Learning Methods

What Makes Microlearning Effective in Employee Training Programs?

Effective Microlearning for Employee Training

One of the biggest trends in the training industry in recent years has been discovering how microlearning can be used within employee training programs – and this trend isn’t going away any time soon.

Some training administrators are fully on board with microlearning, while others remain skeptical that it could actually be effective within their programs. Where do you stand? Have you already implemented microlearning courses and started seeing the effects? Are you just getting started with it and unsure if it’ll work or not? Maybe you’re curious what all the hubbub is about and still investigating if it’s everything it’s cracked up to be.

As a training administrator, however you feel about using microlearning, it’s worth looking at what has made it a growing trend in the first place, and how implementing it into training programs creates a foundational shift in an organization’s ability to learn and adapt.

Why Modern Learning Needs Microlearning

Advances in technology available to the public have generated an explosive growth of video creation, viewing, and sharing on social media in the twenty-first century. Gathering information from watching a video has become a primary method of how we learn just about anything. It has become so normal, that video is often the go-to choice when someone is given the option of how to learn something.

Youtube has reported that “how-to” searches have grown 70% year over year.

People have become accustomed to learning what they need to know outside of work through videos that are accessible anywhere, at any time. This has created an expectation that when your employees come to work, they’ll be able to learn through methods that are equally as modern as how they’re learning at home.

That’s why employees’ preferences for training at work have shifted over the last several years – but are those preferences in line with what is scientifically most effective?

The interesting thing about “effectiveness” is that it has to start with engagement. If someone doesn’t want to learn, they’re not going to. So regardless of other factors involved, training has to first get and then hold the attention of a learner if any information is going to be retained at all.

Research from Bersin by Deloitte shows that modern employees have so many distractions coming their way, that on average they get no more than 5 minutes of uninterrupted work time. This is another way that microlearning fits the needs of modern employees – short videos that can be accessed anytime provide a method for learning on the job that allows employees to stay engaged in the subject without having to constantly navigate away from it and forget what they just learned.

If you’re skeptical of microlearning, you might be wondering why someone wouldn’t just rely on classroom training instead, so people aren’t getting interrupted while trying to watch a training video at their desk. While classrooms have been a primary means of providing training in the past, another hallmark of modern learning is that employees are seeing on-demand training as a more effective way to learn and develop their skills.

In a recent survey conducted by the Brandon Hall Group and BizLibrary, it was found that organizations rated instructor-led training as more effective than on-the-job training, while learners had the opposite result, giving on-the-job training the highest effectiveness rating.

In the study “Micro Learning: A Modernized Education System,” 81% of respondents said that microlearning is the best learning system for their working environment.

This data shows that employees see the highest value in training that’s available in the moment of need.

So, as opposed to classroom training and long elearning courses, microlearning’s effectiveness is seeing an increase right out of the gate through higher engagement. But what about the learning retention required once people are engaged in training?

The ROI of Avoiding Information Overload

Some of the skepticism surrounding microlearning videos pertains to how short they are – that they couldn’t possibly deliver enough information for someone to really learn something. The research on cognitive load theory supports the opposite conclusion, though.

Cognitive load refers to the amount of information the short term memory can hold at one time, before it is either transferred to long term memory or forgotten. When training is too long, the brain can’t process it all. Heard of information overload? It’s often a term used jokingly, but it’s definitely a real issue with the way training is delivered in many organizations. Providing short bursts of training allows more of the information to be taken in, processed, and encoded to long-term memory, rather than going in one ear and out the other.

If your company is relying solely on long training sessions or courses, you’re missing a very big opportunity to increase employee training ROI and foster ongoing learning that turns your company into a high performing, adaptable learning organization.

As effective as microlearning is, at BizLibrary we don’t advocate that our clients switch to offering training only through microlearning videos – we advocate a blended learning program that incorporates the best of traditional and modern methods. Our Client Success Consultants see the best program results from clients who have embraced a blended style of training, so that’s why we believe an on-demand solution is absolutely worth implementing into every organization’s employee training program.

When microlearning is delivered in a consistent, ongoing way, you have the ability to drive continuous learning, building up knowledge over time, and produce long-term behavior change. These are the kinds of changes that allow for better communication, collaboration, and innovation. Organizations that recognize the importance of fostering continuous learning are the ones that will have a much better chance of outlasting their competition and becoming a place where talented, committed people come to work.

A study by ATD recently reported that top performing companies are almost 5x more likely to have extensive learning cultures than lower performers.

Becoming a learning organization isn’t going to happen overnight, but if you’re willing to commit to the training and development your workforce needs to move the company forward, you’ll start seeing the impact of those efforts playing out in a multitude of ways throughout your organization.

See how using microlearning extends beyond achieving training objectives – download our free ebook on how investing in your employees’ development needs impacts your overall company culture:

Microlearning's Impact eBook

Training & Development Industry Researcher | Krista researches, analyzes, and writes about the impacts of employee learning on organizations and individuals. She looks at the industry shifts and trends that matter to L&D and HR professionals, and helps them understand how to create better training programs that grow their employees and their business.