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Microlearning: Merging Technology and Short, Engaging Content at the Point of Need

by Alex Khurgin

March 14, 2016


by Alex Khurgin

March 14, 2016

“Microlearning meets the needs of today’s tech-savvy workers because its components are designed to be focused and flexible, while also integrating tested methods to reduce extraneous cognitive load and reinforcing key concepts for greater learner retention. Instead of using expensive methods that don’t work, microlearning is a leaner, more agile way to create lasting habits and cultural change. Employees experience better results while accessing training on their own terms.”

Look around at employee retention and engagement indicators and the news isn’t good. As the economy improves and the labor market gets tighter, companies are facing new challenges every day, especially in three key areas:

  • Employees don’t love their jobs. While the latest Gallup research finds that employee engagement has slightly improved, the vast majority ranged from “not engaged” (51.9 percent) to “actively disengaged” (15.7 percent).
  • Employees are leaving. While most employees leave their jobs over salary, a 2014 report from staffing giant Robert Half International found that one-fifth leave because of limited opportunities for advancement and 10 percent leave because they’re bored with their jobs.
  • Employees need more development. The US ranks 14th in the world in developing, attracting, and retaining employees (IMD World Competitiveness Center, IMD World Talent Report 2015). Many companies don’t do enough to keep their pipelines filled with talented workers to satisfy their organization’s needs.
Beyond that, companies face the challenges of improving employee performance, leadership, and management development, briefing new employees, and myriad other issues.

In this article, I describe a strategy that uses technology to address these challenges, and the experience of several companies that have adopted this strategy: microlearning.

Meeting the development challenge

Traditionally, learning and development (L&D) leaders have turned to “weapons of mass instruction” for solutions. These traditional methods—including lengthy, cognitively oppressive and out-of-context lectures, text-based tools, and other formats—are ineffective, boring, and resisted by employees. When learners are forced to passively consume content, we know they retain far less than when they’re engaged and learning in intervals. This makes the L&D leader’s job more difficult: not only do weapons of mass instruction not work, employees resent them.

Microlearning uses short, highly focused content to build new skills and behaviors a little at a time. Merging technology with short, engaging content that employees can use flexibly at the point of need gives L&D professionals a new tool to develop employees. You can now weave training into employees’ workdays with minimal disruption, since they can use these modules on demand and as they have time to do so. Instead of losing days to in-house training programs that leave employees overwhelmed and unable to remember what they learned, microlearning is part of the organizational fabric. This helps them develop by integrating new information with action and repetition—a model better suited for the way most people learn.

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Great article. We at Semitracks have set up our Learning Management Systems in just this way, so that our users can get in, access the information they need for the job within 15 minutes or so, and get back to their work and apply the knowledge.
Thanks for the relevant statistics and references, as well as the various company examples.
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