As millennials become the largest segment of the workforce, their views about careers and the workplace will only gain significance in the eyes of employers.
According to a recent Deloitte survey, when selecting employers, millennials and the Gen Zs just entering the workforce are looking for good work-life balance (39% and 32% respectively) and learning and development opportunities (29% for each group). Pay ranked third in their priorities.
The fact that almost a third of young workers are looking for careers and not just jobs is good news for employers. This at least is the case for the organizations that have realized the future is all about agility and responding to change quickly. Employees are keen on lifelong learning at a time when employers need them to embrace the concept.
On a practical level, though, the fact that there are employees who are interested to learn does not automatically equate to a highly capable workforce. For motivation to turn into tangible results, workplace learning needs to be relevant, flexible and on-demand. Enter microlearning. It can be highly engaging, effective and easy to access. Combined with other novel approaches, like collaborative learning or the internal talent marketlace, it can engage and motivate staff, helping them reach their full potential at work.
What is Microlearning?
Microlearning is also known as bite-sized training. As the name suggests, microlearning offers a learning experience that is brief, only focusing on one or two concepts at a time. According to the Association for Talent Development, the optimal duration of a microlearning experience is between two to five minutes and up to 13 minutes.
Educational psychologist Theo Hug has outlined several other features of microlearning besides its relative brevity. It is usually delivered as a series of modules. The fragments or episodes are accessed at learners’ convenience. The learning process is embedded into daily routines, with essential knowledge repeated and reinforced to increase retention.
Another key distinguishing feature of microlearning is its versatility. Unlike traditional teaching methods where information is conveyed through a combination of in-person lectures and reading assignments, there is a greater reliance on new types of media. Audio, video, infographics, quizzes and games are all very effective in capturing learners’ attention and transmitting knowledge.
In addition, microlearning can be delivered on many different electronic devices (it lends itself very successfully to smartphones) and via different channels. Email, SMS, social media and corporate intranet sites can all easily provide microlearning experiences.
Microlearning in the Workplace
It may have only been around since the early 2000s, but microlearning is already proving useful for both public and private organizations. The bite-sized approach has been used successfully to onboard and upskill employees, as well as to provide compliance and safety training.
A well-known example is Walmart which successfully gamified safety training. Several years ago, the company ran a pilot with the goal of reducing accidents and injuries (along with the associated costs) related to the transportation and delivery of goods. Increasing employee engagement was another desired outcome. The company faced two key challenges: they had to devise content that was engaging and also cater to people from diverse backgrounds.
How did Walmart deal with these challenges? Staff were invited to visit a virtual platform where they played a game for up to five minutes and were asked questions on safety. Feedback was provided on the spot and key messages were repeated and reinforced. Following the microlearning pilot, incidents at eight of the involved distribution centers of the company decreased by 54%. There were less injuries while, at the same time, staff were more motivated and employee morale increased.
In 2016, the application of microlearning to safety training helped US retailer Bloomingdale’s save $2.2 million per year in safety claims. In addition, 86.6% of employees reported higher job confidence following the training.
Benefits of Microlearning in the Workplace
As the case studies above suggest, microlearning can help improve employee engagement. For example, tools such as games and simulations allow staff to test their responses and knowledge of protocols in handling hazardous situations. Customer-facing staff can practice handling challenging customers in virtual interactions. Videos and how-to manuals can literally show staff what to do when faced with novel tasks, while infographics and quizzes help recap the main points of seminars and formal training sessions. All these modalities help employees to be safe at work and to do their jobs with confidence, boosting morale and engagement.
Below are some additional benefits of microlearning:
It is effective: It may not appear to involve great effort on behalf of learners, but microlearning is actually an effective way to retain new information. It has been proven to work even for medical students in Germany, as per this 2019 study. Participants had new information delivered in the form of a five-minute video, followed by a simulation and debriefing. Not only was this an effective learning method, it actually proved more effective compared to a university-style lecture.
It engages users: The workplace is quite fast-paced these days, and it is not uncommon for workers to often feel stressed and overworked. Microlearning modules like games and videos are typically perceived as less demanding compared to formal training sessions or written manuals and memos. Hence, employees are more motivated to learn, and it is easier to integrate microlearning into the daily routine of staff, reinforcing key messages and relevant information.
It can be accessed on demand: Microlearning tools, like video tutorials, can provide quick answers for employees looking to problem-solve as they go along. This saves time and helps staff feel more confident and empowered.
Saves company time and resources: Once prepared and uploaded on a platform, virtual simulations, videos, quizzes and other microlearning tools can be accessed again and again as employees need them.
It helps companies respond fast: Because of their relatively short duration, microlearning modules are typically easier to produce compared to standard training manuals or to live seminars and training sessions. This means companies are more agile and can address skills gaps more quickly.
To recap, while microlearning may not be suitable for all kinds of corporate training needs, it does play a vital role to play in a well-thought-out L&D strategy. It can successfully and cost-effectively reinforce existing knowledge and transmit new knowledge and skills. It is the perfect tool to offer to a workforce which is conscious of its need for rest and mental and emotional wellbeing, but at the same time hungry for achievement and eager to upskill.
To find out how Mentessa can help integrate microlearning into the routines of staff at your company: