Microlearning is an effective method for developing employees and providing employee training at all levels within the organization. It can also be used at all times during the training lifecycle of an employee. To maximize the benefit, your organization must think strategically about how to map the use of microlearning onto the employee training lifecycle.
A strategic mapping of microlearning onto the needs of employees at different stages of development means that you can maximize the impact of microlearning and provide the largest benefit for both the employees and for the organization if you map correctly.
First, you need to consider that at different times within an employee’s relationship with an organization, they will have different learning needs. For example, a new employee participating in on-boarding training requires a different strategy than an employee who has been with the company for over a decade and is participating in the same old compliance training which is also different from an employee who is transitioning from years as an individual contributor to a new promotion as a manager. Each stage requires careful consideration of the goals, delivery tone and methods of delivering the training message. The Learning and Development department should consider the right way to map microlearning onto the employee journey with the company.
Let’s examine several major employee training milestones and discuss the right microlearning approach to each one.
When an employee first joins a company, they can be overwhelmed with the amount of information they must consume. There is benefits information, content related to company policies, procedures that need to be followed, and, not to mention, company history, product and/or service details and even who reports to whom. This can be intimidating and often employees feel numb from information overload for several weeks before settling into a routine.
This is one area where gamified microlearning can help. For one, when a new employee joins an organization, the organization wants the employee to feel good about their choice to enjoy getting to know the organization and to make friends quickly with their co-workers. Many organizations use a map or a journey analogy to craft gamified activities such as earning points for completing benefits information, company history scavenger hunts and even short, quick games to help new employees learn about products. Microlearning is helpful here because it doesn’t overwhelm the employee with hours and hour so information that quickly become lost or confused in the “fire-hose” approach that is the technique of many on-boarding programs.
Instead, it’s better to provide a mixture of work structured tasks inter-mixed with microlearning pieces to provide a steady but not overwhelming approach to learning about the organization. In fact, some organizations even start the on-boarding process before an employee arrives to work so they’ve already met fellow new hires through the social aspect of the gamification and they know about the company because of the targeted, focused microlearning pieces that they receive on a daily basis. Just the right amount of information spread out over time makes on-board more effective for the employee and smoother for the organization.
Once any employee has spent any time with an organization, they will begin to be required to take compliance training (after the initial rush of on-boarding compliance training). This difference at this stage of the employee’s career is that they are now overwhelmed with everyday work tasks and taking time away from work to focus on compliance training usually is not a top priority. The employees aren’t really interesting in gamified microlearning at this point, they want to take the instruction, get the information and get back to work. And, if they aren’t reminded of the compliance training, it will quickly slip to the bottom of the priority list.
In many organizations, compliance training consists of hours and hours of instruction and, often, it’s the same instruction as it was the previous year. The combination of work demands and the repetition of the instruction often leads to the end-of-quarter or end-of-year rush to cram in all the compliance courses the employees have been putting off. This does not result in the best learning outcomes. It also might not help an organization remain in compliance if the instruction is not making an impact.
Smart organizations have taken their compliance content and examined it from an instructional perspective and carefully parsed the content it into microlearning modules. These modules are then carefully spaced throughout a quarter or year.
The modules are then “pushed” to the employee through reminders. The employees aren’t expected to “volunteer” to go to the compliance training, rather a system send them notes and reminders that they need to engage with the microlearning content. At this stage the microlearning needs to be highly focused and a “just the facts” approach works well in terms of the design.
The goal is to have the compliance training integrated into the daily or weekly workflow of the employee. The microlearning approach to compliance means the employees are able to make the time to learn about compliance policies. This type of employee training works because it fits into the everyday rhythm and cadence of the employees and because we know that spreading out the learning process over time means content is more easily retained and recalled.
New Product or Service Launch
In order for organizations to remain competitive and to continue to grow, they must continually add new products and/or services. While this can be fantastic for the bottom line of the organization, it can prove to be a little difficult for employees to remember all that information. This is especially true if the organization sells many different products and services.
The employee training approach for new products or services is to provide a just-in-time, pull approach to the microlearning. What this means is that the microlearning is easy to search, easy to access and the employee knows that the information is available to them when they need it. A sales representative can pull up a microlearning module on the top five features of their company’s smartphone. An insurance broker can quickly take a microlearning on the three benefits of annuities.
When mapping microlearning to a new product or service launch for employee training, the goal should be to provide the critical data and information up front, make it easy to find and build a culture where employees are comfortable using just-in-time training to address customer issues and inquires.
Promotions and Growth
After an employee has spent several years with a company and they are in mid-career, it’s important to provide them growth opportunities or they will seek those opportunities outside the organization. And even if employees are not seeking opportunities outside of an organization, you don’t want mid-career employee’s growth and knowledge to stall.
At this point, microlearning targeting topics like leadership, communication skills and, even management skills can provide content that keeps employees sharp and focused, allows them to grow but doesn’t continually take them away from their workplace duties.
Progressive organizations will establish microlearning roadmaps for content such as leadership which will provide a prescribed sequence of microlearning courses to help move a person along their personal growth journey. Of course, there are “electives” but the value is that the organization clearly signals to the employee the skills and content they believe are most valuable for success. Because the instruction is delivered via microlearning, the employee can often determine how fast or how slowly they would like to consume the content and practice applying the skills.
For this type of microlearning, it becomes important to provide performance-based tasks or instructions so that employees aren’t just watching videos but they are applying skills and reporting back on program. One particularly effective type of microlearning in this case is Practice-based where the learning application both prompts a participant to practice a particular skill and provides that participant with feedback and instruction on how to perform the skills they are practicing.
This type of microlearning can be a powerful method for training individuals who have potential but need to work on specific, targeted skills.
Microlearning, like any employee development tool, needs to be used carefully to gain the maximum benefit. One way to maximize the impact of microlearning is to carefully map the design, delivery and approach of the microlearning to the appropriate milestone in the employee training lifecycle. If you take the time to carefully think through your microlearning strategy in this regard, you will have a successful microlearning implementation.