Microlearning’s Macro Mistakes

Kylie Quetell Coaching, Communication, Employee Coaching, Employee Development, Employee Engagement, HR, HR Tech, Learning and Development, Organizational Development, Performance, Talent Management, Talent Strategy

Microlearning is one of the newest (cough, cough) hot topics in professional talent development. You will hear about it over and over again spouted by professional trainers as a way to make themselves sound knowledgeable and hip. Frankly, you have likely been hearing it for years. People talk about it at conferences, write articles, and use the jargon to sell themselves.

So is it actually new? Nope. Does it work? Absolutely. For as long as I have been in the industry, we are and will always look for cost-effective ways to train our employees. That is a major reason why we deploy microlearning. Also, it allows us to save time, makes learning digestible, and doesn’t bore our audience.

Here’s the catch, you can’t just take a big training, make it smaller, and call yourself an expert in microlearning. Have no fear! Below are some fixes to common microlearning mistakes.

A common mistake that I see when people try to make their learning micro, is that they take a large training with one objective and break it into little bites. Why do we train? Typically, it is to change behavior. We want employees to stop making the same errors, change their tactics so they can move faster, or change how they communicate to be more effective, etc. However, trainers never deliver the actual behavioral-changing objective until the very end. That’s like watching a comedian 5 nights in a row just waiting for one punch line. Do not do that.

The Fix: If you want to slim down your training to make it more digestible, then cut out the waste.

Get straight to the point. Give them an objective, get the buy-in, and then deliver the direction. If you want to follow up to make the training stick, send out little reminders or polls. I like the rule of 2 – send a thank you 2 hours later, a poll 2 days later, a reminder 2 weeks later, and follow up in 2 months to see if something needs to be reworked. I’d love to say you should check back after 2 years but business moves so damn quickly that you’d probably be discussing technology that is obsolete.

Another fail, that unfortunately is becoming a trend, is to take the human out of training. We stop using talented trainers. We actually stop using trainers completely. I think this is a miss – people like people (sometimes). We enjoy the human connection, and people typically want to please others. I want to work hard in front of my trainers because I want to impress them.

The Fix: It is possible to deploy microlearning while still maintaining a human connection.

  • Shoot a video with your trainers or reputable leaders to teach the new concept. If you’re on a tight budget, use your mobile’s camera.
  • Pull your employees together in small huddles to deliver the training. In less than 10 minutes you can deliver a new process, set expectations, and answer questions.
  • Run a quick demo in the lunchroom with free snacks. People love free snacks.
  • Have trainers or leaders hand deliver postcards with the educational objectives outlined. A quick face to face can go a long way.

Don’t make the mistake of deploying learning modules to the entire organization when the entire org doesn’t actually need them. Adult learning is self-directed, and adult learners want to feel that they are respected for their knowledge. Just because it is micro doesn’t mean it isn’t annoying. The last thing you want is for your learners to associate your emails with an eye roll. Not good.

The Fix: Create expectations for your organization, then create training that educates your learners on how to meet those expectations.

If your employees are meeting the expectations, don’t make the training mandatory. Use a learning management system that allows your managers and trainers to assign training as needed. This one-size-fits-all thing worked really well for me in my 20’s when I was a bit more svelte. However, after years of marriage and free donuts at work, no one wants to see that.

Microlearning is not the right tactic for everything. Some topics are just too big. For example, if you are creating a brand new team or process, or working on cultural competencies, you might just want to get everyone in a room and hammer it out.  There are many ways to effectively and collaboratively create cost-effective training that isn’t micro because micro doesn’t necessarily mean “inexpensive.”  If you have ever bought a microbrew at a bar, you know this to be true.