When leveraged correctly, microlearning can achieve results for businesses like improved H&S (Health & Safety) and compliance, lower turnover, attract younger employees, and improve overall productivity.
Before we delve into how microlearning can lead to these outcomes, let’s start with the basics.
What is microlearning and why care about it?
Micro comes from the Greek ‘Mikros’, meaning ‘small’. Microlearning is a term used within the digital learning realm and describes a strategy for the delivery of information, where knowledge is sent to learners in brief, bite-sized, easy-to-digest units.
So microlearning is characterised by brevity, but quite how brief is it?
The recommended time for microlearning modules is 3-5 minutes. Though short, microlearning doesn’t attempt to cut corners or jampack information into unrealistically small chunks. Rather, it’s a strategy optimized for the modern learners’ needs.
What are modern learners’ needs?
What is scarce is human attention and time
Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft
There are three attributes every modern learner possesses - they are time poor, have shortened attention spans and a new set of technological expectations in the workplace, shaped by smartphones.
Employees on average have less than 1% of a working day - approximately 4 minutes - to dedicate to learning. Though 94% of employees see career benefits from learning, 49% have no time to learn at work.
When they do have a moment to complete lessons on e.g. stopping distances, Health & Safety regulations, or operating a new forklift model, employers are met with another hurdle - attention spans, which are shorter than ever.
Learners’ expectations have also irreversibly been shaped by the rise of smartphone technology. Our daily interactions with technology as consumers - e.g. re-ordering an item on Amazon in one click, and receiving it the same evening - has impacted how we expect to receive information in a professional context.
How has technology shaped employees’ expectations?
They now expect learning to be…
Societally, we are mobile obsessed - we check them 221 times and touch them over 2,000 times a day. 80% of the world’s population use smartphones. This figure rises among younger generations - 97% of Millennials own mobile phones and 90% always have their phone nearby.
2. Highly targeted and personalized
This stems from receiving customized product recommendations on e-commerce sites based on past clicks, purchases or searches.
3. Available on-demand
I.e., at their point of need. As a result of things like being able to type a question into a search engine and receive the answer in seconds.
People are increasingly impatient - a user’s perception of an acceptable page load time on Google is no longer than 2 seconds.
Is microlearning effective?
Microlearning is more than effective - it emblematizes the future of learning and workplace training. Here are 7 reasons why...
1. Microlearning is engaging
Engagement may seem like a thrown around buzzword, but how engaged your workforce are correlates to your performance as a company.
In a survey of more than 1.4 million workers, Gallup found that higher employee engagement yields better business results. Engaged employees had 10% higher customer ratings, 37% lower absenteeism, 48% fewer safety incidents and 41% fewer quality defects in their work than their disengaged counterparts. Resultantly, businesses with engaged employees were found to be 21% more profitable.
Knowledge is a powerful engagement tool, and can be used to combat low engagement, but only if delivered in the right way. For instance - in-person, instructor-led training imparts knowledge, but fails to engage learners. This is both because face-to-face training errs on the lengthy side (with some sessions lasting a whole working day) and the fact learners remains passive throughout - no active participation is required.
Microlearning, on the other hand, delivers learning in a short-form way. It’s also built to engage in the mechanisms it uses. When completing a microlearning lesson, learners are required to take certain actions - tap, swipe, scroll - to progress. These are the same actions they take browsing their phone in their leisure time, or when using their favorite apps.
As a result, there is an existing cognitive link between these actions and feelings of enjoyment, so when a learner taps to progress in a lesson, or swipes to reveal a new Flashcard on the home screen, their brain releases serotonin.
Learning becomes feel-good, and learners are “intrinsically motivated” - they begin to complete learning purely because of the satisfaction or sense of accomplishment derived from doing it, rather than being coaxed with a gift card (for example).
2. Microlearning is memorable
Successful learning is fundamentally about memory, or amount of information retained over time. To commit something to long-term memory, people need to be reminded of it at regular intervals, a phenomenon known as the ‘spacing effect’. Otherwise, we forget 80% of it within a month.
When being spoken at, people retain only 5% of information - this is even less knowledge retained than if they were alone, reading the same information. But because microlearning demands users to engage with it - i.e. requires active participation with learning material - people are more likely to retain the information contained within.
Microlearning also possesses a different end goal to conventional employee training techniques, which aim to cover as many aspects of a topic as possible in one go. This approach is not conducive to knowledge retention and only leads to ‘cognitive overload’ (when the supply of information exceeds the processing capacity of the information), which compromises the ability to remember information.
Microlearning, on the other hand, is about the quick creation and distribution of information on certain aspects of a topic, and then the reinforcement of this at regular intervals. E.g. rather than a day-long workshop on safety & compliance, a 2 minute refresher on manual handling, abrasive wheels or accident prevention at the start of a day.
3. Microlearning is cost effective
Employee training is made up of ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ costs. Direct costs include things like renting out space, external instructor fees or equipment hire. Indirect costs include time taken to train employees and the subsequent loss in productivity of this.
Microlearning enables you to eliminate many of the direct and indirect costs associated with traditional F2F (face-to-face) training. You can train employees quicker and there is no longer an instructor involved, so the direct cost of human labor ceases to exist.
Learning also becomes accessible from anywhere, so you no longer need to dedicate budget to space rental, and employees no longer need to travel to that space. This cuts other direct costs - fuel and time lost in transit, to name two.
After switching to digital learning, IBM saved $200 million.
4. Microlearning reduces workplace injuries
Another front on which savings are incurred after switching to microlearning is through a reduction in injuries on the job. Transportation and warehousing has the second highest fatal work injury rate among all industries aside from construction.
And aside from reputational risk to your brand workplace incidents pose, they are extremely costly, leaving a $151 billion sized dent in US companies annually. The best solution lies in prevention - in reducing the likelihood of their occurrence in the first place.
Microlearning aids in this endeavor by making those in your workforce who were previously unreachable become ‘reachable’. When this gap in communication is bridged, you can deliver updates, critical information or lessons to any member of your fleet or on your warehouse floor - no one slips under the radar or goes uniformed in terms of the latest compliance measures and best practice.
You can ensure the information is being engaged with too, through real-time analytics that show you that employee x completed lesson y on so and so date.
Following a switch to mobile-based microlearning tool, a leading North American logistics company were able to reduce injuries by 26% in a year.
5. Microlearning reduces employee turnover
Employees that are being continually upskilled are employees that are loyal - companies rated highly on training experience 53% less attrition. Losing employees is detrimental from a financial standpoint - replacing someone who’s left can cost 100%-300% of their salary.
Retaining your employees is preferable not just because replacing them is expensive, but because employees become more valuable over time.
A high impact training program that grows and develops individuals in a sustained way is a must have, not just to achieve outcomes like increased productivity, but in order to stay competitive in the market.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that being able to move quickly—and more quickly than your competitors—is a powerful advantage. Digitalizing supply chains allows companies tomdo this, by enabling them to be more agile and flexible.
Dr Martin Christopher, Emeritus Professor of Marketing & Logistics, Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield University
Provision of continuous and development opportunities by employers also happen to be the number one factor the two youngest demographics in the workforce - Millennials (25-40) and Gen Z (6-24) - value. So if you are delivering on these demands, you are more likely to keep younger employees on board for the long haul.
But, going digital with learning doesn’t automatically guarantee success - you need to have the right tool, with the right capabilities, on your side. Take the traditional Learning Management System (LMS)...
6. Microlearning trumps an old school LMS
One third of current LMS users think their LMS is inadequate for the company's needs.
This is especially true for employees in logistics, who spend their days behind the wheel, or weaving from one delivery to the next, or on foot in a warehouse. Most LMS' are computer-based meaning employees must carve out a chunk of time to learn.
💡Prior to implementing eduMe, a leading logistics company using an LMS found training sessions would last 8-10 hours per employee.
For example - if you operate in the cold storage sector, for an employee to complete desktop-based training they must leave the warehouse floor, change clothing, travel to the computer, travel back, then change again prior to returning to the floor. This disrupts productivity and interferes with the natural ‘flow’ of employees’ working days.
Beyond this, the main barrier to LMS usage in organizations is a clunky interface - i.e. not user-friendly. This acts as a deterrent to learning, leading to lack of engagement and motivation to complete the material.
7. Microlearning improves productivity
Microlearning improves productivity for more than one reason. It’s built to engage, and engaged employees are 400% more productive than their non-engaged counterparts.
Secondly, it eats less into working hours than other forms of training, and the less time employees spend in training sessions, the more time they can dedicate to their job.
Thirdly, because it’s easy to create, easy to deliver, can be accessed anywhere and it is quick to consume, it enables operations or fleet managers to expand and scale operations. If we take the example of onboarding, once the initial effort has been made to create an onboarding course, it can be rolled out infinitely, to whoever, whenever thereafter.
This also ensures standardization of training - i.e. everyone receives the same information, every time, so they are upskilled to the same level - something instructor-led training cannot achieve.
E.g. there is a new piece of machinery in your warehouse. Instead of requiring everyone to travel to a specific location, at a specific time, to have the workings of this new tool explained by an instructor (who you have to pay), fire off a 4 minute lesson on it that employees can complete before they start their shift, or at lunch.
You can also see who has not engaged with the training, and send them reminders to do so.
8. Microlearning attracts younger employees
By 2030 the world’s population will be over 8 billion. That’s more than 8 billion people demanding things, every day. By the end of the decade the global trade in goods and services is expected to triple to $27 trillion.
At the same time, Transportation and Logistics faces a talent challenge. There are more employees of retirement age exiting the workforce than there is interest from younger generations to replace them. If the situation is not remedied, there will be a labor shortage by 2030.
The National Private Truck Council (NPTC) projects a growing wave of professional drivers exiting the workforce once the first baby-boomers begin turning 65 in 2012. Replacing them won’t be easy; the pool of 21 year olds eligible for a commercial driving licence isn’t keeping pace..
Add to this the fact that Millennials are less loyal to organizations than their predecessors - only 18% expect to stay with current employers long-term.
Having grown up surrounded by technology, Millennials and Gen Z aren’t only particular about how often they learn new things, but about how they learn new things, too. These generations unsurprisingly favor digital mediums - 41% prefer to communicate entirely electronically than face-to-face.
To younger generations, engaging learning is synonymous with mobile, on-demand, self-directed (having autonomy over when, where and how they learn) and personalized learning. In other words - they’re looking for learning that is concise, tailored to them and without the need for in-person instruction. 59% rate use of state-of-the-art technology as highly important in prospective employers.
Ultimately, microlearning is so effective because it makes your number one asset - your people - as successful as possible in an age where the workforce’s needs have evolved.
And when your people are collectively performing to the best of their ability, your business is operating at its peak.