Modern Training

Microlearning is more important than ever

Posted on: November 24, 2020Updated on: May 24, 2023By: JD Dillon, Chief Learning Architect

Microlearning has been a popular subject of debate within the training profession for years. 

What is it? Does it work? How long should it be? Is “microlearning” even a real word? 

At one point, microlearning was so popular that business leaders were asking for it without even being able to explain what it was. They were on the right track, even if they didn’t know why.

Business woman using a tablet

What is microlearning?

Microlearning is an approach to training that delivers content in short, focused bites. But effective microlearning isn’t just about the content. Of course you want to keep your training quick and easy to consume, but if you really want to change behaviors out on the frontlines then it needs to be combined with a few other key principles.

To be effective, it must:

  • Fit naturally into the daily workflow
  • Adapt continually to ingrain the knowledge employees need to be successful
  • Drive behaviors that impact specific business results

Microlearning works best when it’s paired with brain science techniques, like interval reinforcement, to help people learn. Reinforcing critical knowledge with regular, bite-sized training sessions helps impact meaningful behavior change on the frontline of business.

Why microlearning matters now more than ever

The hype may have faded a bit nowadays, but the idea—designing training so that it focuses on what matters most and fits into the everyday workflow—has become essential in the face of ongoing business disruption. Frontline employees echoed this sentiment when we asked about the quality of their workplace training and support this year.

Here are three findings from our 2020 State of Frontline Employee Training Report that demonstrate why microlearning is more important than ever.

48% received training for a new role or task.

Time is the ultimate obstacle. Employees don’t have time for training because they have to focus on their work. L&D doesn’t have time to create new courses because management has to execute changes immediately. These challenges are only heightened during times of significant disruption. As a result, more than half of employees don’t get the training they need to do their best work. Sure, some people may pick it up on their own. But others will struggle, make guesses and put themselves (and your business) at risk. Microlearning is the key to overcoming this time crunch. It fits into the brief moments employees have available. Microlearning content is focused on just what people need to know, which cuts down on development time. With microlearning, you can make sure every employee gets the training they need to take on new responsibilities and do their jobs safely, consistently and productively. 

34% described their training as easy to understand and remember.

Employees are people first. They can only take in and retain so much new information. Unfortunately, this distinctly human trait works against them on the job. Customers and managers expect them to know everything at all times. Employees are therefore required to complete courses that are overstuffed with information, take hours to complete and result in very little learning. Microlearning fixes this problem because it’s based on the science of how people actually learn. Content is easy to understand because it’s super-focused on what employees need to know and hyper-relevant to their everyday work. Then, new information is reinforced during brief daily training sessions to make sure it stays top of mind until the employee needs to use it on the job.

32% said training helped them feel confident in their ability to do their jobs.

It’s not about what you know. It’s about your ability to apply your knowledge with confidence in order to make the right decision. This is how you keep people safe. This is how you make the sale. This is how you bring customers back. Unfortunately, traditional training fails to build employee confidence. How confident would you feel when making a decision based on something you just kinda remember from a course six months ago? Microlearning allows you to reinforce employee knowledge AND confidence in just a few minutes every day. How much more prepared would you feel when making an important decision after you practiced that topic earlier in the day? That’s the value of microlearning.

Learn how companies around the world deliver microlearning sessions in just 2 to 3 minutes per shift with Axonify.

Microlearning began as a fad. Vendors were more interested in telling you that they “do microlearning” than explaining what it is and how it works. Now, several years later, we know that microlearning works. But, like any other workplace strategy, it has to be done right. You can’t just break a two-hour course into twelve 10-minute modules, call it microlearning and expect a better result. Instead, L&D must design training that (1) focuses on what matters most and (2) fits into the everyday workflow. That’s microlearning. And that’s more important than ever. 

Be safe. Be well. Be kind to the frontline.

JD Dillon, Chief Learning Architect's Headshot

JD Dillon, Chief Learning Architect

JD Dillon became an expert on frontline training and enablement over two decades working in operations and talent development with dynamic organizations, including Disney, Kaplan and AMC. A respected author and speaker in the workplace learning community, JD also continues to apply his passion for helping frontline employees around the world do their best work every day in his role as Axonify's Chief Learning Architect.

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