learning whenever it suits them best. It’s perfect for dispersed teams — whether you’re based in the US or host online learning in multiple regions with OnlyDomains — which makes distance learning possible.
For maximum flexibility, you should embrace mobile-based learning techniques, and leverage several types of content. It could be something as simple as a tooltip, or as targeted as an instructional video.
Agile methodology, known for its adaptability, aligns well with this flexible approach to training.
It’s often cheaper
The microlearning model is often considered more cost-effective than traditional employee training — especially for small and scaling businesses. Since microlearning modules have already been broken down into small nuggets of information, it’s easier for management to actually create the relevant resources for it.
It’s easy to integrate with existing training
Microlearning is well suited to Learning Management Systems (LMS), as it provides an interface for creating and organizing educational courses. Your existing knowledge base just needs to be uploaded and indexed on this system, which means the leap from traditional to microlearning is not too difficult.
You could even build your own microlearning platform, such as an alternative to Heroku, from which you may host and deploy different types of learning applications.
It boosts workplace morale
Last but not least, microlearning appeals to learners. It’s an inclusive way of teaching that invites feedback and continuous improvement from your team members. You’re not bound to orthodox styles of teaching; it encourages debate about where support is needed and how new microlearning processes can create a fair work environment.
Microlearning, with its short and focused learning modules, also provides an excellent opportunity for employees to continuously learn new skills, allowing them to acquire relevant knowledge in manageable increments.
Best methods for microlearning
One of the most effective ways of teaching is to link your new hire to an experienced member of staff. This person will be their ‘mentor’, who personally oversees their development and reports progress back to management.
In this role, the mentor can suggest which microlearning modules should be completed first, and which should be saved for later.
Plus, you don’t even have to be present in the same office for mentoring to be effective. Two employees from opposite corners of the globe can still ‘buddy up’ using VoIP contact center solutions.
Providing regular feedback
Once employees have been fully onboarded, they may have valuable things to say, even if they’re not ready to be a mentor. This segment represents the majority of your employees, and it’s important to foster discussion on learning topics.
For example, you could encourage peer-review sessions, where employees suggest actionable tips for other members of staff. This isn’t just about teaching new information, it’s also about developing the soft skills of communication and leadership amongst your team.
A great approach to microlearning is to write bite-sized recaps that complement the core learning objectives of a large module.
The main advantage of written educational material is its accessibility and convenience. Anyone can find this knowledge base of information and find the answer to their problem at any time. In fact, even if an employee is catching a flight and has no Internet connection, they can still download or use cached data to revisit their training program with faster loading times and offline access.
Educational materials can also be presented as video clips — which are generally more engaging and can accommodate a wider range of learning styles. There are a few ways to go about this. You could simply speak into the camera, narrate while sharing your screen, or even create a simple animation/gif.
Explainer videos, in particular, can be highly effective in breaking down complex concepts into easily understandable visuals and narration.
Once your video has been created, it can be embedded into the microlearning module itself, giving learners the option of whether they want to read or watch the learning content (or do both). Regardless, the format is sure to be more memorable than just showing a wall of text.
Hosting educational events
Another popular approach to microlearning is to create a system of interactive modules. Interactive learning engages employees in a dynamic way, allowing them to actively participate in their development.
For example, you could host educational events, such as webinars and virtual workshops, that promote open discussion and collaborative learning. Or for industry insights, you could invite subject matter experts and encourage employees to ask questions. These events would ideally be scheduled each month to delve deeper into specific topics covered in microlearning modules.
To wrap up, microlearning is an important method for staff learning & development — one that develops both industry knowledge and soft skills. When implemented correctly, it helps foster a happy workplace culture that encourages employees to support one another. It means you’ll reach your productivity targets and hold onto your top talent for longer.
By now, you should hopefully have a good idea of what microlearning is and the core parts you’d expect to see in a microlearning course. Now, I want you to reflect on how you’re doing employee training currently, and how this could be improved with a complementary system of microlearning. Good luck and enjoy the process!